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Conversations with James Dalton

Today we’d like to introduce you to James Dalton.

Hi James, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
When I was a child, my father had built a little gym in our garage. We would spend countless hours in that congested garage (which had no heat or air conditioning) trying to build ourselves into versions of the athletes, action stars, and strongmen that we admired. I absolutely loved the idea that through one’s own effort and willpower he/she could build a better version of themself. Weightlifting and nutrition would be a major part of my life as a young man and adult.

Fast forward to 2011, I have be a competitive bodybuilder, powerlifter, strongman, etc. for the better part of two decades. However, I was becoming more and more frustrated by the fact that there were very little options and places for someone like me to train even in a major city like Saint Louis. Many gyms discouraged heavy lifting and didn’t have the equipment necessary to train in powerlifting and strongman.

After unsuccessfully trying to find a gym that catered to someone like me, my wife suggested I open my own place with my younger brother who was training MMA fighters out of his garage at the time. So one random Tuesday night, I sent him a “Would you like to open a gym?” text message. He quickly replied, “Hell, yes,” and the idea of JD’s Gym was born.

We got my father on board and the three of us spent the next two years planning to open an “old school” gym that catered to heavy lifting but was still welcoming and family-friendly. In June of 2013, we opened and everything has been going wonderfully since. We have over 300 members and have been able to build a community of strength that is known throughout the county. We host numerous strongman competitions each year including one here on May 2nd.

I am immensely proud of the little gym that I was able to create with the help of my family and am looking forward to the future.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
There are always struggles when running a business and dealing with the public. Initially, the biggest obstacle is overcoming your own doubt and fear of failure. This fear is often what stops most people before they start and they never take the risk to open their own business. However, we believed in ourselves and the fact that we had something valuable to offer. We truly felt that we could provide a service and a place that was missing in Saint Louis.

I am very fortunate in that I have my father and my brother as my business partners at JD’s Gym. When you have two other smart, hard-working individuals in your corner, it makes any obstacles seem far less daunting. Luckily, we also all have different skill sets. We all make decisions together, but many of the tasks/problems are tackled by the person best suited for the job. My brother has a finance degree and works at Wells Fargo. He handles most of the numbers and our finances. My dad is a retired Tool and Die Maker, so he builds a lot of our equipment, fixes the machines, etc. I am a High School English teacher, so I handle most of our writing, social media, PR, etc.

Specifically, we have had a few rough spots over the past eight years including dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. We were forced to close our doors for nearly four months and have been dealing with a number of restrictions that have made running a gym (or business in general) very challenging. However, through our hard work and the support of our phenomenal gym members, we have “weathered the storm” and are set to have a great 2021.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
1) We specialize in strongman, powerlifting, MMA training, but we are more than just those disciplines. If you were to ask our members and/or people who have visited JD’s Gym, they might say we are a community that strives to make people feel welcome. We are a place that fosters supportive environment where anyone can push themselves to become a stronger, more fit version of themselves.

2) I am most proud of the community we have created at the gym, the relationships we have built with our members and the strength community as a whole, and the fact that we (my dad, brother, wife, mom, sisters, children, etc.) were able to do this as a family. I love that it is a wonderful extension of my own immediate family and that my own sons are growing up in this environment.

3) There simply is not another gym in Saint Louis like ours. People drive from all over the STL Metro area (some from even as far as an hour away) to train at JD’s Gym.

We’d love to hear about any fond memories you have from when you were growing up?
I was fortunate to have two wonderful parents and a fairly happy childhood, so there are many great memories. One that might be fitting or related to the gym would be winning my very first bodybuilding competition in 1993 as a 16 years old kid. It was one of those transformative moments where you knew deep inside of you that this is what you were supposed to do.


  • $24 per month for a gym membership

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