The citizens of Denver come to Tiffany Coolidge’s no-frills training and conditioning center for the kick-ass workouts and stay for the friendship.
Writer: Carly Terwilliger
It’s a cool, breezy evening near downtown Denver, where Blunt Force founder Tiffany Coolidge – “Tiff” to her many loyal fans – is working with a client. She’s wall-to-wall tonight between personal training sessions and teaching the “Blunt Force Elite” class that I’ve come to check out. We chatted during the five minutes of downtime before what Blunt Force’s website calls a “50-minute session [that] will have you eating bullets in your bread.” Gulp.
Coolidge (pictured below), who left a career in politics and a position as a board member for the Women’s Campaign School at Yale University to pursue the founding of Blunt Force, is immediately likable. It’s easy to see why the vast majority of her devotees followed her from Blunt Force’s old location to this one. When asked what she thinks is the appeal of her business, she said the workouts are “hardcore but still feminine,” a philosophy underlined by the pink star between “Blunt” and “Force” in her logo. The gym got its name from Coolidge’s boxing days (she won her first match by TKO). “When I boxed, my name was Blunt Force,” she said with a smile.
With the garage doors open, you can see downtown Denver from the gym, and as I’m about to find out, some of the classes involve running outside on the city streets. One wall has been made into a giant chalkboard with a “Happy Hour” workout detailed in bright colors. Against the other wall is a boxing ring with a quote from “Rocky” painted above it: “It ain’t how hard you hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, how much you can take, and keep moving forward.”
“At least 70 percent” of Coolidge’s clientele is female, so I asked her what about punching your way to fitness appeals to women. “I think it’s a good outlet,” she explained. There’s an empowering element, too. “I’m strong, I’m capable, let’s go kick ass.” Apparently it’s a message that’s catching on in the city, as Coolidge estimates that about 90 percent of her members find Blunt Force through referrals and word of mouth.
The completion of the warmup cardio means it’s time for the evening’s workout, starting with sandbag sprints inside and moving through pull-ups and strength maneuvers at which I’m variably successful. Although it hurts, I can tell right away that doing it on a regular basis would quickly produce results. Delaying another humiliating round at the pull-up bar – the low point of the workout for yours truly – I asked a fellow class member about what she gets from being a Blunt Force member. “I love it here,” she says. “I moved to Denver from Michigan, and I didn’t know anyone when I got here. Now Tiff is one of my best friends. It’s the best gym I’ve ever been to.”
According to Coolidge, that’s one of the benefits of opening a gym in Colorado. “It’s nice because here, people see fitness as a lifestyle,” she commented. “It’s different when they’re trying to get fit for a wedding or a vacation. We usually see our members five or six times a week, because it’s important to them.” Especially for women, it’s part of that elusive work-life balance. To that point, all the women in the Elite class knew each other and were genuinely happy to be there. As the newbie, I received plenty of encouragement from my fellow participants and the other Blunt Force trainers.
After the “burnout” round of alternating bear crawls and planks, one trainer joked, “Brutal for your first day, huh?” With my arms feeling like they were about to detach at the shoulder, I perked up. So it gets easier?
Photos courtesy Blunt Force