Pattaya Personalities Flex and Anna of Bear Gym
By Kevin Cain
In keeping with our theme of Health & Fitness for this month, it seems very apt that our Pattaya Personalities are Flex and Anna from Bear Gym. Located on Soi Wat Boon in Jomtien, the three story gymnasium is a well established fitness centre that has been operating highly successfully for five years.
The married couple hail from Belarus and when they arrived for our meeting it was obvious that there is a real chemistry between them that is infectious. Both Flex and Anna have bubbly personalities and it is their mutual enthusiasm that pushes the business forward, they are not a couple who are simply happy to sit still and reap the rewards of their busy gym.
The first question was fairly obvious, “Why the name Bear Gym?”. A wry smile came to Flex’s face for as well as being a logical choice representing his Soviet roots, because the original concept was for it to be a Powerlifting facility, this name was thought to reflect the soul of the gym better than any other. The bear also embodies a sign of strength easily identifiable with both the original target customer base and English speaking clients. For when Bear gym first opened, the clientele was 90% Russian but due to the change in the demographics of nations visiting and staying in Thailand it now only accounts for about 30% Many Thais have now joined the fitness bandwagon and are starting to take their health seriously and along with Thais many European expats are members and regularly use the gym.
Flex and Anna opened Bear Gym in 2012 . Flex recounted that it was basically a “handmade” gym as he imported all the equipment and put everything together himself, with just a little help of 1-2 friends for the most difficult parts. This he learnt to do personally and it gave him a great insight as to how to build and service fitness equipment..
When you visit Bear Gym the first thing you notice is how colourful the decor is and that you are somewhere quite different than the standard gyms around town. It not only has the usual treadmillS, bikeS, cable machines but also an impressive selection of free weights as both Flex and Anna are devoted bodybuilders - both have even attended competitions here in Thailand and Anna has even been a gold winner under wise leadership of her husband Flex!
Being a naturally inquisitive person, I wanted to know their personal story, how they came to Thailand and ended up where they are now ? Flex informed me that more than ten years ago he wanted to leave his homeland to get more chance to develop himself as a person and businessman and his first thoughts were to join relatives in Canada. However when complications with getting visas arose it meant that a plan B was called for and Thailand was the chosen alternative. His initial years in the country were spent working in a diving centre for little or no reward. Although gaining an education and certification in scuba diving he had to supplement his income through being a personal trainer, photographer, English language tutor, freelance online design and web-programmer and whatever else he could do to give a little more funds to support living..
Eventually he joined a diving company that gave him the opportunity to organise trips and build and market the business. This finally led to a directorship but the work was long and hard, as he still had to conduct diving trips along with both operational and management parts which meant that he was almost working 24/7 till actually suffering a nervous breakdown. Bit by bit savings were squirreled and with help from his family back home he finally acquired some starting capital.
At this point of the story we have not mentioned Anna who has been with Flex for 12 years now. He readily credits her as the driving force behind him always offering great support. and constantly encouraging him to follow his dreams. Of course once he agreed that his dream would be to work within the field he most enjoyed, that of bodybuilding and fitness. Anna went out and found premises within days. Wat Boon was not quite what it is today, but Anna saw a building in the Soi with plenty of potential having plenty of room for parking and even an area to put a large billboard and attract potential clients. Three months later, with a lot of hard work and sweat, Bear Gym was opened.
Since then they have not looked back, the gym has a very healthy membership and three floors of air-conditioned fitness rooms with great facilities. All the equipment is regularly serviced, EDM and Rock music plays and clients work out in the multi-coloured fitness emporium.However, Flex and Anna’s story does not end there, part of their fitness upbringing was the understanding of proteins and other supplements and how they could help with bodybuilding and general fitness. This was obviously a marriage made in heaven for Bear Gym, so a separate venture was undertaken and that was the “7lb” range.
The “7lb” banner is a vehicle to provide proteins and other nutrition, gym wear and equipment to both wholesale avenues and retail. In fact grass has not grown under their feet and they now operate 6 outlets dotted all over Pattaya, with plans to open more in the near future.There is a further business that Flex has been successful in by drawing upon all his experience he now offers a design and build service for developers and businessmen who want to open their own gym facility under his newly rolled-out BEAR GEAR trademark, delivering all gained experience to be a public domain.
The Bear brand together with “7lb” and the gym building operation, has diversified Flex’s and Anna’s business. It is left them with a strong empire that has been built on hard work and effort. So what now for the loveable pair? Looking into both their eyes you can sense there is still an ebullient enthusiasm in everything they speak about. When the conversation touched on bodybuilding competitions, Anna’s face lit up. Already a champion, you can see by the coy smile on her face that there is still some unfinished business in that department.
In the meantime she has a British shorthair cat about to deliver kittens for yet another venture that of a cat farm which will also have Classic Tabby and Blue Cats as a side start-up/hobby !
So if you have not been to Bear Gym and you are looking for somewhere to work out, then pop in and see Flex and Anna. Along with their coaches they can offer personal training for men and women and give sound advice on proteins and vitamins. There is ample parking and Bear Gym is really easy to locate on Wat Boon. So no excuses, take time out of your day and start exercising.