Former Financial Boss Chooses to Take Primal Approach

by Talk Business & Politics ([email protected]) 52 views 

When Mark Ridgeway’s career in financial services came to an abrupt end in 2009, he returned to a previous passion — strength and conditioning — as a means to an end.

Four years later, Ridgeway has been asking people to go back even further, to rediscover some of their bodies’ most fundamental functions.

“You know, climbing, running, jumping, carrying.” Ridgeway said.

More specifically, Ridgeway is talking about the Primal Challenge, a four-mile obstacle course race that was held April 20 near Dead Horse Mountain Road in Fayetteville. Ridgeway, who partnered with Fayetteville businessman Mitchell Massey to put on the race, said the pair went into the venture with “the idea that we’re going to do the best we can with this first one and see how it goes, and if we break even or even get close to breaking even, we’re going to have another one.”

After 615 participants paid $65 each to compete, Ridgeway said the race was, indeed, a success. A second one already has been scheduled for Oct. 19, and Ridgeway is in the planning stages for more obstacles, a better post-race festival, and perhaps a kids’ race.

It’s quite a turnaround for Ridgeway, who said he didn’t start accepting sign-ups and seriously courting sponsors until about two months before the first race. Additionally, advertising essentially consisted of word of mouth and social media.

“If you would’ve asked me two weeks before the race if I was going to do another one, I would’ve said, ‘Hell, no. There’s no way,’” Ridgeway said, laughing.

“But afterward, you see everybody there with smiles on their faces, having a great time, and the whole atmosphere was worth it then. That kind of sealed the deal of, ‘OK, we’ve got to have
another one.’”


Unexpected Obstacle

Ridgeway had a career in sports performance training in mind when he attended Missouri State University in Springfield, Mo., but an illness and subsequent hospitalizations knocked him off course. 

“Switching gears,” Ridgeway said he ultimately changed his major to economics and public administration, and after graduating, got a job on the bond trading desk at Edward Jones in St. Louis in 1994. In 1999, Ridgeway became a limited partner and took over the company’s retail office in Fayetteville.

He worked for Edward Jones for about 10 years before making a move to Jackson National Life Insurance Co.

At Jackson National, Ridgeway said he was a regional vice president covering four states and half of another.

His tenure at Jackson National, however, would be much shorter. A casualty of recession-era job cuts, Ridgeway “bounced around for about a year”
trying to stay within the financial
services industry.

During the same time, though, he began studying to gain a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist designation, and in April 2010 made a bold move.

“I basically cleared out my two-car garage and put rubber flooring in, got some kettlebells and dumbbells and started training people out of there,” Ridgeway said.

Ridgeway specialized in small-group classes, and quickly grew his client list to about 40. Within six months, he knew it was time to “cut the safety net and add some space.”

So, in October 2010, Ridgeway opened Catalyst Strength & Conditioning in the 3,000-SF former home of a tire shop along North Crossover Road in Fayetteville. By using some of the “bonus” he received after being laid off, Ridgeway “did what I needed to do with this building, and we’ve steadily grown the client base from what I had in the garage to about 160 clients.”

That number includes clients of two other trainers who work at Catalyst, and Ridgeway soon hopes to convert 1,000 SF of underutilized space into a workout area. Workouts use free weights and body weight to help the mostly adult clientele achieve their goals.

“Nobody comes in here and says, ‘I want to get huge. I want to get bulky,’” Ridgeway said.

“They say, ‘I want to get stronger, but I also want to be able to move better. I want to be able to run, to do this and that a little bit better than I can right now.’”

Ridgeway said that spirit is part of what helped him overcome the obstacle in his career path in 2009.

“All of us are only a few heartbeats away from something like that happening, and you have to keep fighting and not hang your head too long,” he said.