When looking for a fun adult gym, Maxwell Eriksen found his goal in making learning and fitness activities fun with children.
Eriksen’s father and brother, William C. and Paul Eriksen, are chiropractors in Elizabethtown, and his wife Morgan owns the Maternal Chiropractic Center in the mall. But his career path took a different path.
The 34-year-old opened the Twelve Gym because he wanted a place where fitness was fun. He enjoyed climbing and the American Ninja Warrior TV show which gave him some inspiration.
He’s learned in his previous jobs that he wanted a job where he could work for himself and something that was so fulfilling that it didn’t feel like work. He wanted a way of exercising that was more fun, so he started Twelve Gym, which opened in the JC Penney wing of Towne Mall in October 2019.
He built it for adults to have fun.
“But adults never came, children came,” he said.
By working with the young people in his gym, he learned that he was good with children.
“I’m a giant kid when it comes down to it,” he said.
He learned to enjoy talking to children about things that interested them and wanted to be the best coach he could be.
“Working with them was fulfilling,” he said. “They had so much fun and I saw them enjoy ninja.”
Growing up, he said he fit into the group of “outcasts”. As a kid he wasn’t into sports, but likes to stay active with things like skateboarding. These are the kids he loves to work with best, who feel like they don’t fit anywhere.
“The biggest thing for me is to create this place that you can call home,” he said. “You can come in here and they’re all ninjas and they’re all in there together.”
In other sports the fans only cheer on one team. With Ninja, he said, it’s the kids against the course, not the other kids. Everyone cheers every child when they master the challenges.
When kids came in instead of adults he was a little sad at first because he really wanted adults to come in and get healthier while they were having fun. But then he realized it was okay because the kids needed it just like everyone else.
“It felt like turning it into a kids’ gym was the right thing to do,” he said. “It was enlightening to find a good cause.”
Jacqulyn Rascoe said Eriksen didn’t just give the city a new gym. He’s given new families to those who go to the gym, she said.
“Our daughter often struggles to adapt, but at Twelve Gym we found a village that accepts her for who she is,” said Rascoe. “He gave us and our children a village that we can count on and know that they are always there to support not only our child, but also us as parents.”
Eriksen is also a co-owner of Clobberin ‘Comics, which opened about two months ago next to the Twelve Gym in the mall.
In the future, he wants to create more science and technology centers, as well as physical activity centers, to encourage personal growth.
One of those future projects could be to work with a company in California to bring a new location to the mall that offers drone racing and other activities.
“I want to create a safe place for the nerdy kids, the outcasts who don’t quite fit in the box,” he said of all of his endeavors. “I want children to feel accepted in everything they like.”
When he was a kid, Eriksen said he was interested in comics and Pokémon but said that he sometimes made fun of him and hid his nerdy interests. Because of this, he wants to come down to the level of a child to talk to them about the things that interest them, even if they are not interested, in order to make them feel valued. The goal is to maintain a positive environment, he said.
Eriksen said his wife Morgan was the support person he could want with all of his projects.
“At Maxwell, every day is a ‘yes day,'” said Morgan. “He’s always eager to say yes to anyone and everyone who needs help, from the kids in the gym to the patients in the office, the customers in the comic book store, a stranger on the street or a friend.”
She called him a man of many talents and caring.
“I am honored not only to do business with him, but also to be his wife,” she said. “Helping others and making a difference is what Maxwell is about, and people like Maxwell really make a difference in this community.”
Eriksen credits the people who work with him at the gym for helping him keep the dream of the Twelve Gym alive.
“I owe you everything for the long hours and constant march into the unknown with me as we build the most unique place in Hardin County,” he said.
Becca Owsley can be reached at 270-505-1416 firstname.lastname@example.org.