Vince Gironda opened his gym in Studio City, California in 1948. Fifty years later in 1998, Daryl Conant opened his own gym in Kennebunk. Now in his 20th year of business as the Fitness Nut House in Shoppers Village, Conant fondly traces his roots back to Vince’s Gym – a man he never met but one who influences him to this day.
In the early 1980s, Conant was a high school athlete looking to get stronger to become a better baseball player. He worked out on his own but wasn’t getting the results he was hoping for.
“I was working out two and a half hours. I was totally over-trained but I didn’t know,” said Conant.
By his freshman year of college, Conant had become interested in bodybuilding. He bought a book at a local mall that gave him hundreds of addresses and contact information for all of the famous bodybuilders, nutritionists and manufacturers of weight training equipment.
He wrote many letters but didn’t get any responses until he reached out to a nutritionist in Detroit who spoke with Conant for more than two hours – changing the college student’s outlook on “everything.”
Conant asked the nutritionist for information about bodybuilding but was told he needed to talk with the “Iron Guru,” also known as Vince Gironda. The ensuing phone call to the Iron Guru changed Conant’s life.
“He told me that everything I was doing with training was completely wrong and that I had to stop whatever I was doing,” Conant recalled. Gironda asked Conant to send him photos and he would give Conant his honest opinion of what he could do to build up his body.
Gironda sent him the supplements he needed to be taking and the lifting program he needed to be on for his body type. He told Conant to try it for a month and see if it helped.
“I did exactly what he said,” said Conant. “I was training only 30 minutes a day and all of a sudden I just started changing. It was like I was on drugs. It was incredible. My body changed so much.”
For the next five years the two conversed over the phone and through written correspondence. Conant also became more familiar with who Gironda was and who he had worked with over the years. Gironda trained Hollywood stars like Clint Eastwood and he also helped professional bodybuilders like Arnold Schwarzenegger win national and world championships. Gironda was also known for his no-nonsense rules in the gym – no talking, no headphones and no music.
In 1992 Conant went to work at the U.S. Olympic Training facility in Colorado Springs, Colorado and he soon lost touch with his mentor. By the time Conant had saved up enough money and had a chance to visit Gironda in California – in late 1997 – he discovered Gironda had passed away.
“I felt like I had to keep the flame going a little bit,” Conant explained about his need to remember Gironda and his need to share the information Gironda had given him over the years.
Conant’s online presence as a disciple of Gironda soon found others wanting to know what his bodybuilding program was about. The web also helped Conant establish relationships and make connections with people who had worked with Gironda in California.
In 2009, Conant was able to obtain the sign from Vince’s Gym in Studio City. After just missing his opportunity to meet Gironda, that one artifact helped Conant with a bit of remorse he’d been dealing with. And that sign, now on display in a room at the Fitness Nut House, has led to more and more memorabilia that belonged to Gironda and his gym.
“It’s kind of cool how it all ends up with me,” said Conant about his collection.
Recent additions to his Gironda collection includes much of the exercise equipment that was used at Vince’s Gym – unique bodybuilding tools that Gironda designed and made himself.
Conant admits that his relationship with Gironda not only fueled his desire to be a bodybuilder but also made him want to open a gym of his own.
“He was all about developing the body holistically and that’s all he wanted to concentrate on,” said Conant.