When you go in for a class at New York City’s Rumble gym, co-founder Noah Neiman guarantees that you’re in for a good time. Of course, most people’s definition of a good time isn’t always going to be a 45-minute-long, 10-round, full-body workout where you’re only relief from punching a super-hard-to-punch water-filled punching bag are sessions of bodyweight cardio exercises that in any other gym would be considered the brunt of the workout. And yet, Neiman isn’t entirely wrong. Blame it on the blasting hip-hop beats, or the crazy-high energy of the instructors (and your fellow boxers), but Rumble has easily become a favorite amongst NYC’s very dense population of boutique fitness studios and one-of-a-kind gyms. Just five weeks into its grand opening last fall, Rumble was already bringing in over 3,000 customers a week, a kind of success that — as far as we know — is pretty unprecedented in the world of fitness. Now, after the recent opening of its second studio and a continuing surge in popularity amongst New York’s fittest, we caught up with Neiman — who, by the way, you may recognize from his former role on Bravo’s Work Out New York — to talk about how it all started.
Have you always been into fitness?
Oh yeah. I love the gym and I love training. I played sports growing up, I played football pretty much my whole life. I’ve always been super into jiu jitsu again. Sports and training were kind of like my therapy growing up; they kept me sane.
So did you get into a career in fitness right away?
No, I was actually getting my degree in accounting, which was just kind of against everything I stood for. I mean, took so many electives in fitness and did all my prerequisites, but just ended up taking the accounting route. My dad’s a lawyer and my mom’s a really successful real estate agent, so I always thought that I had to do something similar. But then when I finished, I moved to the city because I got a job as an accountant, and it was really just soul crushing. I mean I was making a lot of money right out of college, but it drained the hell out of me. I was super depressed, and I was calling my parents all the time just saying, you know, “This can’t be my life. This isn’t what I was made for.”
How did you eventually get out of that?
Through a series of kind of unfortunate-but-turned-out-to-be-fortunate events, my parents both got really sick – my dad had cancer and my mom had a heart attack. They both survived – they’re super healthy! – but that was really the catalyst that kind of got me to quit my job and get out of New York for a bit.
So it was kind of this opportunity to just pause and reevaluate everything, kind of?
Yeah, exactly. I moved back to Pittsburgh and got back into jiu jitsu, and it was kind of like I’d found sanctuary almost. So while my parents were both in the hospital going through everything, martial arts and the gym were really there for me, like they’d always been. Eventually my parents got better and I moved back to the city. When I came back, one of my friends who I’d helped get in shape in college was writing on this celebrity trend; this new fitness bootcamp that people like Kim Kardashian loved and it had just come to New York, which was of course, Barry’s Bootcamp. So he took me there with him so that I could help him write this article – he had some free passes for it and stuff, you know – and we ended up taking a class that the owner was teaching. Then, when the class was over, he actually came over to me and was like, “Yo, would you like to work here?” And he didn’t know my background in the gym or that I had literally trained my whole life and studied this stuff in college, you know. So I ended up doing the training for them and getting all the certifications I needed to start working there. That was kind of my official start.
What was that like – working at Barry’s?
When I finally started there, I was only doing one class at 9 o’clock at night, and I was making, like, $20 a week for the first few months. And, of course, I was like, “How am I even going to make a living with fitness like this? I have one class a week – how am I going to prove myself at 9 o’clock at night?” Then all of the sudden, the New York Times started writing about me, and my classes started filling up. Then, Nightline put me on TV, and then I started shooting videos for GQ and doing things for Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, Vogue, all of that. So out of nowhere, it’s all coming at me so fast and it’s so overwhelming. My classes were selling out with, like, 60 people on the waitlist and I just kind of felt this amazing support in the city.
So how did Rumble finally come into the picture?
One of my partners, Eugene Remm, was a good friend from college, and he reached out to me and was like, “Listen, you’ve got to start something with me. I know I want to get into boxing but I don’t know how. What’s our point of entry?” I was like, “Dude, it’s just not the right time for me.” You know, I was still building my brand and I just didn’t really want to rock the boat because things were going so well and I was so afraid of losing everything by making a shift. But, at the same time, I was kind of playing it safe. So I started thinking about it, and then, fast forward to about a year later, he comes back to me and he was like, “Man, we’ve got to do this now.”
There’s a team of you that started it together, right?
Yeah, so Eugene came and told me about the team he had kind of brought together, and there’s four of us altogether. There’s me, Eugene – who’s a legend by the way, and has co-founded things like EMM Group-Catch – then there’s Andy, who’s the co-founder of Cozi and Kidville, and Anthony, who comes from Google.
Wow, you all come from such different professional backgrounds.
Oh, we’re all so different, but I think that’s why we’ve been able to basically churn out a miracle product; a miracle studio.
That’s incredible. So once Eugene kind of convinced you to come on board and told you about the rest of the team, what was the next step?
I met with all of them at Soho House and we talked a bit about the concept. And I knew exactly what I wanted. I wanted to combine strength training and boxing. I knew they really wanted to do boxing, and I knew that what was going to set us apart in the marketplace was going to be something that’s unique and different. So we sat down and talked it through, then after that meeting, I called my mom – as any Jewish kid would – and I was like, “Mom, this is a risk, and things are going so well right now,” and she was just like, “Noah, this is your thing; this is your chance. You have to do it.” So I ended up leaving Barry’s, and we just went for it.
What were some of the key details that you guys really hashed out as a team ahead of time in terms of your vision for Rumble, besides it just being a combination of boxing and strength training, like you said?
I mean, our idea was really to create a studio that was kind of a gym, but also not a gym. And we’ve definitely done that. So as you walk in, it’s kind of like a lounge-type space where people just hang out. I mean this is the kind of thing where people come sometimes like 30 minutes early to a class just to chill here. When I was at Barry’s, you know, most people would come and they would, like, run in and run out. That’s how any gym is, really. But at Rumble, it’s really more of a community and an experience. People love to hang out before class, or after class, and that’s really what I love about it. We sell fun. We sell a fun experience. You happen to get a great workout, but that’s a byproduct. But what we’re really trying to focus on is that you can come here and just have a great time. That’s it. And we’re lucky because the city has loved that.
And it’s amazing because it didn’t take too long at all after you started for the word about Rumble to spread. How cool has that been?
It’s incredible. I mean, we’ve provided people with a great space that they love to come to, and in turn, they’re showing up in massive numbers, and they’re sharing their experience on Instagram and social media, and they’re telling their friends about it. It’s so incredible what has happened for us, and so quickly.
Now that you guys have seen this kind of success with Rumble and are continuing to grow it out, what do you hope to continue achieving through the studio?
We want to keep bringing boxing to people who aren’t necessarily into boxing, per se. Just like SoulCycle did to spinning. They brought spin to a group of people who didn’t like spinning before that or who didn’t even really like working out maybe before that. That’s kind of what we’re doing for boxing. We’re like the anti-gym. We’re the happy hour. This is a great time, you just happen to be doing fitness. Our experience just happens to be active and make you feel great, but at the end of the day, it’s fun so people keep coming back.