While on deployment in the 1990s, Navy SEAL Randy Hetrick ran into a problem: How do you maintain a world-class level of physical fitness without anywhere to train?
“You’ve got no gear, so you’re relegated to the same body-weight, based calisthenics that the Romans were doing,” said Hetrick.
The solution began with a jiu-jitsu belt that he accidentally packed in his deployment bag, he said. He tied a knot in the belt and threw it over the top of a door and started leaning back and lifting his body weight. Then, he dug out six feet of excess webbing from a spare gear box and built a simple harness that he could use to lift his body weight. Soon, his fellow SEALs caught on to what he was doing and started experimenting with different exercises. In time, he had 100 exercises that could be done using the harness and nothing but his body weight.
Hetrick and a Parachute Rigger with skills as a seamstress would make them for service members for a case of beer, he said, and the early version of TRX was born.
After creating a solution to a problem, Hetrick began the journey to turn his invention into a business. The first stop was Stanford Business School, which became an incubator for TRX in his second year there.
“Every class I took, every project I did was focused on some element of the company that I needed to build,” he said.
“I had to go out and use my palty life savings that I had amassed as a SEAL to field the first orders of inventory," he said. "And then, I had to go out and start raising some money, find a tiny, little hovel to call the office.”
Initially, the company was called TravelFit and the name of the product was "Travel-X:the complete portable exercise,” marketed to fitness enthusiasts who travel for work and need a portable workout solution.
However, Hetrick said, the business really took off when he introduced it to physical trainers who were excited to find a new tool to use for workouts.
He took the device to a trade show for trainers in 2004 and, in three days, they sold out of every unit they had, he said.
Now, more than 10 years later, TRX has become a household name and, according the company, it’s in more than 25,000 gyms in the United States and is used by more than 95 percent of professional sports teams, including in the NFL, the NBA, MLB and the NHL.