Owen Dockham is the founder of Live Oak Strength & Nutrition — a private, appointment-based, high-intensity training facility in Emeryville that promises clients better health and fitness in less than 30 minutes per week.
Dockham originally opened Live Oak Strength on Powell Street in September of 2016; however, he recently moved the studio and his team (including his fiance Lucy who is the office manager and a master trainer) to 5515 Doyle St., where they’re settling into the new space.
The previous location’s small size was the impetus for the relocation.
“My business was growing faster than expected so I purchased 18 new pieces of equipment and realized we needed to find a bigger facility,” Dockham said. “We wanted something that felt more comfortable and would allow us to grow and help more people.”
Dockham, who lives in North Berkeley, told his property manager that he was looking to move out of Live Oak’s cramped 500-square-foot space and into something bigger.
When he saw the studio’s current space, located in an old factory just four blocks away from his previous location, Dockham said he immediately fell in love with it, the neighboring businesses and the entire block.
In October, he signed a five-year lease.
Given the close proximity between his previous and new locations, the move wasn’t as disruptive as it could have been for Dockham.
“We didn’t have to worry about losing any of our clients,” said Dockham, who’s also a 50 percent owner of EverStrongSF, on Fillmore Street in the Lower Haight.
Working out at Live Oak isn’t like exercising at a traditional fitness studio, claims Dockham. There’s a waiting room where patrons are instructed to turn off their cell phones, place their belongings in a cubby and take three deep breaths.
There are five trainers; however, no more than three exercisers are allowed in the studio at a given time. (There’s also a nutritionist who shares the space.) Clients schedule 25 minute supervised workouts ahead of time, which typically repeat once, sometimes twice, a week.
The studio, which has 25-foot ceilings, is temperature controlled, diminishing the need for people to shower after their workout, and there are no mirrors, music or free weights.
“There won’t be somebody grunting in the corner, and you won’t ever have to wait for a machine to open up” Dockham laughed.
Instead, patrons work one-on-one with a Live Oak trainer using a range of MEDX equipment, a high-tech line of fitness and rehabilitation resistance machines. Although they look like traditional gym equipment, they’re designed to reportedly allow for greater and safer movement while keeping muscles engaged.
Live Oak also (is the only facility in the east bay that) has one computerized Adaptive Resistance Exercise (ARX) machine, which uses motors, instead of weights, to generate resistance. The futuristic ARX machine allows Live Oak’s patrons to track how much stronger they’re becoming.
“It’s a great tool for trainers, because there’s no more guesswork” Dockham said. “We can see down to the hundredth of a percentage if our clients are over training or not training enough.””It’s also incredibly safe, as it constantly adapts to what the user is capable of during any given workout”
That being said, Live Oak’s target demographic isn’t the occasional exerciser, the dedicated gym rat or the New Year’s resolution setter. Instead, Live Oak attracts patrons from all over the Bay Area who are committed to taking care of their bodies year round. And the majority of Live Oak’s patrons have been loyal customers since Live Oak opened. “What we do works, and it doesn’t take a lot of time, so people tend to stick around for the results and because they aren’t committing to something that inconveniences or disrupts their family/work lives”
According to Dockham, the larger fitness industry perpetuates the myth that people need to go to the gym three to six times a week, which, in Dockham’s opinion, leads to injury and burnout. Most people train too often and don’t train hard enough, just making them unnecessarily hungry and overtrained, which leads to giving up.
Instead, he says that committing to one or two days of intense exercise a week is both more sustainable and more effective for the general public.
Dockham says Live Oak’s fitness model is ideal for busy professionals, people who are concerned about osteoporosis and anyone who’s been previously injured while exercising.
A 30-minute private session at Live Oak will cost anywhere between $65 and $85, depending on what payment plan you choose. The studio also has a referral rewards program, and discounted family plans. “My business was built mostly through referrals and we want our clients to know how grateful we are to them for supporting us.”
“We realize there are a lot of options for people to choose from in the East Bay when it comes to physical activity and exercise,” he said, “but we are offering something completely unique. I encourage anyone that feels frustrated or unsure of how to take charge of their health to give us a try.”
Live Oak Strength & Nutrition is open six days a week: weekdays from 6am-8pm and Saturdays from 8am-3pm. The studio is currently closed on Sundays. Workouts are by appointment only. To set up a consultation, visit the studio’s website.