Quite often, achieving personal fitness goals is a process of re-invention.
Jay Duncan knows a little something about that.
The 36-year-old Sag Harbor resident has built up a dedicated following for his business, Untaimd Fitness. Duncan offers goal-oriented personal and small group training with workouts that combine elements of boxing, kickboxing, weight and strength training, and Muay Thai, a form of martial arts that originated in Thailand. Using a model that has gained popularity in recent years, especially during the COVID crisis, Duncan puts clients through their paces in outdoor spaces, either going to their homes or conducting classes in the parking lot near SYS, with what he calls “gym boxes,” essentially mobile fitness stations that function as mini gyms.
While he offers private training, Duncan has set up Untaimd with an emphasis on camaraderie and accountability.
“You can’t just drop in and do one class,” he said. “You sign up and become part of this community, and we hold each other accountable.”
Duncan says his business is thriving, and he’s never been busier. But the journey he took to arrive in that place wasn’t easy. He used to run a popular workout group called the Ladies Fight Club at Hill Street Boxing in Southampton, but ultimately chose to leave that gym.
Starting his own business was a leap of faith, and securing the funds to get it off the ground meant he had to sell his car and experience some shaky times, financially. Taking that kind of risk and facing adversity wasn’t new to Duncan. A native of Compton, California, his affinity for martial arts and boxing was given to him by his father, Jesse Taylor, who insisted Duncan take lessons when he was young as a means of self-defense. He hated it, he said, but as he matured, he gained an appreciation for what his father was doing.
Duncan came to the East Coast 16 years ago, with plans to succeed in the music industry as a hip-hop recording artist. He likened himself to Drake.
“I did everything he did, but Drake doesn’t dance and I can do that, too,” he said with a laugh.
When a record deal fell through, Duncan moved into deejaying and music production, and then decided to relocate to the Hamptons when he met his girlfriend, who was living in Bridgehampton.
While he had a love and passion for music, Duncan was ultimately drawn back into the sport he had spent a good portion of his youth reluctantly participating in, after other career stints in marketing and sales.
“I’m really grateful my dad never let me quit,” Duncan said.
Duncan’s success seems to stem from the fact that he offers variety for his clients, both in terms of fitness styles and accessibility. He has also enlisted the services of nutritionist Michaela Berg, who provides guidance for healthy eating for his clients, and Nicholas Reisini, whose business, Honest Plate, provides meal kits for clients trying to eat clean. Duncan used skills he gained from years working in digital marketing to create an app to access at-home workouts, and many of his clients follow what he calls a hybrid model of attending two or three classes a week in person with him and following the rest of his workouts from home.
“When the sun is shining, they can come work out with me on the gym boxes, and when it’s raining they can be at home,” he said.
He has groups that meet consistently outside of SYS, and also takes the gym boxes — he has two now, thanks to the continued growth of his business — to private homes, where he will often do workouts for a small group of kids and teens, followed by a session for their moms. Duncan runs kids classes Monday and Wednesday afternoons, and on Saturday mornings, and he said he has roughly 26 kids who participate in total. He’s passionate about working out with both adults and teens, and said he’s hoping to start a competitive amateur boxing team for teens and also host a summer camp program at SYS.
Currently, he’s hosting morning workouts at SYS, with classes as early at 5 a.m. Like other personal trainers and fitness instructors in the area, he has seen a surge in demand for outdoor and at-home workout services like his.
“There’s really been an uptick,” he said. “My whole life has changed since I started the gym boxes, financially speaking. I’ve never made more money as a personal trainer than I am now.”
While being on solid financial footing is a blessing, Duncan said the results he’s seen his clients achieve, and the positive ways his training program has impacted their lives is what makes him love what he does. He mentioned one young client who made a point of telling him after a class that he’s gone from having no friends at school and making connections and feeling a sense of community with the peers he now works out with.
“I was really touched by that,” Duncan said. “It meant so much to me. The boxing program gives these kids a good place where they can feel accepted. I have two other kids with behavioral issues, one who has an anger problem, and the dad said he’s been behaving better ever since he started. Their lives are being changed and in the process my life is being changed too.”
Duncan’s programs have been transformative for people of all ages. Southampton resident Dawn Stelling, a mother of three who works as a veterinarian, started working out with Duncan at the end of 2019, with a goal of losing 25 pounds. She was worried the pandemic would derail her plans, but said Duncan stepped up, and with the help of her nutritionist Berg, she has lost nearly 40 pounds.
“I work out at least three days a week with Jay and an amazing group of women, then do the online workouts at home by myself,” Stelling said. “There is a huge support system among the people I work out with. We are all cheering each other on and celebrating each other’s wins.”