Midwest Strength + Performance | Gym Review

I stumbled upon Midwest Strength + Performance in a Facebook mom's group. Yes, you read that right. I know what you're thinking- Macaila, what the heck are you doing in a mom's group? Well...I have learned the best way to find the hot spots and keep up with what's going on activity wise in town, is through the moms. Seriously- they know everything. Back in October I sustained a severe head injury which resulted in having to hit pause on being active/ working out. Fast forward seven months and I was cleared to start easing back into things. I was reflecting on past gym experiences, deciding where I wanted to start training again but nothing felt right. I took this as a sign to start researching and find exactly what "it" is I want in a workout/ gym. There were a few non-negotiable things I wanted to incorporate into my new routine: the rowing machine, the battle rope, and tire workouts. Naturally, I thought this was going to be easy finding a gym that housed all three things. To my surprise it was rather difficult. It turns out finding a gym is more like dating than research. It's not always easy finding a match, but you just know when you've found "the one". 

The gyms that kept coming up in my search were too cardio based for me- I hate the treadmill and elliptical machines. I find them boring and like I am never getting a good enough workout in. Here's where the mom group comes in. After posting in the group about needing to find a welcoming, energetic, and fun gym that had those three things I'm looking for, I combed through the replies right away and the one that stood out to me was Midwest Strength + Performance. The gym caught my eye because the name doesn't sound like every other gym out there in the world. Plus, my main goal post injury is to feel strong again and the fact that they have "strength" in their name, is like a match made in heaven. 

After looking on the website and at the trainer's social media, I knew what I wanted: personal training sessions with Mike.What sold me on his style of training is his encouragement. The first Instagram video I saw of his training, he was yelling "up" quite vigorously at one of his clients. I thought this was both hilarious and empowering. The next day I called the gym to get more info and make sure they really had those three things I was looking for. Spoiler alert: they do. I was absolutely petrified to call; not because I dislike talking on the phone or with people, but because I didn't want a million questions about why I haven't been working out, and about and my injuries. I was about to hang up, and as I was pulling the phone away from my ear to click the little red end call button, I heard a voice on the other end. To be honest, I don't remember saying hello or how I even started the conversation. All I can remember is thinking oh crap, how dare you answer the phone and be a responsible employee. Thanks a lot Phil from MSP. 

By the end of our call, I was thankful Phil answered before I could chicken out. I remember feeling so calm on the phone and my anxiety melt away as I was learning more about the gym. The classes sounded incredible, as did the personal training option. Phil went ahead and booked my session with Mike and at this point I was really looking forward to it. What made this gym more appealing to me was how respectful Phil was on the phone and genuinely excited to help me out. When I mentioned having an injury he remained calm and cool. Neither his tone nor his attitude changed- and he didn't fish for details or question if I should be working out. Instead, Phil thanked me for sharing the info with him and politely told me this would be great for Mike to know and I "don't have to give out any details". I knew at the end of our conversation the hard part was over. I needed to muster up enough courage to make the call and schedule my session- and I just did that. 

Midwest Strength +-Performance- gym located in the Naperville and Wheaton area

The following days seemed to drag on. Then finally, it was gym day! I felt like a little kid waking up on Christmas morning. My free personal training trial session with Mike was awesome! I can't accurately describe how great it felt to be a sweaty, gross mess after my workout. It had been so long since I was in the gym that I was happy to see those pit stains ( I know, a little weird- but the bigger the stains, the better the workout). Mike took me through a workout that consisted of weights, rings, battle ropes, the rowing machine, and he threw in a tire workout at the end- I was in workout heaven. I couldn't believe how fast 30 minutes went by! We ended up scheduling additional sessions before I left and I've been at MSP ever since. Talk about love at first...pit stain. 

My favorite thing about Midwest Strength + Performance is how kind and welcoming everyone is. From the owners to the members, everyone is friendly and has a smile on their face. Co-owners: TJ Lawson, Zane Roebuck, Mike Sell,  Jimmy Walker, and Phillip Carlson (yes, that Phil) have created an environment that is more than a gym. I have never seen people so excited to workout than the people who come to MSP. Despite being on the verge of tears at times from the killer workouts (*cough cough* Zane's classes *cough cough*), MSP fosters a community of people who are looking to become the best version of themselves, by walking alongside of their members as they are on this journey. 

Pinterest inspired photo background at a gym in Chicago, Illinois
Fitness, athletics, health, and community
Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much.
— Helen Keller

meet the coaches:

Jimmy walker

Jimmy is an experienced boxer and personal trainer. As an active amateur boxer for more than 7 years, he has experienced many different areas of the field. He competed in Golden Gloves in 2008 and 2017, taking home the title of runner up in 2017. In addition to this title, he is also a Viking Ninja black belt, sponsored by Wild Planet Foods, Inc.

Viking Ninja and Boxing Coach, Jimmy Walker
Jimmy Walker, Personal Trainer in Wheaton, Illinois

Outside of his own boxing career he has significant experience training others in the sport. With a personal training accreditation from the National Personal Training Institute, Jimmy is highly involved with Onnit academy, participating in various training areas including: foundations, steel mace specialist, and battle rope specialist. He has also worked as a trainer and boxing instructor at Wheaton Sports Center for over seven years.

Jimmy is specialized in various types of population training, some including: cerebral palsy, autism, seniors, children, elite athletes, and brachial plexus.

tj lawson

TJ is Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. (2012-Present). He graduated with a B.S. in Exercise Science from Carroll University in 2012. While at Carroll, he played 4 years of varsity football, started personal training, and interned with the Swift Olympic Speed Skating Team as a Strength Intern. 


Shortly after completing college, TJ took an internship position at UCLA Athletic Performance Dept. Most of his 2013 was spent working with some of the best college athletes in the nation. Specific sports he worked with at UCLA include: Gymnastics, Softball, Women’s Swimming and Diving, Women’s Water Polo, and Men's Golf. TJ uses his expert experience, as well as out of the box methodologies to construct unique and result driven programs. Whether you’re an athlete or everyday individual, TJ will put your goals first. He will work with you every step of the way to ensure your success.

Mike sell

Mike graduated from Wheaton College in 2016 with a B.S. in Applied Health Science. He has since used his education to make a difference in the world of personal health through a variety of start-up companies, including being the Co-Owner and a trainer at Midwest Strength + Performance. Mike is Vice-President of Betasol Consumer Products, which is aiming to bring a patented aerosolizer to the market to lower the health risks associated with smoking tobacco. Mike is also the Co-Owner of Clinically Dosed Supplements, and is the Co-Owner of Thunder-Strength.

Mike holds many national and world records in the sport of drug-free power lifting. His best competition lifts include a 644 lb squat, a 385 lb bench press, and a 683 lb deadlift. He also achieved first place for juniors in 2017 AAPF Worlds and Nationals, and has placed first in all five of the competitions he has competed in. Finally, Mike is ranked #1 in the world for juniors classic in both AAPF 100 kg and AAPF 110 kg.

Powerlifting and powerbuilding coach, Mike Sell
Online Personal Training Coach, Mike Sell

Mike is the head power lifting coach at Midwest Strength + Performance, leads a ministry called Iron Disciples, and teaches a class called Powerbuilding. Mike specializes in helping people build strength while obtaining the body of their dreams. 

Outside of the gym, Mike enjoys spending time with his wife, Ashley, partake in competitive eating challenges, and will occasionally compete in a Chess tournament.

Zane roebuck

With five years of training experience and the VP of Viking Ninja Bodyweight Education, Zane has a passion for helping people reach their full potential in the gym, and in life. Zane is a graduate of the National Personal Training Institute, and is accredited in national academy sports medicine. He is heavily involved with Onnit Academy, and trains in the areas of foundations, steel mace, TRX, and box and burn level 1.

Viking Ninja and Personal Trainer, Zane Roebuck
Zane Roebuck, Personal Trainer in Chicago, Illinois

Zane prides himself on the fact that he can train people without the use of any “tool” or special gym equipment. His passion is to test people’s limits, and he is trained to do this through a safe and enjoyable approach. Zane is well versed on how to introduce people of all ages and levels to the challenges on his training.

Zane is specialized in the fitness fields of sports performance, body weight/durability, and overall fitness improvement.

Phillip Carlson, Co-Owner of Midwest Strength + Performace. A Gym in West Chicago, Illinois

I know what y'all are thinking- they're so cool! Well, I can 100% agree they are as cool (and fierce) in person as they look on paper. Although Phil is not a coach, his accounting background and impressive organizational skills, makes him a vital part of MSP. 

The Gym Vibes:

What's cool about Midwest Strength + Performance is the amount of classes they offer in addition to personal training, open gym and private group sessions. There are 40 + classes per week including: 

Unconventional training including clubs, kettlebells, steel mace & more!

bodyweight, steel mace, fundamentals and boxing- check out the details, here

For the first time in nearly a year, I’m not “the girl with the head injury”. Instead, I’m the girl “making gainz”, as Mike says. At Midwest Strength + Performance, there truly is a place for everyone. What I love seeing at MSP is the diversity of the members. People of all race, religion, gender, age and fitness levels are coming together to train. If you like training alone or want to find a workout buddy (or #Swolemate), this is the place. 


MSP is also actively involved in the surrounding communities, leading workshops and classes for local athletes to help increase their performance. They have partnered with: Boxrat, Goalaso Sports Training, Stand Up and Flow, and St. Francis High School, to name a few. 

Overall, I give MSP 5 out of 5 stars. The atmosphere is positive and encouraging, which I believe is the most important aspect when looking for a gym. It’s important  to feel comfortable and helps with regularly attending. Second, there are a plethora of options to choose from workout wise. There truly is something here for everyone and allows for members to explore new forms of training. Plus, MSP is budget friendly and well worth the investment.


I can confidently say there is not one thing I would change about Midwest
Strength + Performance (okay, maaaaybe I would add a crepe bar, but that's it).

Be sure to stop in for your free one week class trial and follow Midwest Strength + Performance on Facebook, and Instagram.


I can't wait to see you at the gym! 



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