Twenty years of fitness: Keeping clients healthy remains top goal for Scottsdale fitness experts

Bill and Debbie Crawford own Basic Training in Scottsdale. (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

Decades of hard work and recognition within the fitness community take physical shape in the form of framed pictures, clipped newspaper and magazine articles, apparel and awards along the four walls in Bill and Debbie Crawford’s downtown Scottsdale gym, Basic Training.

A 2012 National Fitness Hall of Fame plaque, head shots of baseball players and an autographed photo of fitness paragon, Rocky Balboa himself, are only three of the stand-out items in the gym.

Mr. and Mrs. Crawford are celebrating 20 years of business in Scottsdale this summer.

The photographs and awards on the wall — as well as the grand piano often played by clients — are more than mere decorations or historical artifacts. They provide a testament — an affirmation if you will — of the expertise and knowledge available from the trainers.

“People come from all across the world to either have his 40 years of knowledge and experience, or to use our ‘MedX’ equipment and all of the equipment we’ve collected over the years,” Mrs. Crawford said of their company.

“Bill started the first Nautilus clubs out in Los Angeles back in the ‘70s and ‘80s, so he’s collected all of these pieces. He worked with Arthur Jones, who perfected Nautilus, and when Arthur perfected Nautilus equipment, his final creation was MedX.”

The Crawfords’ private gym houses the original chrome Nautilus equipment, which is one more eye-catching element setting the area apart from other fitness studios.

In 1997 the couple opened their first Scottsdale gym on Stetson Drive, before being condemned by the city of Scottsdale to make way for the construction of the local bridge. With re-location funds, the couple moved to their current location on Miller Road 10 years ago. The gym is split in two parts, with high intensity private training available in the glass-cased heavily-decorated half of the gym; and a circuit gym set up in the second half of the facility.

“We’ve had our business in downtown here for 20 years — on Stetson for 10 and over here for 10 — what’s really nice is people have come from all across the world to train at our facility,” Mrs. Crawford said.

“It really is an investment in their health — they want the best for their body. We have the best of both worlds here: private training or the MedX circuit but it’s not the big gym scene, it’s really specialized.”

Mr. Crawford offers private training, in addition to helping other trainers and speaking engagements; while Mrs. Crawford oversees and trains clients on their MedX equipment. The two are currently running a Scottsdale City Council campaign as well, as Mr. Crawford is seeking to add the title of “councilman” to his resume.

Mr. Crawford has been in the fitness business since 1977, and was trained for musculoskeletal evaluation and rehabilitation at the Exercise Science Center, University of Florida in Gainesville, Fla. He was personally trained by the late Arthur Jones, the inventor of Nautilus and MedX.

A view of the inside of Basic Training. (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

Behind the weights

The equipment within Basic Training, according to its owners, is world-renowned and highly regarded. Mr. Crawford described it as, the Rolls Royce of strength training.

“Persian rugs and grand pianos, plus, the finest weight-resistant exercise equipment on the planet,” Mr. Crawford said, as “Highway to Hell” by AC/DC blasted over speakers.

“This stuff is really popular in Germany, Switzerland, Austria — you don’t see most of it in the U.S. — but this stuff is the best.”

Mr. Crawford started in the fitness industry nearly 40 years ago, by accident. He grew up in Colorado where he was an avid skier growing up, with his sights set on competing professionally.

“I was in a position where I could try out for the 1972 Olympic team, and I had a really bad crash and hit a tree,” he explained of his downhill skiing aspirations. “I put a tree branch through my leg, had to have a lot of surgery, and so, any hope of me being a professional athlete ended at that time, but I still had lots and lots of training and fitness in my background.”

Bill went to school to be a graphic arts designer in advertising and promotions. Ultimately, he opened up a small advertising agency in Los Angeles, where he was approached by a man named A.J. Rosenthal to paint and do graphics for a future gym.

“I talked him in to letting me do his advertising campaign, and in February of 1977 I watched him make $140,000 in cash selling $65 a year memberships,” he said. “I said ‘stop the train, this has my name written all over it, and I want to be in the fitness business.’ We built a second club, and then we met Aurthur Jones.”

The three men went on to open Nautilus clubs throughout L.A.

“That basically ignited the Nautilus aerobics fitness boom of the ‘80s, and you know, people who used to work for us — like Chin Yi, he now owns LA Fitness, Richard Simmons — it was ground zero.”

Mr. Crawford represented Mr. Jones and his company for several years, working all around the world. In 1996 he came to the Valley of the Sun to assist with the merger of LA Fitness and Fitness Planet.

“I met Debbie and opened a boutique high-end fitness club that specialized in one-on-one training, and that was 20 years ago,” he said.

Mrs. Crawford, a model and actress, was working in the real estate industry in the 1990s when she and Bill met.

“We get to work together, we love what we do, and we help a lot of people reach their goals. It’s really rewarding to us,” Mrs. Crawford said.

In 2012 Mr. Crawford was inducted in to the National Fitness Hall of Fame for his life’s work, which includes working with two surgeon generals.

“I believe that I have logged more one-on-one trainings than anyone else in the country,” Mr. Crawford said.

“An average of 12 sessions a day, 5 1/2 days a week for 40 years. That’s a lot of trainings.”

The Crawfords recently had a piano installed in their fitness studio. (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

The proof is in the pudding, as the Crawfords displayed two decades worth of planners donning meticulously scheduled appointments, and his annual business licenses.

“We don’t do it on computers, because computers can fail you,” Mr. Crawford noted, as he flipped through schedules from the 2000s.

“There are some trainers that can’t get new clients, so I always kind of take that in mind; I should be very grateful for the following that I have.”

The Crawfords say the next 20 years are wide open, and that they will, most likely, always continue train people looking to improve their health.

“I don’t ever see quitting this, ever. I might be doing three days a week, half-a-day, in my 80s, but think of the benefits,” Mr. Crawford said.

“I get a reason to get up in the morning, talk to people, be involved in the community and work out.”

Mrs. Crawford agreed, “we’ll still have a facility, we’ll be doing something.”

So who were their favorite clients? Mr. Crawford noted some of his most memorable clients — not famous people, but strong people.

“The people that I get the biggest thrill out of working with is people who come in wheelchairs or walkers and we’re able to get them out of their walkers. That’s the most gratifying,” Mr. Crawford said, noting he’s had dozens of clients with successful rehabilitation, before slipping in one memorable client.

“When Jane Fonda was doing ‘On Golden Pond,’ she brought her dad in, in Westwood, in between his two heart attacks. He was interesting.”

“On Golden Pond” starring Henry and Jane Fonda, went on to earn 10 Academy Award nominations in 1982 and earned nearly $120 million at the box office. Mr. Fonda earned his only Oscar, best actor, for the role.

Northeast Valley News Editor Melissa Rosequist can be e-mailed at or can be followed on Twitter at

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