Inuk strength: Jeffrey Gordon turns dream of owning gym into reality

Seeing gym full of people made business owner feel ‘super proud’

Jeffrey Gordon, owner of Inuk Strength Gym in Kuujjuaq, plays with his dog Shelby this week at the gym’s closing hour. (Photo by Cedric Gallant)

By Cedric Gallant - Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Inuk Strength Gym’s logo, which Jeffrey Gordon created in school when he was 11 years old, is on merchandise at the gym. (Photo by Cedric Gallant)

When he was 11 years old, Jeffrey Gordon drew a logo of an inuksuk with a bent barbell over it.

“When our teacher asked us what our dreams were, I had NHL at first, and second was to own a gym,” he said.

Now, at 26, Gordon is the only private gym owner in Nunavik.

Gordon left his family and his home in Kuujjuaq to live in Montreal to pursue a hockey career when he was 13 years old. Yet he would come back to Nunavik every summer, even though it meant he couldn’t keep training, because Kuujjuaq’s arena does not have an ice sheet in the warmer months.

“I always felt like I was losing momentum because we did not have any ice to play hockey, and no trainers,” he said.

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As Gordon grew older, he started to go to the gym with his dad every morning as a way to release anxiety and stress.

Growing up in the North, Gordon said, death becomes a part of people’s lives at an early age.

“We lose our friends every month and every year,” he said. “Sports and the gym is what kept me on my feet.”

After that, he said, he traded his hockey goals for a business goal: He started working towards opening up his own gym.

Gordon took a course in kinesiology, the study of human body movement, at Concordia University in Montreal. But his studies were cut short in 2020 with the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and he returned to Kuujjuaq.

Opportunity presented itself when village administration posted a call for new ownership to take over the gym it was managing.

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“I wrote my business plan, and everything worked out,” Gordon says.

This is where the Inuk Strength Gym was born, with the logo he drew when he was 11 years old.

Gordon explained the logo tells the purpose of the gym. Inuksuk were used by Inuit to find their way home. The inuksuk seen in the logo is the path that leads Gordon to his home, he said.

Under his logo is the message “find your path.”

The gym itself is one long room inside the Kuujjuaq Forum. Gordon says that before it was a gym, it used to be a bowling alley.

Set of customized dumbbells seen at the Inuk Strength Gym. (Photo by Cedric Gallant)

“It was a big game of Tetris placing all the machines so that everyone feels comfortable” in the gym, he said.

Now, the space can comfortably fit a dozen or so people without anyone stepping on anybody else’s toes.

Gordon said opening a gym at the start of the pandemic was extremely stressful.

“I was closed for five to six months and I had to pay for the rent, and all I had was a little job at the store,” he recalls.

“Trying to cover for everything was pretty insane.”

More than half of the equipment the gym has now was paid for out of pocket by Gordon.

“I had money saved up since I was an early teen. I took all that money and invested it here,” he said.

Gordon managed to keep it afloat, and now the fruits of his efforts can be seen in the number of people coming to improve themselves at the gym.

“Just last week,” he said, “I never felt so proud of everyone in the gym. The whole place was completely packed. All the machines, benches, bikes were occupied. Everyone was in their own little bubble, working out.”

Gordon said a couple of his gym members have quit drinking and smoking and have lost a few pounds, something he says is “very rewarding to see.”

He said he’s also proud to make the gym a welcoming place. When the business was under municipal management, Gordon said it felt intimidating to use the gym because it was mainly used by southerners, not people who live in Kuujjuaq.

“We felt like outsiders in the gym,” Gordon said.

Now, he says, it’s nice seeing more Inuit ask about the gym.

Gordon said he wants people to at least try the gym, to see how much happier they might be after focusing on themselves.

“You will see how much happier you will be stepping out of the gym,” he said.

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(10) Comments:

  1. Posted by Keep it up! on

    This is excellent news! Congratulations to Jeff for following his dreams and what a great addition to the community.

  2. Posted by Good Jeffrey, but work on your harmony with outsiders on

    This has some positive, but segregates inuit again as usual. Inuk strengthens only through harmony with other people. This is really not Inuk strength. What it is : an attempt to get Inuk strength with confused interpretation that negatively impacts Inuit today. I’m also wondering if the feeling of being outsider was there before the new gym idea was created, is it gone now, and what a about outsiders, can they still use the gym, or is it beneficiaries only? Because to depend on local customers without the outsider will be bad for your business.

    • Posted by Johnny Oh Ima on

      Get a life, we need every Inuk to be inspiring and inspired, we discrimination on a daily basis and he’s just trying to do in his part to make people of proud to be who they are as Inuit. You remember residential school right? This is just a way to build healthy life and build self esteem for everyone. I am pretty sure there are settlers that joined the gym too.

      If you’re a fellow Inuk shame on you and if you’re a settler leave Inuit Nunangat!

  3. Posted by More options now on

    With this new gym, having the potential to help with the drinking, people will be able to choose between that and isuarsivik. May Jeffery is on to something. The court might even get involved, sentencing people to the gym , instead of jail.

    • Posted by Kuujjuaq on

      I still drink and smoke some weed , still go to the gym 4 times a week . You don t have to be a puritan to enjoy life.

      • Posted by Really? on

        Really? It must suck to be a sensible one , among many lunatics after they consume couple of beers. Do you find good company anyway? I’m a drinker and smoker too, good company sans the idiots makes life even better.

  4. Posted by What’s up with this ? on

    There wouldn’t be anything wrong with this idea, except it’s the consequence of other issues. Before we keep going off our track to achieve education and secure permanent working careers, this doesn’t fit just yet.

  5. Posted by Papikatuk larry Sakiagak on

    Way to go Jeff
    I’m very proud of you inuk/qallunaaqatiks
    Time for me to return home to kuujjuaq and get my gym pass and strength build with you man..
    My longest friend since hockey school down south

  6. Posted by How this relates to housing shortages on

    First of all, if you can sing dance or supervise a gym, you can get money from programs at KRG to develop, and if you don’t develop, if you fail, it’s forgiven. The housing shortage is a myth in Nunavik. What I mean by that is there’s more than enough housing, it’s lacking education among the population that keeps the uneducated out of housing. If you were to account for all the housing that outsiders are in, it’s almost as much as kmhb houses. These houses would otherwise be accommodated to locals, if locals were to get an education and be contributing to the growth of the communities. There’s hundreds and hundreds of jobs and houses available to Nunavik, only to be be given away to professionals from the south coming in because people in Nunavik are too few getting an education. This will continue until there are more newcomers to Nunavik, than there are born in Nunavik. Then there will be more born in Nunavik from the newcomers, and Nunavik, places like Kuujjuaq will be over come by a settler population. That includes a municipal ran , not by Inuit anymore, but by settlers. It’s outsiders now developing the area for their future, and locals are just becoming second class citizens, due to their own decisions not to get educated. Locals are superficially taken a back seat and doing the easiest jobs m like this gym is part of.

    • Posted by Kuujjuaq on

      So , what you are saying is that Kuujjuaq will become like Iqaluit , overcome by settler.


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