Leaving Wall Street for a killer workout

Leaving Wall Street for a better workout
Leaving Wall Street for a better workout   

How can you pursue a career based on a passion? For most people, the path is long and winding. They tend to dabble in the new interest on the side for months or even years while keeping their day job. If it looks like they may actually be able to make a living at their pastime, then and only then, will they give up their steady paychecks to turn their passion projects into full time work.

That was not the case for Gregg Arsenuk.

Arsenuk left a well-paying job on Wall Street with just a dream of opening his own gym. He says he'd been working on a business plan and designing a logo but had never worked at a sports club and had no formal education as a trainer. He just knew that he had a keen interest in fitness.

"I enjoyed learning about it," he told CNBC. "I enjoyed talking to people about it. I enjoyed it for myself."

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Members of Guerrilla Fitness, a chain of CrossFit gyms founded by former Wall Streeter, Gregg Arsenuk (kneeling at center).
Courtesy Gregg Arsenuk
Members of Guerrilla Fitness, a chain of CrossFit gyms founded by former Wall Streeter, Gregg Arsenuk (kneeling at center).

So, he moved to Denver, Colorado and took a job at a local gym to try to learn the business from the bottom up. Arsenuk says it taught him mainly what not to do. The club he worked in was very corporate and he says it felt like the company was more interested in selling memberships, products and supplements rather than teaching training techniques and focusing on members' exercise results.

Around the same time, Arsenuk discovered CrossFit, a company that provides accredited training seminars in its fitness regimen. He took a two day certification program, moved back to the East coast and in 2008 opened a CrossFit affiliated gym in Montclair, New Jersey under his own brand name, Guerrilla Fitness.

As a new gym owner, Arsenuk saID the CrossFit annual affiliation fee (now, $3,000) was well worth it. He had access to all of its fitness and nutrition information and the added benefit of having his gym listed on the CrossFit website to help attract potential members. He also kept his start-up costs low by paying $1200 to rent 900 square feet of a much larger space and not hiring any employees at first.

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"I was the janitor. I was the coach," he said. "I was the administrator. I was the carpenter."

Seven years later, Guerrilla Fitness occupies the entire 8,000 square foot space in Montclair and boasts 3 additional locations in New Jersey with thirty-three employees and close to one thousand members. Arsenuk says his wife supported him throughout the entire journey and waited until two years after he opened the first gym-- when the business was starting to show some industry muscle-- to tell him what she was originally thinking.

"She said, 'I thought we were finished. I didn't know what you had just done.'" He added that she had secretly put a time limit on getting his new career off the ground.

She said, "You had three years. Apparently, you don't need it."