Auburn Family

Iron Tribe Builds Muscle Through the Auburn Spirit

Exercise gives people endorphins. Endorphins make people happy, and for Forrest Walden, they have given him a highly successful and influential business, too.

Walden is the CEO and Founder of Iron Tribe Fitness, one of the fastest-growing gyms of its kind in the country, headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama.

The company started in Homewood, Alabama in 2010 and since 2012, has been franchised to 68 gyms in 14 states from Miami to Seattle, with ninety-two percent of franchises being started by their own clients.

Iron Tribe is a group personal training system that focuses on functional movements that help humans move the way they were built to without the confinement of machines that are unstable. The Iron Tribe technology and program teaches body weight movements with free weights and incorporates basic gymnastic components. 

Each tribe member uses the Iron Tribe app to schedule their workout with a dedicated coach who leads a controlled warm up, the workout of the day and a structured cool down in 45-minute periods throughout the day. (Photo used with permission.)

Walden is originally from a “house divided” in Birmingham (his Dad rooted for Bama while his mom cheered for Auburn) and is an Auburn graduate with a bachelor’s degree in exercise science.

Walden’s first life goal was to play Auburn football, and he did score several offers from various schools, but never from his dream university. After his freshman year at Auburn, Walden tired of not playing sports, so he tried out for and made the Auburn University cheerleading squad.

Cheering got him back in the gym and helped him gain 50 pounds while paving the way for his life’s work at Iron Tribe. 

Working out “changed everything about me—it gave me confidence,” Walden said. “To this day, I am better in every facet of my life when I’m working out and in shape. The minute I let go of that, everything else suffers. I’ve seen it not only in my own experience, but also in those of my clients.”

Walden’s inspiration for Iron Tribe came from him wanting a place to work out with his friends that was unlike the isolating and aesthetically driven big-box gyms that are more expensive than beneficial. Therefore, he instead designed Iron Tribe as a one-on-one, performance driven, community effort in a results-tracking environment complete with a tribe to encourage and cheer on every step of the way. 

The unique operation has a 97 percent member-retention rate and provides many classes for its mission to meet health and fitness goals while helping members fulfill their life’s purposes.

In addition, for the Birmingham locations, expert chef, Mary Drennan, prepares paleo meals at the InnerFire Grill for members to pick up or have delivered to their doorstep. 

The company even offers a kid’s program with a scaled-down approach under the same type of programming.

Before he established Iron Tribe, Walden answered God’s calling for him to do something more than his day job. After numerous mission trips across the world, he saw a theme of lack of access to clean water, so he launched NeverThirst. (Photo used with permission.)

NeverThirst is an international nonprofit Christian organization dedicated to bringing clean and living water to the poor through the local church.

Through one of Iron Tribe’s nine core values, connecting God’s blessings with God’s purposes, Walden decided to connect NeverThirst with Iron Tribe. Thus, the annual Workout for Water campaign began, which funds clean water wells in the remote villages of India, Sudan and the Central African Republic. It raised $307,000 just out of Birmingham and $405,000 as a whole brand in 2014.  

Walden has not only created a fitness leader and an effective nonprofit, but he also continues leaving an incredible legacy.

He attributes much of his success and passion to his time at Auburn: “I am an Auburn man. It helped shape who I am,” Walden said. “I couldn’t be more proud to be an Auburn man.”


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