To Top

Meet Michael Stoll of Hillcrest Athletic Club in Hillcrest

Today we’d like to introduce you to Michael Stoll.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I got interested in CrossFit while I was stationed overseas for the US Navy in Bahrain. My job included working closely with US Navy SEALS, and they talked me into working out with them a few times – I was instantly addicted. Not only did I feel great, my rugby game improved tremendously, and (once I started following some of their dietary guidelines, which went against EVERYTHING I had been taught growing up), I lost most of my body fat and started getting comments from friends and co-workers about how “healthy” I looked.

When I returned to the United States, I decided that I wanted to open up a CrossFit gym in San Diego, spread the word about my personal transformation, and help others achieve their health and fitness goals through this system. So I partnered up with two close friends who had a lot of experience in CrossFit, and we turned our dream into reality.

After four years of growth and learning the angles of the business, we had the opportunity to move into a larger space that was much better suited for what we wanted to do. Recognizing both the draw and the perceived barrier to entry of the CrossFit name, we rebranded ourselves as the Hillcrest Athletic Club. This allowed us to still offer our bread and butter (CrossFit Hillcrest), but to also add different class types: America’s Finest Boot Camp, Bent Iron Olympic Lifting Barbell Club, and YogaFlex were born and added to our schedule.

We LOVE the Hillcrest neighborhood, and have focused our efforts on developing a close-knit community of athletes at our gym. I tell people it’s much easier to convince yourself to go to the gym if all of your friends will be there – and we all know how important it is to just get to the gym on a regular basis! We’ve combined our tried and tested fitness methodology with effective and efficient nutrition information and guidance in order to provide our athletes with one of the best overall paths to health and wellness available in San Diego. We’re also very active in the community, participating in the annual Pride festivities and parade, supporting local charities, and reaching out to other businesses in the neighborhood to encourage healthy lifestyles.

Owning a gym is a LOT of work, especially for two guys that have full-time jobs, but it’s a way of life for us, and is worth it – especially when members tell us how we’ve helped them change their life for the better.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Balancing home, work, relationships, and the gym is the biggest challenge by far. We manage that by being as efficient and effective with our time as possible, developing standardized systems based on experience and best practices that streamline the day to day operations of the business.

We also heavily rely upon our clients and staff to help us run the gym. For example, during our recent move and tenant improvement phase, more than 30 of our clients helped us with the build-out. From moving equipment, to knocking down walls, to painting, to general construction, we absolutely could not have done it without their help. And none of it was compensated (well, we did buy food for our volunteers!) – Folks did it because they want to see us succeed. They believe in what we’re building.

Finances are always a concern as well. Small businesses like ours can have a lot of difficulty in obtaining loans, and we were no exception. Finding strategies to reduce business expenditures while still providing world-class facilities and instruction is a challenge, but is doable with hard work and research.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
We provide instructor lead, group fitness classes. We’re known for our friendly, welcoming atmosphere, tight-knit community, and effective and efficient workout programming.

We specialize in CrossFit and Olympic lifting, and that’s what we’re best known for. We’ve also expanded our class offerings, utilizing the CrossFit methodology to build an amazing Boot Camp class that gets results – fast. We’ve also developed a short duration (about 30 minutes) yoga-based mobility and recovery class that helps our athletes improve their flexibility, thereby significantly reducing injury potential.

I’m most proud of my trainers. We have very little employee turnover (I’ve only ever lost a trainer when they’ve had to move across the country for work and / or school). Our coaches are professional and amazingly skilled. As a trainer myself, I’m happy to admit that I’m the worst coach in our employ – we’ve taken great pains to hire and retain the best. And our clients benefit tremendously from this sort of consistency and excellence.

The combination of community, workout programming, and top-notch trainers help separate us from other gyms in the area. We strive to capitalize on our efficiencies in order to keep our prices as accessible as possible, and this helps set us apart from the other amazing CrossFit gyms in San Diego – which is a high bar indeed!

What were you like growing up?
I grew up in an artistic family that was heavily involved in the theater. Despite this, due to an overdeveloped sense of imagination and a voracious appetite for Science Fiction novels, I decided at an early age that I wanted to be an astronaut. This led me to a very successful 24-year career as a US Navy helicopter pilot. Despite not making the astronaut cut, I thoroughly enjoyed my time serving our country.


  • CrossFit classes are $149 / month for unlimited classes.
  • Boot Camp classes are $79 / month for unlimited classes.

Contact Info:

Getting in touch: SDVoyager is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More in

  • San Diego’s Most Inspiring Stories

    The heart of our mission is to find the amazing souls that breathe life into our communities. In the recent weeks,...

    Local StoriesMarch 27, 2023
  • Hidden Gems: Local Businesses & Creatives You Should Know

    Every day we have a choice. We can support an up and coming podcaster, try a new family-run restaurant, join a...

    Local StoriesMarch 20, 2023
  • Community Member Spotlights

    It’s more important to understand someone than to judge them. We think the first step to understanding someone is asking them...

    Partners SeriesMarch 16, 2023
  • Fashion, Selling Online, Charity & Nonprofits

    SDVoyager Podcast Episode 5 We’ve got some incredible guests on on the podcast today.  Lindsey Radoff, Sybil Golin and Madison Pollard...

    Partners SeriesFebruary 15, 2023
  • Portraits of San Diego

    It’s more important to understand someone than to judge them. We think the first step to understanding someone is asking them...

    Local StoriesJanuary 13, 2023
  • SDVoyager Holiday Guide

    Discover truly unique gift ideas that will leave your friends and family smiling all season through our Holiday Gift Guide below....

    Local StoriesDecember 8, 2022
  • San Diego’s Most Inspiring Stories

    Every neighborhood in San Diego has its own vibe, style, culture and history, but what consistently amazes us is not what...

    Local StoriesNovember 8, 2021
  • The Folks Solving The Problems You Need Solved

    One of the most important benefits of a thriving small business ecosystem is the myriad of problems and niche issues that...

    Local StoriesOctober 31, 2021
  • Community Member Spotlights

    It’s more important to understand someone than to judge them. We think the first step to understanding someone is asking them...

    Local StoriesOctober 11, 2021