My Story and My “Why” for Brickhouse

Hi, I’m Ryan, and I want to help people live better lives. At Brickhouse we use fitness and nutrition to help people be healthier, happier, more confident and, most importantly, live amazing lives. That’s where we are now, in 2020. But I want to back up a few years and give you the story that led me here and the things that have been created in order to have this life transformation engine we call Brickhouse.

Brickhouse CrossFit was the original CrossFit in the Roanoke Valley, created in 2010 by founders Jay and Amanda Forrester. At the time, I was nowhere near the fitness industry; a recent college graduate, PGA Apprentice Golf Professional at a local country club, and aspiring to a long career in the golf industry, I spent my days teaching golf, running the Pro Shop, member events and golf operations.

It was at the golf course that I first learned the value of helping people. Working with their golf swings, teaching them the basics, showing them strategy for golf, tweaking their putting setup, all to help them play a game better which brought them joy. I worked with kids ages 4 all the way up to 80 year old seniors, so I got great practice in teaching, motivating, supporting and coaching people of all ages. Seeing them hit a golf ball better brought me joy.

My workouts at the time involved some isolated weight machines, cardio on treadmills and ellipticals, and a few dumbbell exercises if I was feeling adventurous. Sound familiar? The old school, globo-gym routine! I was mostly alone for workouts, motivation peaked and pitted, as did my fitness. 2014 would change that.

Still working in the golf business, now a PGA Certified Golf Professional, I decided it was time for a change in my fitness routine; I wanted to get serious – tone up, get stronger, you know, the usual abstract goals. I signed up for a 10-pack of PT (personal training) sessions at Gold’s Gym in South Roanoke with a trainer who I knew was doing some cool stuff over in the corner of the gym. It turns out he was doing CrossFit and he was about to show me the movements and fitness routine that would change my life (and career).

I started working out with him in February 2014. They had this CrossFit affiliate inside the Gold’s Gym, named CrossFit AGX Roanoke. So I eventually joined the crowd and started taking classes. It was incredible. Difficult and so challenging! Every day was different; every day a new “mission” to complete the workout, avoid death and come back the next day for more. I was hooked.

There was something else though. Doing the workouts each day made me happy. Like really happy. Joyful, almost. I had never experienced that being in a gym setting before.

I stepped foot in Brickhouse CrossFit for the first time in July 2014. There was a local CrossFit competition there that day. I was nowhere near ready to compete in something like this, but I took the afternoon off from the golf course to go watch. I remember walking into the building and thinking, “Man this is weird. Big space. Very industrial-like.” It was then that I was informed that this was like the “mecca” of CrossFit gyms. Cool!

In March 2015, I got the opportunity to coach CrossFit classes at the Gold’s Gym on Mondays (my one day off from the golf course) and jumped on it. I spent that morning coaching classes, helping people work on, not their golf games this day, but their HEALTH. It was a rush.

In June, I was presented with a position to coach more classes, train more clients 1-on-1 and work full-time at that Gold’s Gym. I took a leap, a risk, an adventurous move and a big pay cut, and left the golf business. It was time to TRULY help people live better lives.

Fast-forward to the following year, April 2016. We had been working out really hard for a couple years; lots of double workout days, clean eating and competing in local and not-so-local competitions. We (the guy from above, Johnathon, and I) decided we wanted to open our own gym.

In about a 45-day total period (still amazes me) we made a business plan, secured our funds, incorporated and formed an LLC, found a building and signed a lease, ordered equipment and moved in. On May 2, 2016 we launched CrossFit Unify Roanoke. The dream had come to life.

We spent the next 8 months building our gym; we had a strong culture that came with us from Gold’s Gym. I was coaching 17-20 classes a week for the first few months and it was tough, but we loved it. Freedom of being able to do what we want, have our own space with our own people and get really, really fit. And then something unexpected happened near the beginning of 2017…

Jay and Amanda, the founders of Brickhouse, the mecca CrossFit gym, approached us and asked if we were interested in buying Brickhouse and taking it over. They were ready to move on to something different. Wow! The gym I walked in, amazed, back in July 2014 as a spectator, was about to be ours.

We took over Brickhouse in May 2017 and ran both it and Unify concurrently for a year. We kept the gyms separate, but created dual membership options where members could go to either. What I found over the course of the next year was that running essentially two separate businesses at the same time split me in half. I was giving about 50% to each – not good.

In July of 2018 Johnathon and I decided to end our business partnership and with that, he took full ownership of Unify and I took full ownership of Brickhouse. We were able to now give 100% to both gyms, which they deserved.

From July of 2018 to today, January 2020, Brickhouse has evolved within my vision of health and fitness. We have a space built around positivity, support, kindness, accountability, compassion – all these amazing things that allow someone, anyone, to walk through the doors and change his/her life with fitness and nutrition. We are able to help people from a young age to an old age, from already healthy to completely sedentary, and everyone in between. Just like I was doing at the golf course years back.

Over the last 18 months, I’ve made a lot of changes to our business. Change is hard, because it’s change. It’s not the “norm,” and that can be stressful. But we’ve positioned Brickhouse to be a life transformation center where group classes, personal training, and nutrition coaching are the pieces that create life-changing health for a lot of people.

So my “Why” is simple: I want to help people live better lives. At Brickhouse, we use nutrition and fitness (group and PT) to help that happen. Our actions are supported by our values (above), and we have a growing culture that is turning this amazing flywheel faster and faster.

Brickhouse 3.0, I now call it to myself, because I know where we’ve been and I have a vision for where we’re going. The future of health and fitness in Roanoke, Virginia, is bright!


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