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Brickhouse Is A Different Kind Of Fitness Program

Amanda and Jay Forrester operate Brickhouse CrossFit.

by Gene Marrano

Brickhouse CrossFit isn’t located in some fancy, shiny new building like some other gyms in town. In fact it’s home is a non-air conditioned  former automobile garage and storage facility, circa 1913. Don’t look for treadmills, elliptical machines or the latest in exercise equipment either. Instead, what Jay and Amanda Forrester offer are lots of sweat and maybe a few tears.

Brickhouse CrossFit (310 Salem Avenue in downtown Roanoke) is affiliated with the national CrossFit movement. There you will find mats, hanging gymnast rings, heavy punching bags, kettle balls and the like . . . Not to mention a handful of certified trainers who specialize in a variety of disciplines, like local long distance runner Neal Jamison, who teaches endurance techniques.

The Forresters, a husband and wife team, are  both trainers in their own right.  Both were introduced to the CrossFit method of training two years ago “and knew that we wanted [to introduce] a different style of fitness that wasn’t available in Roanoke,” said Amanda Forrester. They opened for business over a year ago.

CrossFit began in 1995 with programs to train military personnel and firefighters. Forrester calls it an “open fitness system,” with workout regimens posted online every day, and on an erasable board at the Brickhouse location. “They can follow it anywhere.”

Jay Forrester was a computer programmer “sitting at a desk all day,” before he realized that fitness might be his calling. Brickhouse is all about functional movements he notes: throwing barbells around, jumping on boxes, flipping tires, chin-ups, pull-ups – even running sprints up Salem Avenue. There are no exercises that isolate muscles – no curls, no leg extensions. “The whole body is moving at one time.” CrossFit labels it as full body power outlet. Yoga classes are also offered to focus on flexibility.

Amanda Forrester said a very small percentage of the 100 or so Brickhouse CrossFit members are true athletes, the rest are couch potatoes of all ages that “want to be fit.”  Some findsthemselves at other gyms and “don’t know what to do.”

A free novice workout offered at 9:15 every Saturday morning is one way for the curious to find out what CrossFit is all about. “You have to experience what [members] go through,” said Jay Forrester. Every class is coached and features groups of the same people. “They train as a team, just as they would in any other sport” said Amanda Forrester. “They cheer each other on.” A Facebook page helps build that camaraderie and offers motivation.

Brickhouse CrossFit is attracting downtown residents but has members from as far away as Salem. Many have gym memberships elsewhere but are looking for something different. Alicia Bosserman has been coming to Brickhouse CrossFit for three months. “It’s really intense. I feel like I leave better than when I came.” She likes what the workouts – including a 12-minute regimen – have done for her upper body strength.

Adam Dickerson, one of the trainers said, some of those who walk in “feel intimidated. We assess everyone [and] workouts are scaled to fitness levels.” He likes the team concept. “When people try to do this on their own, it’s tough. It takes a community to make a CrossFitter.”

Hour long classes start as early as 5:30 am. Memberships range from $75 per month for two visits per week to $150 for unlimited visits. “We expect people to commit to CrossFit,” said Amanda Forrester, “they’re not just kind of coming and going as they want. They’re trusting us with their fitness.” In return Brickhouse is offering something a bit different in physical fitness.


See or the Brickhouse Fit Facebook page


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