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Knoxville News-Sentinel (Tennessee)


Eight years ago, Laurie Hensley's friend invited her to a CrossFit class.

"I was not an athletic person," she said. "From the first time, I loved it and knew I wanted to be a coach. I had my certification and my husband said I needed something for myself and kept saying I should open a gym. It scared me to death, but he said he would be there every step of the way."

That was September 2016. After finding the perfect location, near the Ace Hardware store in Halls, Hensley opened the Monday after Thanksgiving. "My manager, Tristan Smith, and I showed up at 6 a.m.," she said. "No people came, but we waited and more and more people came."

Workouts to fit variety of people

CrossFit can be intimidating, so offering a varied workout program was key, according to Hensley. "I wanted to give them a place to feel welcome," she said. "We have lots of moms and dads, a 67-year-old pastor, younger people who are really fit and two overweight women who have lost 100 pounds."

Hensley was born with clubfeet and has lived with a blood disease her whole life. "We tend to see a trainer as a machine that doesn't have any limitations," she said. "I can't run because of my Achilles tendon, so I row it or bike it. But they look at me and see that I can still do it."

"We have smaller class sizes and more individual coaching," said manager Tristan Smith. "We cater to beginners as much as the professional athlete; we meet you where you are with your fitness and take it to the next level."

Hensley said one lady drives 30 minutes to classes. "She has extreme social anxiety, and now it's the highlight of her day," she said. "I said the hardest part was coming in. Another lady couldn't play with her kids (from being out of shape). She asked me if she could do this and I said 'absolutely, you just show up.' She has lost over 100 pounds since then.

'Cult' following of the healthy kind

"With CrossFit, people feel the change mentally before it comes physically," said Hensley. "People say that CrossFit is a cult and it kind of is, it becomes something you can't imagine not having in your day."

When Hensley's husband passed away in March 2017, her coaches rallied around her and got her through.

"We have grown, we've had our setbacks, but we are still standing and pushing through with the most loyal people," said Hensley of their upcoming second anniversary. "It's not something I thought I would ever see. We have restructured and made good changes and we are really on the upswing. We are going to be here helping people have better and healthier lives."

Specials deals, and a celebration

Workouts of the Day (WOD) are held hourly 6-10 a.m. and 4-9 p.m. weekdays with open gym 8-10 a.m. on Saturdays. Monthly rates are: part-time ($125), full-time ($149) and punch card (eight visits for $100) rates. Discounts are offered to the military, police and first responders.

An upcoming "WOD and Wine" event at 7 p.m. Oct. 19 will benefit Girls Inc. Anyone can attend; a minimum event fee of $25 includes a T-shirt, workout, food and clothes swap. Details on the Facebook page.

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September 5, 2018


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