Cary, NC — There’s only one independent, female veteran-owned fitness facility in Cary with a highly personalized approach, 24/7 access and its own superfood smoothie and coffee bar. It’s ExPo LIFE Fitness.
Specializing in fitness, nutrition and healthy lifestyle, the community-based gym opened its doors on January 1, 2021, located at 215 Tals Rock Way in northwest Cary, in the Carpenter Fire Station Professional Plaza.
The name “ExPo” is a combination of exponential and potential, words that are key to the philosophy of the business.
Owner Lisa Brown and co-founder, Brad Hall both bring a wealth of knowledge and experience in the health industry.
Meet the Founders
Both Hall and Brown have worked in the health and fitness industry their whole lives and both have advanced degrees in exercise physiology.
That’s the study of how the body responds to exercise through muscular, cardiovascular, and neurological adaptations as well as the mechanisms by which physical activity can prevent, reduce or reverse disease.
In creating this new boutique-style fitness space, they combine that expertise with high-quality strength and functional fitness equipment, teaching all members proper body mechanics form and technique in an individualized environment, all designed to offer safer, more effective workouts and a healthier, robust sense of being.
Since her beginnings in Iowa, Lisa’s life is a story of two intertwined passions—service to her country in the U.S. Air Force and extensive education and experience in teaching exercise, nutrition and positive lifestyle behaviors.
She is an NC licensed and registered dietitian, an exercise physiologist, a 200-hour certified yoga teacher and tai chi instructor, but that’s not all.
Brown joined the U.S. Air Force in 2002, serving eight years of active duty including tours in Germany, Iraq and the United Arab Emirates before returning to be a reservist in 2014. On top of her responsibilities as a reservist in the 916th Air Refueling Wing Office of the Inspector General and as a new Cary business owner, Brown also works a full-time civilian job at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro as Director of Continuous Process Improvement and Innovation.
“I work with Airmen to improve efficiency and effectiveness of processes and clear the way for their innovative improvement ideas to be implemented. I also facilitate leadership on strategic alignment, clarifying mission, vision and priorities and how to communicate that to the Airmen, as well as performance monitoring and analysis,” said Brown.
Brown opened ExPo LIFE to create a fitness space that’s unlike any other. Putting their heads together, she and Brad designed the business by bringing together all of the best practices they’ve learned over the years.
“We’ve worked hard to make fitness accessible, fun, and effective here. It’s an absolute joy to share it with our Cary neighbors.”
Hall grew up and lived in the Washington D.C. area, traveling to Tucson, Arizona for his education before returning to what he called the “rat race” of traffic in northern Virginia. A friend told him the Triangle area offered both landscape beauty and professional opportunities much like northern Virginia, but here the people are so nice, the weather is better and there is far less traffic.
He moved almost 10 years ago with his family to the Cary area and was blown away by the outdoor exercise opportunities in Cary. “I would never live anywhere else. The greenways are unbelievable and you don’t find that anywhere else,” said Hall.
Working in health and fitness his entire life, Hall has accrued over 20 years in the industry and tackles the operational and marketing side of ExPo LIFE Fitness as well as leading several weekly functional workouts and offering individualized training for members. He has held numerous executive-level positions in the orthopedic sector where influence, motivation, goal attainment, and personal development all translate to ExPo LIFE Fitness.
“It’s well known that people have a roller coaster ride with their fitness goals — this is why you see so many people turn the New Year in with getting in better shape,” said Hall.
Hall has developed the ‘Breaking the Start-Stop Chain’ that educates ExPo LIFE members on how to break their own cycle of starting a fitness program only to quit on it shortly after. ‘Breaking the Start-Stop Chain’ empowers people with the critical knowledge of how to stay on their own path to good health.
“We are not just providing the physical equipment, personalized functional fitness instruction, and semi-private classes to our members to achieve their fitness goals, we are also strengthening their mental power to keep them on their path. No one is providing this type of service and it’s included with every membership,” said Hall.
Filling the Void in Cary
ExPo LIFE’s main client base is Cary’s middle-aged professionals looking to get healthier and who want more than just the typical gym. The immaculate 5,000 square-foot, boutique-style facility accommodates 24/7 access and has an age requirement of 18 for members.
“Our main differentiator is our functional fitness workouts where we teach members how to increase core stability by utilizing the 7 human body movements in our compound sequence programs,” said Hall.
He added, “When done properly and with our guided instruction, members are achieving fantastic results such as significant reduction in lower back pain, decreased body aches, improvement in sleep, and performing better with athletic and daily activities.”
Together, Brown and Hall designed what ExPo LIFE offers to encompass much of what people would otherwise have to buy multiple memberships to attain. At ExPo LIFE Fitness, you’ll find:
- Strength training
- Nutrition counseling
- Individualized technique guidance
- Personal training
- 24/7 access
- 2 complimentary personal training sessions for every member
- Semi-private classes, never exceeding 6 people
- High, moderate and low-intensity training classes
- 5-8 classes daily with additional yoga and stretch classes
- Free community offerings, including a run/walk club for all ages, yoga and educational/personal development seminars
- Equipment disinfection and cleanliness protocols backed by the American Certified Clean Association
- $0 Joining Fee & locked-in rates for Founder members
Brown said, “I’ve always been very meticulous about training good biomechanics and learning how to do things right for safety, effectiveness, longevity, and unique individual needs, and including corrective exercises when needed. I also enjoy a wide variety of fitness and active recovery modalities, and believe this is important for overall health.”
“This all-inclusive combination is very hard to find, so I decided I needed to build it myself,” said Brown, who shaped the atmosphere of the gym around being intimate, convenient, community-based and friendly to all who walk in the door.
Eliminating Intimidation, Free of Charge
If visualizing walking into a gym for the first time, you might think of racks of weights, rows of machines and all of a sudden it’s pretty daunting to figure out how to make it all work well for your body.
“I still find sometimes when in a new gym that I’ve never been in before that I feel a little bit intimidated, even though I’m very comfortable with heavy weights, squat racks, and the like,” said Brown.
“So I know if I feel that way, other people feel that way too. I want to help people lose the intimidation and know that they belong here whether it’s in the squat rack or in a class.”
When planning out the core components of ExPo LIFE, Brown says it was of foremost importance that people feel like they belong and know that the strength training equipment is for all different body types and levels of fitness.
That’s another big differentiator—they provide the figuring-it-all-out component with every single membership by helping members make clear health goals, designing workouts to fit each individual, instruction on all equipment, and being available for questions and coaching as needed.
From putting this philosophy into practice the last few months, Hall says they’ve seen members become more comfortable and excited about their strength gains, how their clothes fit, and overall health improvements.
“Everyone wants the quick fix to lose weight and get strong. There’s no quick fix, but reaching fitness goals while avoiding injury will happen given the right instruction. We provide that extra instruction to members at no extra charge,” said Hall.
Nutrition & A Superfood Café
While thinking about how to make fitness more accessible, Lisa also put a lot of thought into how she could make nutrition more manageable for clients. One way they offer this is through their Superfood Café, a smoothie & coffee bar stocked with organic, clean and powerful ingredients.
ExPo LIFE also provides individualized private nutrition counseling in combination with group education classes.
“This hybrid 1-on-1/group approach to nutrition education saves people money and is, therefore, more do-able, while also facilitating learning. Plus participants are working alongside others in similar situations which can bring about camaraderie and support from each other, yet they are still able to tailor the nutrition education to their own unique needs with the direct support of a dietitian,” said Brown.
Longterm Goal: Helping Veterans
One thing to keep an eye out for at ExPo LIFE in the next year is the addition of a non-profit geared toward veterans.
“One of the things that I have wanted to do since I was first thinking about opening a fitness facility myself is to create a venue for veterans who are living with PTSD, concussion, or mild traumatic brain injuries,” said Brown.
While stationed in Iraq in 2008, Brown became aware of the great number of military personnel experiencing concussions as well as the long-term, often overlooked effects.
“When I left active duty and went back to graduate school, I started to learn about how exercise can greatly improve recovery from both concussion and PTSD, and I found this growing research evidence incredibly exciting and inspiring,” said Brown.
The problem is, while exercise is often recommended by doctors to support recovery, veterans are left to do it on their own without instruction, support, accommodation for unique needs, or a means to pay for it.
After a year of getting ExPo LIFE up and thriving, Brown says she hopes to roll out a non-profit that brings these services within reach to veterans.
Come Hit Health from Every Angle
The motto printed on the wall of the gym is “Hit health from every angle.” This, Brown says, encompasses everything she and Hall wanted to build.
“It’s not just a gym and not just a class space,” said Hall. “You can get your workouts in, you can get nutrition here, and we also do elements of lifestyle like how to get the best sleep, how to reduce stress and how to stay consistent with a fitness routine.”
Brown and Hall understand each person comes in with different needs, goals and history of injuries and ailments. With functional fitness, their goal is always to create effective, injury-free and pain-free workouts; strength and ability that translates to feeling and performing better in daily life and sport.
For Cary residents looking for a different, not jam-packed space where you’ve got the freedom to exercise alone or with guided instruction, ExPo LIFE Fitness was quite literally built with you in mind.
Story and photos by Ashley Kairis.
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