Fitness guru shares her message

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Carol Sorgen

Over the last 30 years, Lynne Brick and her husband Victor turned their interest in dance and fitness into a chain of successful fitness clubs, including Brick Bodies, Lynne Brick’s and Planet Fitness franchises. Brick will be the keynote speaker at Howard County's 7th annual WomenFest on April 25 in Cooksville.
Photo by Christopher Myers

Lynne Brick had no idea while working as a shock trauma nurse that 30 years later she and her husband, Victor, would be household names in the fitness industry.

“It was the furthest thing from our minds,” said the soon-to-be-60-year-old, who now makes her home in both Timonium and Florida.

While she was pursuing her nursing career, Victor was a recreation director, phys-ed teacher and coach.

“We knew that he didn’t want to be a rec director forever,” said Brick, “but we had no plan, and certainly not to have our own business together. But we had faith and trust that our path would be made clear.”

That path was revealed when Victor asked Lynne to teach exercise to one of his weight loss classes at the Bel Air Athletic Club. “When he was confronted with a room full of ladies in leotards, he wasn’t quite sure what to do,” Brick recalled with a laugh.

A lifelong dancer, she put together a class for the group. “The first exercise class I ever took was the one I taught!” she said. And seemingly the next thing the couple knew, “business was booming.”

Building a fitness empire

They moved on to the Greenspring Racquet Club, and in 1985, had the opportunity to buy the Padonia Fitness Center, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.

From that one center, the couple has expanded to going-on 35 clubs in Maryland (including Brick Bodies, Lynne Brick’s, and Planet Fitness franchises in Baltimore), as well as locations in Florida and Nashville.

Brick will be the keynote speaker at WomentFest, an annual event coordinated by the Howard County Office on Aging, on April 25 in Cooksville.

“We got in at the beginning of the fitness movement,” said Brick, explaining how the growing consumer interest in health and wellness fueled their growth. “People thought getting fit might be a fad, but obviously it’s here to stay.”

That doesn’t mean the fitness industry has remained static, Brick said. She, Victor, and now their daughter Vicki, who is CEO of Brick Bodies (their son, John, is working for a San Francisco-based technology start-up), follow the trends and make sure their clubs and their offerings — from equipment to classes — are state-of-the-art. This includes warm water pools and aqua yoga for those with arthritis, mind-body programs such as yoga, and personal strength and cardio training and boxing.

“To be in the game, you need great facilities and great programs, and customer service that exceeds expectations,” said Brick. “You have to make sure your customers never get bored, and have enough options to keep them excited and motivated.”

As a former nurse, Brick is especially gratified to see that the medical community has embraced the notion of fitness, extolling its health benefits. Brick said that she was always interested in merging movement and medicine, but now it has become “mainstream” to control your health.

“There are things you can’t control, such as healthcare costs,” she acknowledged. “But you can control your need to spend money on healthcare (by reducing your risk for developing serious illnesses, such as diabetes and heart disease).”

Bouncing back from illness

Brick herself ran into a — well — brick wall, when no amount of fitness classes helped her avoid a brain tumor that struck her in 2001. She is fine now, but admits that such a life-altering experience made her “stop and pause.”

“You learn to cherish every moment and appreciate all your blessings,” she said. Her own recovery further inspired her to help other people realize they can alter their own world. “I realized once again that I wanted to establish a legacy,” she said.

To that end, the Bricks are establishing the John W. Brick Mental Health Foundation to create long-term research opportunities that will explore the relationship between exercise and mental health.

“Exercise can be part of the recovery process, especially in mood disorders such as anxiety and depression,” said Brick, who is also a motivational speaker and author.

She also has earned a certificate in health and wellness coaching from the Maryland University of Integrative Health, and is currently pursuing a degree in nutrition science as well.

“I want to constantly grow, learn and inspire,” she said.

While both Lynne and Victor are still actively involved with the clubs, they are more behind the scenes these days than “front of house.”

She substitute teaches now and then, but otherwise, “coaches the coaches” (she has conducted training workshops for fitness professionals in more than 25 countries), and plays a creative, visionary role.

The couple sees themselves pulling out of day-to-day operations within the next five years, but “we’ll always be involved in some way.”

Fitness advice

So how does a fitness guru stay fit?

By practicing what she preaches. Brick has a varied routine of yoga, Qi Dong, cardio, and intensity interval training (just ramp up by several levels whatever you’re doing — walking, running, elliptical — for 30 seconds every 1 or 2 minutes). “You can do anything for 30 seconds!” she pointed out.

 “The objective is to be efficient and effective, and to alter your fitness routine between yang activities (which are higher intensity) and yin (which are more relaxing),” she said.

By working out where her club members can see her, Brick not only is taking care of her own health, but serving as a role model.

“Fitness isn’t a fad,” she said. “It’s a lifestyle.”

Brick will be speaking at WomenFest on “Build Your Healthy Tomorrow, Today!” on April 25 at 1:30 p.m. at the Gary J. Arthur Community Center in Glenwood, 2400 Route 97, Cooksville. Admission and parking are free.