January 20, 2020919.577.0063info@crossfitzeal.com


“I was a globo gym regular for 11+ years. I lost over 30lbs right after I turned 30 and I was determined to keep it off and never be chubby and out-of-shape again. I worked out 5 to 6 days a week (sometimes twice a day) and I was maintaining my weight and fitness level doing Body Pump, Pilates, Spinning classes and cardio machines, but I was definitely in a rut. Even though I was motivated to exercise regularly, I was bored and often had to give myself a pep-talk to get my butt to the gym.

Mike Kelley was a trainer at my gym, and in 2010 my husband and I started going to a small group fitness class he taught that was based on CrossFit methods. The first class I attended was difficult, but it was also fun. I was both terrified and excited anticipating the next class. I was only able to attend that class 3 to 4 times a month, but I nonetheless experienced increased strength and endurance in my other classes. I can’t say enough about Mike’s skill as a coach and trainer. He knows when to push and when to back off, when to show you a modification for an exercise and when to encourage (or insist) that you do the harder option or heavier weight. He has a talent for figuring out how to motivate different personalities, and modifies his approach accordingly. His goal is to make all of his trainees fitter and stronger – pure and simple. When Mike announced in late 2011 that he was leaving to open CrossFit Zeal, I knew that I would follow him even though I was nervous about leaving the security blanket of my cardio machines and body pump classes. I thought I would miss it. Boy, was I wrong.

In the 3 months since I started at Zeal, I have seen impressive results. Because I thought I was already in good shape and exercised quite a lot, I didn’t expect to see changes happen so quickly. I can now do an unassisted pullup, toes-to-bar, a 24” box jump, throw a 14-lb wall ball and hit a 10 foot target. I did 87 burpees in 7 minutes. I can back squat 170 pounds. I feel like an athlete for the first time in my life. I am following Mike’s programming so I am working out for about an hour (including mobility) 5 days a week. I usually do some kind of active recovery on my days off, but this is less time than I’ve spent working out in years. Plus, I just have to show up and do what my coach tells me to do. Coach Mike and Coach Paul have complementary strengths and styles but both coaches focus on form, technique, and safety.  I learn something new from one of them every day.

If you’ve read or heard much about CrossFit, everyone talks about the community and camaraderie with your fellow CrossFitters. This is most certainly true at Zeal. Mike and Paul really foster a supportive team environment in the classes. I am inspired and encouraged by my fellow athletes every day. I am just as excited for their achievements and PRs as I am for my own. Very cheesy but true…it didn’t take long for me to start drinking the CrossFit Kool-Aid.

At 5’4” and around 125lbs, I didn’t really have a significant weight loss goal, but I wish I had recorded measurements and body fat at the beginning so I could compare now. I have lost a couple of pounds, but my body is really starting to change. My waist is slimmer and tummy flatter. I am more toned and muscular everywhere, especially my arms and shoulders. My butt is migrating north and my jeans look awesome!

CrossFit has exceeded my expectations and changed my fitness goals and way of thinking about exercise. I used to exercise to be lean and toned, which is actually a physical appearance goal instead of a fitness goal. Now I want to be stronger and faster, push myself a little harder every week, and master new lifts and exercises. I really look forward to going to the gym now and I can’t wait to see how much I improve in the next 3 months. Thanks to Coach Mike and Coach Paul for making fitness fun again!”

– Heather Austin

“I am so impressed by Mike Kelley. He is a consummate professional in his field, and comes across as very intelligent without putting me off. He takes things seriously AND really cares about peoples’ overall well-being. I feel privileged to be around someone like that.”

– Michelle Gray

“Prior to starting CrossFit, I was a self-proclaimed running addict training for half-marathons and beyond.  During that time, I suffered several injuries, including tearing my hip flexors.  I began CrossFit as a means to improve my running but fell in love with the intensity, community, and variety.  I came to CrossFit Zeal 6 months after being introduced to CrossFit. At that time, my hip flexors were a near constant source of pain and limitation in my workouts.  Coach Mike immediately took an interest in helping me recover from my injury.  He took the time to teach me how to mobilize and strengthen my hips.

Within a couple of months, I regained mobility and strength in my hips for the first time in well over a year.  Additionally, in a matter of months I have refined and improved my form and made significant gains thanks to Coach Mike’s comprehensive programming, which truly addresses all domains of fitness.  Coach Mike and Coach Paul have a keen ability to express their enthusiasm for CrossFit and, even more, express their desire to see their athletes succeed.  I constantly praise and encourage friends to try CrossFit and specifically to come to CrossFit Zeal if they are serious about making a life change.”

– Kristin Kirby

“I can not say enough about how Mike and his knowledge and utilization of Crossfit has helped shape and change my lifestyle.  Mike introduced me to Crossfit when I began training with him back in 2010, and I immediately noticed an increase in the intensity of my regular workout. Crossfit’s flexible programming allowed me to focus on increasing my overall strength while still losing weight and body fat through metabolic conditioning. Mike’s ability to teach Crossfit exercises and techniques made the workouts understandable and simple to learn. The energy he brings to his classes motivates me to strive for a continued improvement in time for my WODs and a continued increase in my strength program. With his help and the work of Crossfit, I continue to feel better and become healthier.”

– Ben Still

“I joined crossfit in February of 2013.  I bounced around several gyms the past few years with the hope of losing weight and leading a healthier lifestyle.  While I was there,  Mike Kelley and Tom Lyens, along with the team at Crossfit Zeal treated me like a member of their team from day 1. They train you hard and provide one on one training with each member thru out the class.  They also tailor workouts to all different levels so people of different fitness levels benefit and can improve physically depending on their level and their current condition. They also teach you about proper nutrition which makes it like you have  personal trainer 5 days a week.

After 2 months my wife noticed changes and decided to join herself.  It’s an awesome experience and is perfect if you live in or around Holly Springs.  I’ve lost 20 pounds during the past couple months which is something I haven’t done at previous gyms I have been a member of. I would highly recommend checking it out if you are at a phase in your life where you want to improve your body and improve your health.”

– Dan McBrien

“I started CrossFit September 2012, and it’s hard to believe how far I’ve come in a year.  My husband started a few months before me, but I held off because I thought I was happy with what I was doing. I ran, I did light dumbbell work so I wouldn’t get “too bulky,” and I did workout videos (yes, I subjected myself to videos led by complete toolbags).  My husband would come home and enthusiastically tell me about all these Crossfit “metcons” he was doing. “So you only worked out for 12 minutes?” I would ask, with a sense of superiority as I just completed the same 50 minute cardio routine I’d been doing for a over a year.  I really didn’t think Crossfit would be for me, but it became clearer and clearer to me that I was stuck in a rut, and what I was doing wasn’t giving me the results I wanted anyway.  The idea of working out in front of other people scared me, but I attended a community WOD anyway. I had so much fun that it wasn’t long before I decided to begin Foundations.  And I haven’t looked back since.

At CrossFit Zeal, you are constantly doing different workouts of the day (WOD), so you never get bored. There is also a sense of community since you workout in small groups.  This surprisingly has become one of my favorite aspects of Zeal. I never thought I would want to workout in front of others, but I really do feed off of other people’s energy and encouragement. Each WOD consists of some sort of strength activity generally followed by a cardio/metabolic conditioning component (Metcon). The whole WOD takes about an hour. Depending on the day, the Metcon may only be 7 minutes, but it is very intense 7 minutes!  Strength training is heavily emphasized at Zeal.  I think a lot of women have the notion that lifting heavy weights will make you look like a man. I’m telling you it won’t. My body is so much stronger than a year ago, my arm and back muscles are much more defined, but I still look feminine. 

It is important to realize that not all CrossFits are created equal. I live almost 30 minutes away from Zeal, but I make the drive 4-5 times per week because the coaches here know what they are doing. There is emphasis on improving mobility to decrease the likelihood of injury. If you are injured, they know how to modify the WOD for you. If you are crushing the WOD, they know how to challenge you so you can be even better. There is purpose in the way Coach Mike programs the WODs. I truly believe I am getting some of the best coaching available.

When Coach Mike asked us during Foundations what we hoped to achieve by joining CrossFit, my response was something along the lines of “I want to look good in whatever I wear.” It’s amazing to me how much my goals have changed over the last year. Of course I still want to look good, but now my focus is more about gaining strength and endurance, and being the best athlete I can be. In a few short weeks, I will be competing in my first CrossFit competition, and that is a feat in itself for this girl!  I have always been the kind of person who exercised because I knew it was healthy and I wanted to look good, but I’ve never been the type to actually look forward to my workouts.  CrossFit Zeal has changed that for me.  It’s fun, challenging, and good for both my physical and mental health!”

– Ashwynn Halbert

“I visited Crossfit Zeal in April, 2012 after having lived a relatively exercise-free twenty-eight years. I inconsistently enjoyed activity (hiking, biking, etc), but loathed anything that resembled working out. In addition, I worked long hours at an emotionally exhausting job and felt that I had no time, energy, or motivation for exercise. Health was something I desired, but I didn’t know the first thing about fitness and found myself defeated pretty quickly.

Sporadically, I had tried gyms (I was the stereotypical paying member of a 24 hour fitness for 3 years who showed up for less than a month the first year) but absolutely hated the aimless wandering. In the end, I’d always end up on an elliptical or stair machine and the entire experience was uninspired and boring.

I found myself at Zeal solely due to my husband’s encouragement. I protested for weeks because I feared the embarrassment of finding out how weak I really was; his response: “everyone has to start somewhere”. So, I attended the free Community WOD at Zeal two weeks in a row and signed up for 6 months after that. I was intimidated, yes. But I was also attracted to the structure, the coach’s knowledge, the accountability; I desperately needed those three ingredients if I was going to successfully pursue health.

I’ve now been a part of the team that makes up Crossfit Zeal for a year and a half, and I’m in love. I can’t imagine a more effective way of working out, becoming healthy and fit, and enjoying the process! Mike has been an excellent head coach. I’ve benefited greatly from his knowledge and willingness to teach and he has spent a vast number of hours going over with me many aspects of fitness, mobility, recovery and nutrition. I always feel safe and confident that he knows what he’s doing and, when he challenges or pushes me out of my comfort zone, I can rest assured that I’ll be better on the other side (although, there’s often a small amount of protest on my part).

Although I’ve hugely progressed physically in health and fitness, my favorite gains have been the mental and emotional side effects of working out. When Zeal is part of my morning routine, my days simply tend to be better: I’m more confident, more focused, more positive, and I experience far less stress. The pattern I had two years ago in which my level of exhaustion and stress dictated that I wouldn’t exercise has been replaced with a commitment to work out and reap the benefits of greatly decreased exhaustion and stress levels.

Personally, I need accountability, coaching, and community in order to succeed in fitness and health. I was inconsistent and didn’t enjoy working out when left to my own devices, and I’ve found the perfect solution in Crossfit Zeal. On a daily basis, I feel like I’m working out with my friends rather than forcing myself to go to the gym, and I truly enjoy the challenge the workouts provide. I’m excited to continue to progress with this fun group of people!”

– Johanna Brubaker

“Let me start off by saying that I am a two time National Champion in Women’s Collegiate soccer. I have played my entire life at high levels, from elite travel, ODP, high school and college. I have spent hours not only at practice, but also at the gym trying to be the best that I can be at the game. I worked nonstop with the personal trainer that my school provided, always trying to get a step above everyone else.  I thought I was in the best shape of my life, but this was before I knew Crossfit existed.

When I first started CrossFit, I had no clue what I was getting myself into. Honestly, I signed up for it because my brother (who had been doing it for a few months at the time) goaded me by telling me that I wouldn’t be able to do it. Naturally, I had to prove him wrong. I had no idea that I would lose and gain so many things. For starters, I have lost the self-doubt that I couldn’t do anything except for soccer and even better, I have lost sight of all of the limitations I once thought I had for myself. When I first started, I would be nervous to do certain movements. Now, I get excited, and I look at it as a challenge that I can’t wait to overcome.

The best thing I gained? My Crossfit family. The group of people at CFZ is unlike any other “team” that I’ve been on, and I’ve been on plenty. Every single person there cares for each other. Even though I may not be technically related to all of them, this group of people is one of the best support systems that I’ve ever had.

Then, there’s Mike.  Mike Kelley might be one of the most unorthodox ‘coaches’ I’ve ever met. When I look at one of his workouts, I think to myself, “oh that’s easy” and then I’m about halfway through it wondering why I put myself through this torture. But it never fails-every time I leave the box after a workout, I always feel ten times better than when I walked in. In my first few weeks, during the, you’re-always-sore time period, I asked my brother why we do all the movements that we do. What’s the point? His response was “there’s a method to Mike’s madness”. Well, here I am, a 24 year old girl who has been a work out junkie her entire life, and this is the first time I’ve seen something that resembles abs.

What’s the difference between Mike and just any other trainer? He actually cares. He’s not just there because it’s his job and he has to be there. He genuinely wants to help. If you can’t physically do something, he will scale it so you can. If you mentally can’t do something, he’ll make sure that you achieve it. He is such an outgoing person who motivates you constantly and always pushes you to do your best.

I have only been doing Crossfit for four months now, and I can honestly say that I am the strongest that I have ever been. When I run into the grocery store to grab something, I only buy what I can carry. Lately, I’ve noticed people staring at me, wondering why I’m carrying so much and not even hesitating to pick up the case of water that I originally went to the store for. When I’m in the middle of a coed soccer game, the guys that used to push me around will run into me, and without me moving they’ll bounce off of me. It has changed every aspect of my life, for the better.

So what’s the point of this? Crossfit redefines ‘working out’. It takes the bland things you do at the gym and makes them fun again. And there’s no better feeling then finishing a WOD, lying exhausted on your back and saying “that was awesome”.”

– Marisa Corson

“I don’t think that I can say I ever really looked forward to exercise before I came to Zeal. It always felt like a chore that was a means to try to lose weight or a necessity that a coach ordered, but not really something that I looked forward to, until now. The fact that I can get to the gym for a 6AM class and actually be able to smile and laugh speaks volumes. I have been here for about six months and have loved every minute of it.

I was a 3 sport athlete in high school, always in one sport or another, however, when college came, the sports went away and I didn’t have the “required” workouts, strength training and practices, so I stopped. In recent years, I was on and off with one workout program or another, but nothing really stuck and any gains I made were lost. It’s safe to say that I wasn’t at an elite level of fitness when I started at Zeal. Probably the biggest hurdle I had was the fear of walking into a gym and being judged on how you look, or what you lift, or how fast you can run. I don’t have that problem here. Not from the coaches, nor from any of the members. It’s actually quite the opposite. The more elite level athletes may finish first or lift more, but all of them are helping and motivating the rest of the class until the last person finishes.

The coaches at Zeal offer more than I could have imagined. Every person out there needs a little different style of motivation and I have seen the coaches adapt to those needs. Whether you need a little coddling or a swift kick in the behind, the coaches are willing to do what is necessary to get you to your goals. Everyone can do every workout, at least some version of it. They all can be scaled to meet the needs of all the athletes. This was important for me. I started off as a bigger fellow with knee problems, so leaving the ground was a concern. After only a short time working out there, I was doing box jumps! The coaches make sure that you do everything safely, but they also make sure you are pushing yourself to do more reps/weight.

While I have made gains in leaps and bounds with regards to the movements and exercises, those accomplishments are just the tip of the iceberg. The real gains are what I can do outside of the gym.  I can mow the lawn without getting winded!  I can run! I can keep up with the kids in the family when they want to play! The list goes on and on. I was certainly not under the illusion that simply showing up would get results, but I never imagined the gains I would have made in such a short time without the help of Zeal, both in and out of the gym. Thanks Zeal.”

– Mike Corson

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