If you told Brittney Russell five years ago she would be a personal trainer, she would have laughed.
But when postpartum depression hit after she had her sons in 2013 and 2014, she gained weight. Russell needed a change, she said, so she began trying CrossFit in 2015.
“I quickly became obsessed with the barbell, and I was like, ‘This is awesome,’” Russell said. “It just makes you feel so badass.”
Now, as a certified personal trainer and weight training advocate, Russell owns Body Boutique, a gym which opened in April and is geared toward helping women reach their fitness goals in a comfortable and supportive environment.
Russel’s main inspiration to open Body Boutique was how few women she saw in the weights area of gyms.
“It's intimidating for a lot of women, so most people will not go over there because most of the girls that are over there are size zero, and somebody who's a size 18 does not feel comfortable to go pick up a dumbbell in front of them and all the guys,” Russell said. “Then, I would see people using equipment wrong, and I'm like, ‘Oh, they're going to hurt themselves,’ but I'm not in a position to go up and say anything.”
Her passion to help women next to her in the gyms came long before she earned her personal trainer certification in November 2018. Erin Hamilton, a friend she used to work out with, knew Russell would be a great trainer, and one day after a workout, Hamilton slipped her the $100 required to get her certification.
“She was like, ‘Please go get certified. Use this toward your certification ... You've changed my life. I know you can change other people's lives,’” Russell said. “I sat in my car and cried afterward.”
Hamilton said she has known Russell for about five years, and they became workout buddies during a rough time in Hamilton’s life. She said Russell was already doing so much for her in the gym that Hamilton just wanted to give her the financial boost she needed to help more women reach their fitness goals.
“She's very good at empowering women and not judging,” Hamilton said. “She just has this ease about her, and I wanted her to know that I believed in her.”
Stemming from Russell’s original desire to become a certified trainer, the goal of Body Boutique is to be as inviting and comfortable for women as possible. Men are allowed too, she said, but she recognizes that the name of the gym doesn’t exactly attract men.
“My girls come in here, and they feel comfortable no matter what size they are,” Russell said.
Russell said she prides herself on Body Boutique being a gym unlike any other in the Muncie area, as it offers bungee classes.
Bungee is a 30-minute class Russell teaches, named for the bungee cord connecting to a harness someone puts around their waist to the ceiling. Workouts utilize weights and include jumps, squats, donkey kicks and other movements.
“We have so many classes to choose from,” Russell said. “I can also tell you almost all my friendships in this area … are because of this gym or because of my training in general.”
One of those friendships is with Cherish Howell, who Russell met over a year ago through Facebook. Before Russell got the space for Body Boutique, Howell attended classes of hers at another gym.
“She's very encouraging, positive [and] uplifting,” Howell said. “She’s kind of a role model to me, honestly.”
As a nurse, Howell said she sees people who are overweight and struggle with almost every aspect of their lives. Working out is important to her because of this, she said, so she recommends every woman looking to stay healthy and get stronger go to Body Boutique.
“When I started out lifting weights, I started out [lifting] like eight to 10 pounds, and now I'm lifting over 20,” Howell said. “I have gotten stronger, and I'm going to try to get stronger.”
Body Boutique is headquartered in the upstairs part of the Cole Academy building, a youth gymnastics and cheerleading gym. Going forward, Russell said she hopes parents who drop off their children will start stopping by her gym.
“I think people just don't know we’re here,” Russell said. “The goal is to just honestly have this be a safe place that people feel comfortable to come in and work out in.”