Richmond Balance is a pretty unique gym in the fitness scene in Richmond, VA. It has been around for over a decade, but has had many identities in that time. It’s a small facility, but it has 3 stories, is open 24 hours, and has all the equipment you need to get strong. It’s owned by Hunter Rhoades and under his leadership, it morphed from a cardio theater for the surrounding apartments – to a strength training haven in the middle of a super-dense area. The first floor is all barbells, featuring 4 racks, 2 platforms, and lots of equipment. The second floor has 2 additional racks, dumbbells, cable machines, cardio equipment and even an astro-turf track to push a prowler. The third floor is a small studio space, often rented out for classes with yoga, rowing, TRX, barre and more.
As a 24 hour gym, it has the benefit of being open for everyone, no matter your day to day, but it also provides high level coaching for those looking for more out of their time in the gym. You can simply drop-in when traveling through town, join as a member with no monthly contract, get personal training by a variety of coaches, or join one of the small strength training groups that meets weekly!
I personally found the gym in 2017 when I moved here from Atlanta, Georgia. I was looking for a place to train myself, and to start coaching others. Hunter opened the doors to me and also encouraged me to build a community in this space. He almost always says “yes” to whatever new event I want to plan and he encourages EVERYONE to come and train with us. In the past year, Laura Mae Lucas has also joined us and she has helped us continue to build a welcoming, inclusive community in our gym that focuses on strength for all.
In the past 2 years, Richmond Balance has hosted many events for the public, trying to make strength training more welcoming to all people in our community. We’ve hosted Pull for Pride twice and are planning 2020 Pull for Pride now. We sponsored and hosted Stonewall Intramural Sports for Pride Lifting Days and we plan, and host, free meet-ups with Lift, Lunch & Learn – a monthly meet up for womxn and other gender minorities. Our goal is always to bring strength training to the public, in whatever form possible, because we truly believe that being stronger than you are now will lead to a healthier, happier life.
I’m a Starting Strength Coach, UCanRow2 Master Rowing Instructor, and licensed architect. I love super dorky things and probably say the word “awesome” too much. But my goal is to live a happy and fun life, all the while helping others to do the same – whether it’s through the built environment or your own built body.
I started my athletic career as a gymnast at age 2 and retired from that sport at age 15. I went on to compete in track & field in high school and then switched to collegiate rowing at Georgia Tech. After graduating, I began both my coaching and my architectural career simultaneously. This led to a few years of personal inactivity and I eventually ended up deep into bootcamps, group fitness and then later, CrossFit.
After a disappointing neck injury, I found a strength coach, and she introduced me to the world of strength training and powerlifting. It soon became apparent that this was what I needed to be doing and also that I must share it with the world. So I quit my job as an architect and entered the coaching realm full-time. I also started a podcast with fellow strength coach Katherine Bickford, called More Female Strength. We talk about strength training from a more female perspective. I am passionate about opening up the world of barbells, strength training and the weight room to the more marginalized communities, that typically don’t feel welcome in those spaces.
When I’m not coaching other people, I am competing as a powerlifter, a novice strongman athlete or as a masters rower with Virginia Boat Club – it depends on the season! I love competing but I also love being able to try new things all the time and whenever I do, I find that strength helps. My latest activity involves being a new mom, as I birthed our son in October of 2019, and with that, I have discovered my greatest coaching job yet.
While it took me some time to find my current professional path, I’ve found that the balance between architecture, strength and rowing allows me to grow in many different dimensions at once. I have discovered an abundance of overlaps between the spaces we build and the bodies that occupy them. This allows me to feel positive about moving towards a career in fitness as I leave the world of architecture. I still believe in the power of design and the endless benefits of well-thought out spaces, but I also believe that strength training leads to healthier and happier people. So really, together, these things lead to a more awesome life. And in the end, I just want people to move well, feel confident in every space, and be the most awesome version of themselves!
A Place for All to Thrive
Because Richmond Balance is small and community oriented, we can focus on making our space better for our clients the surrounding areas as well as open it up to all who are interested in getting stronger. Most 24 hour gyms, or open gyms, do not have the benefit of community-focused events or have the level of coaching we can offer. So we are able to blend the operations together and offer an open space for you to do whatever you want, or get guidance and encouragement from our coaches and community.
At Richmond Balance, we focus on hosting events that reach out to communities that aren’t your typical gym members. We seek out those who have never used barbells before, we partner with LGBTQIA+ organizations to provide education, free trainings and open gyms. We highlight our older clientele to showcase what can be done when you’re given space to train and feel comfortable getting stronger, without feeling criticized or ostracized. We seek to arm our members with as much information as possible so they can feel confident and also share it with others. We proudly display our values in our gym to ensure that everyone feels safe and supported.
As a Women’s Strength Coalition affiliate gym, we are hosting our first full powerlifting meet on April 18th. We are partnering with River City Fit and Lift, Lunch and Learn to bring you an event open to all and great for novices! We intend to show that collaboration between fitness spaces brings out the best in our city. We are asking participants to help us fundraise for The Virginia League of Planned Parenthood and their Transgender Health Care Services. You are welcome to learn more and register here or RSVP to the meet through the official Facebook event page!
Learn more about Cassi Niemann: www.cassiniemann.com
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