Plymouth couple's workout challenge leads to full-time business

All-women gym Hale Strength and Shape offers strength classes, yoga, cardio and more


PLYMOUTH, Mich. – Kurt Hessenbruch first had the idea of owning his own gym when he was in high school.  

The dream began to take shape in his garage in the form of a month-long challenge from his wife, Courtney Hessenbruch.

"I had just had our third baby, we have three girls, and I was looking to get myself back in shape," said Courtney Hessenbruch. "Kurt (has) always been into weight lifting and you know, you got to lift weights, you got to lift weights. I really liked running, I was like fine, you have one month, let's see what you can do."

Kurt Hessenbruch is a certified strength and conditioning specialist.  He said he  competed as a body builder in high school, lifted weights in college and after college began getting involved in Strongman contests and power lifting.   

The Hessenbruchs began lifting weights together in their garage in November 2012.   Kurt Hessenbruch said his wife preferred working out with friends much more than working out with just him, so they created a little training group for his strength class.

"I had never done anything like this in my entire life, but I immediately started seeing results, results that I liked," Courtney Hessenbruch said.

By March 2013 they had about 50 women showing up to take his strength classes.

"This is all out of the garage, which is just a two-car garage and we just had like a power rack and an Olympic lifting platform and some dumbbells, nothing quite this expansive, just enough to squeeze six people in and do OK," Kurt Hessenbruch said comparing his home gym to their current location.

Even on the coldest days in the winter of 2014, women were showing up to work out with the Hessenbruchs in their home garage.


"We all were supportive of each other, we all kind of had a common goal, wanted to be healthy, to get in shape and then the fact that you see results -- picking up heavy things, it changes your body in a great way, and it was something I never experienced before and I got hooked real fast," Courtney Hessenbruch said.

Carolyn Raney started in the Hessenburchs' garage two years ago.   

"I love the actual workout itself. I've never been into dance or aerobics type-stuff so it's really just exactly what I enjoy doing," said Raney.  "Just the community of women we have here, it's amazing.  We continue to push each other, everybody kind of celebrates each other's successes."

It became clear to the Plymouth couple that Kurt Hessenbruch's dream of opening a gym was becoming a reality.

"It was turning more into a business than just, 'Hey, lets get some friends together to workout,'" Kurt Hessenbruch said.

The Hessenbruchs knew if they wanted to grow their business, they had to find a bigger place and better facilities.   They found a space on North Main Street in Plymouth.  It was a gas station at one point and actually has two garages.    The couple liked that their new business location had the same feel as their home garage.

Hale Strength and Shape officially opened at 406 N. Main St. in Plymouth in March of 2014.

"We still have yet to hang a sign out front and everything we've done has been word of mouth, people telling people about it so we like to grow slowly," Kurt Hessenbruch said.

In the east garage, they offer strength classes and metabolic conditioning.

"We push pretty hard, we use heavy weight, we concentrate on form, which is part of why we stay to six people," said Kurt Hessenbruch. "We do it circuit based so no two people are ever doing the same thing, so we have stations, they move around."

"I really enjoy the sledge hammer on the tire because I think that's something you don't do that exercise every day," said Raney.

"We have all strength levels fit into any one class, you know, we have women that compete in Strongman training with people that might be their first session so we adjust based on ability level," said Kurt Hessenbruch.  "We keep it quick so it's very metabolic, so it gets your heart rate up."

"There's something about lifting a huge keg or something heavy over your head that just feels amazing," said Hale yoga instructor Angie James.

In the west garage they offer Cardio Hip Hop, different types of yoga and Hale Barre.   They also have strength classes for kids.

"All of our classes are taught by women who started with us and trained with us, so it's kind of nice that we grow from within and have these talented people," said Hessenbruch.

The women say they love the workout and the community they have developed.

"In other places, where you kind of feel like you're competing against each other, we celebrate each others successes, wins, you know, new weight highs we might reach and personal record goals," Raney said.

"It is so supportive and so encouraging, whether you're brand new and you can lift the smallest kettle bell or you can lift the heaviest keg over your head, it doesn't matter what level you're at, everyone is there to support everybody," James said.

Hale Strength and Shape has different pricing packages that range from $10 a class to $15 a class as well as an unlimited package.

Kurt Hessenbruch said their clients really like their location on North Main Street, but they still miss the home garage where they started working out together.

The Hessenbruchs  also told Local 4 they love the example they are setting for their three daughters, that women can be strong and healthy, and not worry about being thin and that dreams really can come true.

For more information on Hale Strength and Shape, click here.