By Tiffany Merlo Phelps

Kelly Brewer’s first introduction to fitness came after learning that part of her cousin’s wedding festivities included a half dome hike — 16.4 miles roundtrip with a summit that was 8,839 feet in California. After learning in 2012 about the hike planned for immediate family on Sept. 3, 2014, Brewer took her first BODYPUMP weightlifting class with her husband, Ben. Fast forward to the hiking day in Yosemite National Park. Kelly and Ben made the grueling hike, using cables at 45-degree angles at one point and finishing with a head lamp at dusk. 

Soon after, Kelly got certified to teach BODYPUMP in 2015 and then added BODYFLOW, SPRINT and three Soul Body Barre classes to her certification resume; she began teaching at a variety of locations including the Flagler Center YMCA. In 2019, Kelly earned her Group Exercise Certification and is now the Flagler Center YMCA Group Exercise Co-Coordinator, and she also teaches classes. Kelly credits YMCA Group Exercise Co-Coordinator Amy Perry’s group challenges with kickstarting her and her husband’s healthy habits and with their weight loss. Kelly lost 37 pounds, and Ben lost 35 pounds. They are not looking back. 

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Q: Where are you from? 

A: I was born in Kansas City, Kansas, and then moved to Dallas, Texas, for seven years and then Oklahoma for four years. We moved to St. Johns County when I was in middle school, so I attended Swiss Point Middle School, then one year at Nease High School before being transferred to the newly built Bartram Trail High School. I attended the University of Florida and earned a Bachelor of Science degree and then later attended Florida State College at Jacksonville (Dunn Avenue’s science-based campus) for the Dental Hygiene Program which I completed in May 2010. 

Q: You mentioned attending the dental hygiene program prior to your fitness career. What did you like about being a dental hygienist? 

A: I am a detail freak. Most people think it is so disgusting. I got great satisfaction from taking something disgusting and making it pretty. I loved my patients, and I truly enjoyed the career. I was also lucky to work for my childhood dentist, Dr. Sam Hanania. I had told my childhood dental hygienist “I want to do what you do,” and then I did it. We later worked together. In 2015, I was in a car accident on Interstate 10, and the whiplash that I experienced made it very difficult for me to work as a dental hygienist. No matter how hard you try to sit ergonomically correct, you can’t do it and get the job done. It took its toll on me physically, so I had to scale back my hours. Then we got pregnant with Benson, now three years old, so I decided to become a stay-at-home mom. 

Q: What fitness advice would you offer someone trying to workout at home during the COVID-19 pandemic? 

A: You have to establish some sort of structure and accountability. I try to work out to Amy Perry’s live stream at 11 a.m. every day. It is very difficult to teach a class without anyone physically present, so I want to be there for her. It is a different way to feel connected and accountable for what you are doing. It can be challenging at first, but stick to it and do it. You will find success. I view it just like the time I set aside for my spirit with scripture reading. It is all about self-care. 

Q: What are your hobbies? 

A: We participate in Spartan Races, a series of obstacle races that vary in distance and difficulty. They are held all around the world. Amy Perry introduced us to our first race in Jacksonville in April 2018. We did the Super, which is 8 miles/13K with 25 plus obstacles. We really didn’t know anything about it going into it. We were blind to all the obstacles, and I had to get past the fact that I do not like to get dirty. I had to change my mentality about that. After that, in November 2018, Ben, Amy and another friend did the Ultra (Ultra is 30 miles/50K with 60 plus obstacles) in South Carolina. I went as part of the support crew. We kind of got the Spartan bug after that. To date, I have done 10 races, and Ben has done 16. There is something about completing the obstacles that makes you feel recharged. It also involves teamwork and encouragement. Just like group fitness, we all suffer and achieve together.

Photo courtesy Kelly Brewer
Kelly and Ben Brewer

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