Woman Crush Wednesday: Us

Happy Galentine’s Day. To every woman reading this, you are strong, smart, capable, resilient, and beautiful beyond the size of your britches.

This one’s for the girls

Happy Valentine’s, Galentine’s! Every Wednesday, we spotlight a woman doing amazing things in the world. Today, that woman is you. You have overcome every obstacle life has ever thrown at you, and let’s be honest, some of them have been Ninja Warrior-type obstacles in the 23-months we’ve been in the throes of a global pandemic. Like me, your career path may have taken a loop-de-loop. But you’ve grown because of it. You’ve turned “why me” into “try me.” You have risen above the opposition, sometimes gripping and clawing with your poorly-manicured fingernails. You’ve sought the good and the good has found you. And if it hasn’t yet, keep searching. It will.

I have a hankering that you had to make some sacrifices to stand in the shoes you fill right now. The trajectory my life was on pre-pandemic was not on course to be sitting at home with a cup of coffee and two wild hooligans running around, writing a blog post to you right now. But, yeeeee, I’m so glad I am. Pour yourself a cup of Joe and I’ll tell you a little bit about it. (Tell me yours in the comments).

In 2019, I took an Executive Director role in Dallas. I was charged with constructing a premier fitness club in the up-and-coming multifamily-meets-hospitality market. I allocated space, worked on CAD drawings, learned ADA requirements, studied fitness and technology trends, tendered bids, and presented proposals to stakeholders.

Fitness club construction phase, September 3, 2019

My vision was for the “statement piece” to be a conditioning ramp. It would be the steepest pitch of a ramp at any indoor fitness facility in the United States. This ramp would start on the first floor, exceed beyond the second floor, then there would be a fireman’s pole to slide down.

I interviewed physical therapists, exercise physiologists, and physicians to figure out what may be possible. I then tested out a ramp at various pitches to figure out what the sweet spot would be for a challenging pitch for the average fit person to run up with training. Judging from this experiment, we settled on a smidge over 30-degrees (the gradient performed in this video). It would have been barely under the grade of a ramp in Spookynook, PA, but the length would’ve been longer, so… apples to apples, I’d say, we would’ve won ;).


Testing an appropriate pitch for the ramp

I named the ramp “Drago,” after the villain in Rocky IV. I hold a Master of Negotiations certification from SMU’s Cox School of Business; always lead a pitch with a compelling story. The inspiration: Ivan Drago briefly ran up a treadmill at 45-degree (100% rise-over-run) in the filming of the motion picture Rocky IV. It may have been movie magic, because I’m still not altogether sure that it is possible to run for even a second at 100% grade. One of the exercise science PhD’s that I interviewed said that the ankle only has about 22-degrees of dorsiflexion. But we can all agree that it made a great movie with great one-liners; this angle was sure to get the attention of people I needed to hear me out. Here are few of my fave quotes from Rocky IV: Drago “You vil lose.” Adrian “You can’t win.” Rocky “To beat me, he’s gonna have to kill me. And to kill me, he’s gonna have to have the heart to stand in front of me. And to do that, he’s gotta be willing to die himself. I don’t know if he’s ready to do that.”

Drago was more meaningful than just a ramp in a fitness club. The Drago ramp represented hustle. We all face challenges, and we don’t and can’t always overcome them right away. (In a recent podcast, my mentor, Petra Kolber, used the acronym for “fail” as First Attempt In Learning). Having a literal ramp representing the intangible strife of life would enable go-getters to physically, mentally, and emotionally conquer both.

The Drago ramp had its fair share of critics. It would be a liability. People would fall. That’s all correct. And I advocated that we build it, anyway. The building was still under construction in February 2020, and all we had was a rendering of the ramp. Renderings render themselves useless unless they’re supported with money and time. We were running out of both.

This new build fitness club was already 4-months past when stakeholders wanted it open. In theory, the fitness club, spa, co-work space, Las Vegas resort-style pool, 16 bars and restaurants, barber shop, salon, retail shops, a market, and a boutique hotel were going to cost $350,000,000. With costs of construction and human resources mounting, value-engineering was in full effect.

COVID-19 rocked the world in March 2020. This project was out of money and I was out of time. Maybe, had I been able to stay and be the voice for Drago, it may have come to fruition. But I voluntarily resigned when the world went bonkers and my kids needed me more than I needed this job. My boss, President of Village Hospitality, Larry Spelts, believed strongly in Drago, too. But he, too, flew the coop.

Construction of the fitness club

With no voice affirming and reaffirming the necessity of the “statement piece” to stakeholders, Drago never even got to put up a fight. Time was out. Money was out. The idea of a Drago ramp died. (Karma, says Apollo Creed).

When I started writing this #wcw blog post on and honoring us, neither Ivan Drago, Rocky IV, nor the “Drago” ramp were going to be the central theme. But I refuse to go back and edit, because I wholeheartedly believe that overcoming hard things is how we prove to ourselves just how tough we are. It’s key to living life to the fullest. We don’t need a 30-degree ramp in a fitness club to present a physical challenge that’s tough to overcome (although I’ll never stop believing that it would be cool). Maybe your Drago is a 5K power walk, a sprint triathlon, climbing the stairs of the Empire State Building, playing tag with your children without giving up, taking up endurance rucking, swimming a mile…

Whatever the physical challenge that you choose to represent your Ivan Drago, make sure that it’s a goal that is scary and a little out of reach. You should have to grow into the person who can conquer it. That’s what you’ve done in the past 23-months. Your perseverance, persistence, pivoting when you needed to (2020’s word of the year), and never ever ever giving up make you, me, US today’s Woman Crush Wednesday.

If it’s been a while since you’ve watched Rocky IV, let this blog be motivation to roll it tonight.

Life is messy. And redeeming. And beautiful. And ever-changing. And long. If right now, you’re grappling with seemingly impossible opposition, take a breath and take heart.

“Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.” -John Lennon

Brook Benten (BB) is a fitness professional in Austin, TX. She is a Master Trainer for Johnny G Spirit Bike and Prevention Magazine fitness contributor.

You may connect with her on ,Instagram, her fave social platform, because it’s like TikTok without sensory overload. You can also find her dodging politics on Facebook, running on Strava, poorly hashtagging on Twitter, and applauding boss babe career achievements on LinkedIn.

Brook offers digital fitness training and live one-on-one personal training sessions at in her home gym in Georgetown, TX. She is an ACSM Exercise Physiologist with a M.Ed. in Sports & Fitness Administration.

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