Fitness has always been the goal for Augustus “Gus” Harris, first for himself and then for the many others who pass his way.
Fitness and health in body, mind and spirit has driven Harris, the founder of downtown Kenosha’s Flex & Burn Fitness Center, 5711 Sixth Ave., to reach goals all through his life.
It took tremendous fortitude to overcome his first big challenges, one of which was coming to America.
Born in Liberia, Harris endured a civil war and living in a refugee camp in the Ivory Coast.
Harris said he was fortunate to come to America, being accepted into Carthage College in 1993. He received political asylum, then a green card and ultimately became a U.S. citizen.
After college, he worked for 10 years in the financial department at Case in Racine where he met his wife, Yolanda.
But he got the itch to start his own business, and other than finance, he knew fitness the best.
For nine years, as the owner of the downtown fitness center, he has helped people achieve their goals through his guidance as a personal trainer, coach and boot camp leader and most of all as a mentor helping young people to gain their inner strength.
Located in a two-story building, Flex & Burn, which opened in 2012, is more than the typical fitness center. Eighty percent of it is relating to people and having the ability to deal with people, being adaptable and a good listener, Harris said.
“Clients get personal attention,” he said. “I saw a need and developed a niche marketing plan to help clients. Workouts are sculpted in accordance to goals of the clients.”
He also works with athletes of all ages in sports, including baseball, football, hockey, soccer and cheerleading.
He said many of his clients have become like family. He said he doesn’t advertise, instead attracting clients through word-of-mouth referrals.
Harris describes Flex & Burn as a place where some people with fitness goals, can overcome their fears without criticism.
“It a good place where people come and not be afraid at being looked at. They can come here and have more privacy,” he said.
“Clients are typically middle-age working professionals who are looking for an experienced trainer to work with in a private workout studio away from the crowds in most franchise gyms.”
One of his clients, an 82-year-old woman, comes three times a week to work on strength and balance exercises.
While many of the clients come for fitness, others come to continue the type of rehabilitation program they had before their insurance ran out.
“I’m not a rehabilitation therapist, but when people come in wanting to continue their rehabilitation, I help them devise a plan at a price they can afford,” he said.