Proof Fitness transformed hardware store space into gym with urban-loft feel

Instructor Renee Phillips led a rowing class at Proof Fitness in Lexington on Dec. 12. The new facility is in the Tates Creek Shopping Center in the former Ace Hardware location.
Instructor Renee Phillips led a rowing class at Proof Fitness in Lexington on Dec. 12. The new facility is in the Tates Creek Shopping Center in the former Ace Hardware location. Lexington Herald-Leader

Proof Fitness is a different gym for Central Kentucky, and the proof of that starts at the front door of the 20,000-square foot fitness center.

The door handles are made of reclaimed wood from a tobacco warehouse, which you will also see on the floors and elsewhere throughout the building, along with reclaimed metal and brick. The metal beams hanging from the Proof Fitness ceiling used to hold up floor joists of a Louisville tobacco warehouse.

The four studios for group classes are distinctive:

■ The "sweat" area is a garage-like space with a working clear garage door and punching bags.

■ Another studio, sedate and quiet, hosts yoga and Pilates and PiYo, a Pilates-Yoga blend.

■ A large group studio houses classes that have large attendance or require lots of movement; it also includes a barre.

■ A TRX suspension training studio allows exercisers to use their own body weight as resistance and can hold classes of up to 12 participants at one time.

An artificial grass sprint and stretching area is marked to resemble football-field striping.

"We want Proof to be a household name here in Lexington, synonymous with health and fitness," co-founder Jack Letz said about the business, which had its grand opening Dec. 10.

"We knew which employees we wanted before the first brick was laid," said Brian Johnson, another co-founder, who said that his group was approached about the space after the hardware store that used it closed.

The renovated building at 4101 Tates Creek Centre Drive, Suite 164, includes lots of motivational design touches, including a lighted wall in the bike studio with the words "Be the Proof" in various languages, including Sera la prueba in Spanish. Another wall lists goals that employees and their children have in their "bucket list," such as, "Run a 10K with my daughters."

With its urban loft atmosphere, the gym's owners have made sure that clients won't recognize the building's former aisles of hardware and tools. Rows of cardio machines and easier-to-use weight machines are up front; the studios and more challenging equipment are near the rear of the space.

"We try to focus on comfort," Johnson said. "We want you to feel invited, to motivate you while you're here."

The idea is a "new approach to fitness," according to Proof's Facebook page.

"Our high quality, member-focused fitness experience incorporates the best instructors and personal trainers in Lexington and uses elite technology to track your progress. We believe that the combination of our equipment, distinctive decor, wide variety of classes, and supportive staff come together to create an inspiring, motivational environment that is meant to help every member reach their fullest potential," the description states.

Wilson said, Proof is also about being local, thus the use of area materials. Beneath the metal beams are salvaged heart-pine columns. All the fans are from Lexington-based Big Ass Fans, 23 in all.

Johnson points to a bench: "This tree was growing in 1700.

"We've taken all the boutiques that were out there, and the big-box model, and put it all together," he added.

Proof members can take classes that center around disciplines from kickboxing to Zumba to yoga to water-rowing, which uses specialized machines that simulate the current and pull of water. Personal trainers are also available for individual instruction.

Memberships range from $24.99 to $99.99 a month.

Proof is a synthesis of old, in its decor, and new, in its technology: Members can use a radio frequency chip that they scan at cardio machines, which will welcome them by name, make note of their previous progress and send them an email summary of their workout after they've finished.

The gym also uses heart rate monitoring belts that allow instructors and participants to monitor their heart rate while exercising — "discreet but useful information," Letz said.

"This is a way of helping members remember and make their cardio fun," Letz said.

Letz and Johnson said that already the gym, which opened in November, had exceeded expectations.

"And we had high expectations," Johnson said.

For more information on Proof Fitness, go to its Facebook page or its website,, or call (859) 559-0222.

Some Lexington-area gyms are making these offers as the new year approaches:

Lexington Athletic Club, 3882 Mall Rd. Membership offers start at $29.99 per month with three months free. (859) 273-3163.

YMCA of Central Kentucky. No joining fee Dec. 26-Jan. 31. Memberships for adults 26-64 start at $46 a month and $68.50 per household.

CrossFit Maximus, 2560 Palumbo Dr. and 821 North Ashland Ave. Free introductory class. (859) 317-9568.

Planet Fitness, 1650 Bryan Station Rd. Memberships start at $10 a month. (859) 368-7223.

Workout Anytime, 3130 Mapleleaf Drive. Offers a free guest pass. Zero enrollment fee through the end of January. $15 month or $25 month with unlimited tanning and hydro-massage (859) 223-0200.