It is hard to believe that the small town of Southport, a place people flock to because of its quiet vibe, could offer such a dynamic and successful fitness program and facility. But it does. Cape Fear Fitness was a vision ten years ago, has been adopted wholeheartedly by residents, and is expanding.
Carysa Overcash remembers coming to work at Cape Fear Fitness around 6 am a few years ago and finding the exercise machines moved to different areas in the gym. She contacted her co-owner, board-certified orthopedic surgeon Dr. Eric Lescault, but he said he hadn’t moved anything. Once they reviewed the camera footage they discovered a long-time member had done the rearranging. The man explained he found better spots for the equipment because it made optimum use of the space.
“He thought he was helping us,” Overcash says, and smiles as if picturing the incident. “That’s how [comfortable] our members feel. We pride ourselves on being a family. It’s your home away from home.”
The fitness center’s website proclaims it offers the highest quality in the area. Overcash says all eight trainers and 15 instructors are certified in their specialties. “We make sure our clients get the best,” she says.
But why CFF works for Brunswick County is that it not only offers fitness opportunities but a large selection of classes, children’s gymnastics and tumbling, CrossFit, TRX (Total Resistance eXercise), group and private training, nutrition instruction and more.
“We have something for everyone from the tiniest one-month-old to those in their 90s,” Overcash shares. “That’s what sets us apart.”
While the gym includes the standard treadmills, elliptical machines, free weights and circuit equipment, there is also a nutrition coach, Nellie Harden, who offers family health and wellness classes.
Harden’s passion is to bring healthy living to the community. A certified health coach, she emphasizes the four pillars of positive change: education, tools, resources, and community. “With these four things, any change can happen,” she says. Her daughter, Lana, 10, is on the CFF Kids gymnastics team.
While the new children’s programs are growing, the majority of CFF members are seniors, so those over 60 have a substantial discount with a 10 am – 3:30 pm time frame dedicated to them (although the gym remains open to all members at those times). CFF offers classes appropriate for seniors and is investigating Silver Sneakers certification.
But CFF mixes and matches its programming to bring something for every age and personality. Pam Donohue is a Zumba instructor and opens her class at CFF for everyone. “You cannot do it wrong in my class unless you stand still,” Donohue says.
Petite, energetic and friendly, Overcash is the ideal representative for CFF. She received her degree in cosmetology from College of Wilmington and in addition became certified in spinning, group exercise, and fitness training. She worked at Gold’s Gym in Wilmington before joining CFF in 2008 as a manager and spinning instructor. She was a hair stylist as well, but in 2011 bought a partnership in CFF.
When her oldest son, Ryder, 6, was a mere three days old, she brought him to the gym so she could complete a work-related task. Both Ryder and Cooper, 3, “love the gym,” Overcash shares. Her husband, Matthew, is a personal trainer at CFF. He wakes at 4 am so he can get his workout in and be prepared for his clients.
According to Overcash, CFF wants to provide what people are looking for and then address those needs. When they realized there were no movement/exercise programs for children in the area, CFF began offering tumbling. Later it added gymnastics.
“We want to offer the latest, what people need,” she says. “It’s about making people feel better about themselves.”
CFF has grown through its nearly ten years in business. Its fitness center is 8,000 square feet, the CrossFit facility has moved to Long Beach Road, another CrossFit facility off Seaside Road is in Ocean Isle Beach, and CFF Kids Gymnastics and Fitness Center on Long Beach Road is 5,000 square feet.
Dr. Lescault, a native of Rhode Island, says his last assignment during his seven years in the Army ended at Fort Bragg, so he set up stakes in North Carolina.
He opened CFF out of necessity because at the time there was only one fitness center in the area and it didn’t offer predawn or evening workouts. An orthopedic surgeon who specializes in hip, knee and shoulder total joint replacement with EmergeOrtho formerly OrthoWilmington, fitness was important to him. He created and recommends fitness regiments for anyone in pre- or post-surgery. But when it came to CFF, he needed a manager he could trust. Enter Overcash.
“Her organizational skills and interpersonal skills are wonderful,” he says. “She’s the glue gun. She motivates the staff. I couldn’t have done what’s been done without her.”
He offered her a partnership in 2011.
Lescault’s three children, Mason, 15, Brady, 13, and Sophia, 11, enjoy the CFF Kids Academy and the treadmills at the gym. His wife, Heather Winterbottom, is a stay-at-home mom and a retired family practitioner.
“Our vision is that membership belongs to a community and belonging to something bigger than yourself,” he says.
Want to go?
Cape Fear Fitness
5130 Southport-Supply Road