There are people who go to the gym and then there are people who do Crossfit. Not many who do Crossfit, however, happen to be Black. A former NFL running back and entrepreneur is changing that. His name is Jason Burns and his gym is Mettle Fitness. A Crossfit revolution is happening in a very historic Black neighborhood, launched by a man who was bold enough to ignore the doubters.
Crossfit is not for those who simply want to be seen at the gym. Crossfit workouts feature constantly varied, functional movements that borrow elements of gymnastics, weightlifting, rowing, running and much more. In other words, Crossfit is for people who are serious about being in the best shape of their lives. Mettle Fitness offers several Crossfit classes, seven days a week. In addition, the gym offers swimming, Jiu Jitsu and sports performance classes for young athletes. Mettle Fitness is not only helping individuals get into peak shape but has also managed to create an inclusive and supportive community among its patrons. Mettle Fitness is an unlikely success story, one that only a daredevil would attempt — or a football player.
By third grade Jason knew he wanted to play football. His father, an engineer for the local utility company, played for the Air Force Academy. Jason was a natural, of course. He made varsity his freshman year as a quarterback. By his junior year, he was playing quarterback and running back. As a senior he focused solely on running back and was eventually offered a scholarship to play at the University of Wisconsin. Approaching his sophomore year, Jason won the starting job in the spring and he didn’t disappoint — during the opening game he’d racked up 80 yards in just over a quarter. An ankle injury later in the game sidelined him for the rest of the season, however. Still, Jason showed enough promise at Wisconsin that the Cincinnati Bengals signed him to a contract. Another injury during his second year in the pros ended his career short, leaving Jason with a big decision to make.
During his time as a player Jason was introduced to the stock market and he’d always maintained an interest in trading. He eventually went to work for Morgan Stanley Dean Witter as a broker. From there he worked with a bank before getting an offer from another trading company, where he worked for 10 years. Jason befriended another trader who wanted to open a gym for overweight people. The two formed a partnership and the business instantly did well. After a couple of years, however, Jason and his partner wanted to go in different directions. Jason’s partner bought him out and with that money, Jason launched Mettle Fitness in 2012. To most it was insane — Crossfit couldn’t do well on the South Side of Chicago. There were no Crossfit facilities on the South Side and that’s precisely why Jason bet on it and that gamble has paid off.
The average NFL career is about three years. There is a great deal of life after a player hangs up his cleats and for many, the transition is a rough one. Jason took his athletic talent and leveraged it into a thriving business that not only provides for his family but also enriches the community. There most certainly is a Crossfit revolution happening and fortunately, Jason Burns is leading it.