VET-PRENEURS: Lionheart Athletic Performance and Fitness

By LISA LOEWEN
Photos by RACHEL LOCK

MOST OF US have no idea how many of our local entrepreneurs are also military veterans. We are surrounded by hardworking business owners whose military service has taught them valuable skills and character traits but doesn’t define who they are as business owners. Whether their service was for three years or a 20-year military career, “vet-preneurs” are putting their unique set of skills to use right here in Topeka.

COURAGE:  LIONHEART ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE AND FITNESS

Walk into Lionheart Athletic Performance and Fitness and you may think you have entered a boot camp training facility. In some ways, this may be true. Lining the full length of the gym is a gauntlet of pull-up bars, rings, ropes, weights and platforms designed to offer CrossFit workouts in an efficient and safe environment. Cody and Hannah Rhinehart opened Lionheart because they wanted to share their love of fitness and help change people’s lives.

LionheartGrowing up in southern Georgia, Cody was introduced to military life at an early age. His neighbor, who was an Army Ranger, taught Cody many of the survival skills he learned in the military. His fascination with military training led him to enlist in the Army a year after his high school graduation. He was stationed at Fort Bragg in the 82nd Airborne Division. However, he wasn’t quite prepared for the rigors of training.

“It was terrible,” Cody said. “I played soccer in high school. I was a swimmer. I trained in Tae Kwan Do. I thought I was in great shape. After the first day, I realized I wasn’t.”

For the next three years, the Army taught Cody what it meant to be really fit. While he enjoyed his service and learned a lot of valuable skills, Cody knew a military career was not for him. After his discharge, he took a job with a security company and found himself traveling all over the country. While in Medford, Oregon, he saw an ad for a local MMA fight and decided to put his martial arts training to use. Once again, he found himself ill prepared for the experience.

“I vowed right then and there that I would never take a fight without being physically prepared again,” Cody said.

He threw himself into studying nutrition and fitness to hone his body into a fighting machine. Unfortunately, a shattered arm resulting in three surgeries cut his MMA fighting career short. Looking for another avenue to use his expertise of fitness and nutrition, Cody convinced Hannah to try their hand at business ownership.

“I told her, ‘give me six months and see where it goes’,” Cody said.

They started by renting space at Title Boxing and soon had a few clients. When the opportunity came to take over the gym space, they jumped at it. At the end of the first year, Lionheart had 35 members. By the second year that number had grown to 100. Now in its third year, the gym has more than 140 members and is still experiencing growth.

Both Cody and Hannah are trainers. They fit their daily lives, including caring for a new baby, around their class schedules. Even though this means Cody works about 80 hours per week, he says he doesn’t mind the long days.

“I still get to do what I love,” he said. “I get to help people discover what they are truly capable of.”

Everyone at Lionheart holds to the philosophy that they can accomplish anything they set out to do. Cody attributes a portion of this attitude to lessons he learned from his military service.

“The Army not only reinforced the need for hard work,” Cody said. “I also learned personal responsibility and the importance of doing what I say I am going to do.”

His time in the military also taught Cody the value of service to others—something he strives to continue in civilian life.

“We are a community here [at Lionheart],” Cody said. “Others notice when you are not here for classes. They encourage each other and challenge each other to be better. The larger community needs to do the same.”

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