PHOTOS BY JODIE BRIM CREATIVE
Top Tier Fitness co-owners Melissa Neff and Ben Bizzell have channeled their very different backgrounds and life experiences into a passion for helping others reach their full wellness potential – both in and out of the gym. A co-owner since 2020, Melissa transitioned from a wide-ranging career in social work to pursuing Top Tier as her core professional focus. She partnered with head coach-turned-co-owner Ben, who had experienced both the physical and mental health benefits of functional fitness after joining his first crossfit gym in 2012. As a former Army infantry officer and Afghanistan veteran, Ben realized that the bonds formed by group fitness were therapeutic for not only himself, but others as well. Together, Melissa and Ben have created a welcoming, dynamic environment combining top-notch facilities, full-time coaches/trainers, and an emphasis on community.
What sets Top Tier Fitness apart from other functional fitness facilities in the Triad is not only its 24/7 access for members (a rarity in the crossfit and functional fitness world), but also its staff of full-time personal trainers and coaches who share the same passion for fitness that first attracted Melissa and Ben. In fact, all Top Tier trainers were members prior to becoming part of the staff and had bought into the vision of the community. According to Ben, “We want to make sure that anyone we bring onto our team is a good fit for our members, as well as our culture here at Top Tier.”
Top Tier trainers are professional instructors who pursue continuing education and certifications in exercise physiology, nutrition, and lifting technique to guarantee that Top Tier members are getting the most out of their private sessions and group classes. Having full-time, highly-trained staff members ensures safety, high-quality instruction when it comes to learning complex movements and weight training. It also ensures ample availability to fit clients’ busy schedules.
Additionally, Top Tier’s emphasis on smaller class sizes is unique, with no group class exceeding 14 people. Smaller group sizes help coaches make sure that each group member is performing exercises safely and to the best of their abilities while increasing the sense of community among members. The daily workouts at Top Tier are designed to ensure members compete against themselves rather than their fellow members. This is intentional, as Top Tier strives to balance the traditional competitive aspect of crossfit with meeting members’ individual needs all in a positive, non-intimidating environment. This balance creates a greater sense of camaraderie in the class, as opposed to a culture of comparison. “Just because someone else in the gym is loading over 200 pounds onto the bar doesn’t mean that’s what you need to do to meet your fitness goals,” explains Ben. “You can gain strength and change your body composition effectively by working with a weight that fits your current strength and skill level.”
Beginners at Top Tier attend a free consultation with a staff member to assess their fitness goals, current fitness level, and to develop an individualized program fine-tuned to suit their needs. Before joining group classes, beginners complete personalized “on-ramp” sessions with coaches to learn the basics of functional fitness and strength movements, allowing them to feel confident and comfortable during group classes. In addition, workouts can be modified to accommodate any physical limitations and skill-levels, and trainers focus on getting to know their clients on a personal level in order to properly motivate them and create open communication. Melissa emphasizes that Top Tier is the best fit for those who crave a sense of community alongside working up a sweat. “We’re not an anonymous gym,” states Melissa. “At Top Tier, we strive for everyone to feel known, seen and heard, and we always want to make sure that you leave the gym feeling better than when you walked in.”
The team at Top Tier also stresses the importance of nutrition and sleep when it comes to meeting your fitness or body composition goals. Without proper attention to diet, recovery, and sleep, the maximum effectiveness of each workout can’t be gained. Trainers recognize that different diets work for different individuals, which is why all trainers provide nutritional guidance based on counting macronutrients and maintaining a flexible approach to changing eating habits, as opposed to adopting strict fad-like diet plans that generally leave people discouraged and tired.
Top Tier grappled with the throes of the pandemic throughout 2020 and 2021, and recognized the importance of finding responsible ways to meet members’ needs for exercise to support the mental health of its members and the community. Melissa and Ben firmly believe that regular exercise is one of many facets of promoting mental health. With this in mind, they worked diligently to pivot with the pandemic’s challenges, and safely operated for members in need of exercise and social interaction. This led them to pilot a successful 24/7 access offering to their members who were not yet comfortable in a group fitness setting. Their decision to keep that access offering as the pandemic recedes allows members to use Top Tier’s equipment whenever it fits their personal schedules. Top Tier is conveniently located within walking distance to many apartment complexes in Downtown Winston-Salem, and prides itself in the cleanliness of its space.
Ready to become a Top Tier member? Visit www.toptier.fitness to view pricing, gym hours, and to learn about Top Tier’s team members. Find Top Tier Fitness on Facebook and follow @toptiergym on Instagram to stay updated on the latest news and events from the Top Tier team.