Metro-East News

This Glen Carbon duo operates a cycling room and fitness center

You can go to the gym, take a spinning class right next door

Glen Carbon residents Breanna Barnes, 34, and Christal Laswell, 35, have opened Flow Spin in Maryville. The duo, who have been friends since they were 12, also operate a personal training business, Iron Orchid, a small gym.
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Glen Carbon residents Breanna Barnes, 34, and Christal Laswell, 35, have opened Flow Spin in Maryville. The duo, who have been friends since they were 12, also operate a personal training business, Iron Orchid, a small gym.

Inside of the Flow Spin cycling room in Maryville are a disco ball and lights synced to play with music during a workout.

As riders on 29 stationary bicycles pedal along, their heart rates and calories burned are displayed on a television screen above the instructor, who is wearing a microphone to relay instructions.

“We wanted to go all out and make it as fun as possible.” said co-owner Christal Laswell. “I think one of the instructors had mentioned when the lights are off, you could just let it all out. You don’t have to worry what other people are thinking. ... the lights are down, dimmed; you’re in your own world; you’re focused on what’s in front of you, and you could put all your worries aside and must make it your best. You’re forced to step outside your comfort zone, but at the same time it’s challenging and empowering.”

The cardio-intensive exercise business was opened in December by Glen Carbon residents Breanna Barnes, 34, and Laswell, 35, who have been friends since they were 12. They opened Flow Spin next to their personal training business, Iron Orchid, a small gym they opened in April.

Opening Flow Spin eight months after Iron Orchid wasn’t in the original plans, but the two decided to go for it when the space became available.

Barnes and Laswell recently spoke to the Belleville News Democrat about opening Flow Spin and working in the personal training business.

Q: If things had gone (according) to plan, when would you have opened Flow Spin?

A: Barnes: “We wanted to give Iron Orchid a year — just so it was a smooth running machine, a well-oiled machine, where we had our staff, had everybody in place, and made sure we were taking care of those customers before we started taking on a completely separate (business).”

A: Laswell: “We wanted to give our first baby a year to at least become a toddler.”

Q: What’s the difference between someone who wants personal training versus someone who wants to do the cycling training?

A: Barnes: “That’s why we wanted to do Flow, because most of our clients here, as a general rule, have been on their fitness journey. They’ve tried other places; they know what works for them, what doesn’t work for them, and maybe they like the camaraderie or the accountability that we offer — and the attention.”

A: Laswell: “To add to that, people ‘are been there, done that.’ When they’re looking to come to us, they’re looking for more quality in their coaching style and just want to be able to move better and feel better. At that point they’ve made up in their mind and justified, ‘Now at this point I’m willing to invest in my health and fitness journey for a long-term commitment.’”

A: Barnes: “For the cycling there isn’t a commitment. You could do a drop-in. There’s other packages like five-class, 10-class. But if they don’t want any of that package deal, it’s one day a week, and they could just drop in for a class.”

Q: Breanna you have a master’s in business administration. Christal you have a master’s in public administration. Why did you open a gym?

A: Laswell: “It started with me, seven years ago. I set out on my own personal journey, fell in love with movement and the body, and a different way of training. I became super passionate about it. I have twin boys, so that’s what got me started. I was in pain, not in the best shape and probably the most pain I had been in, and I knew I needed a different way of training. So I found my drive. I fell in love with it, became passionate, wanted to help other people do the same. So I learned a lot. I guess at that point I wanted to transition from a full-time income to pursuing a passion. It wasn’t even about the money at that point, or the income. I knew just having the passion was going to get me somewhere. I started training at a local gym in Edwardsville. I was there and loyal to that gym for a long time, for four years. Then Iron Orchid was born.”

Q: Were you working for a municipality at the time?

A: Laswell: “I was. I was working for the city of Collinsville. I started as an administrative intern in 2007, and then worked into a management analyst position in 2008. And I was promoted to the assistant to the city manager, and it was an awesome experience and taught me a lot, but I just knew I wanted to make a more positive impact in a different way, and I felt this was the way. I was training full time and working part time. I gradually got out of that career and transitioned into a part-time position. It was about 2013 I transitioned out.”

Q: Breanna, you have an MBA. Were you thinking, “I’m going to open up my own gym”?

A: Barnes: “No, I wasn’t thinking that. I had worked at the same company for eight years after college as a marketing coordinator. (Christal) called me at work one day, and said ‘Hey, there’s this location in Edwardsville, and I think it would be perfect for a gym, and we should open up a gym together.’ I just laughed, thought ‘you’re crazy,’ and I have to get back to work. I had just started working out with her. She was my trainer … So I loved the training, and I had been in a lot of pain, hip issues. She helped me work through that; I just felt stronger. Who else would you want to go into business with than your best friend? That’s pretty cool. I remember when I was taking my masters program at McKendree, they were like, ‘No matter what you do in life, your MBA will apply. You could use it anywhere. If you’re going to have a business or managing a business, some of this stuff will show up.’”

Q: Where did the name Iron Orchid come from?

A: Laswell: “We didn’t want to be just another gym. We didn’t want it to be XYZ Fitness. We wanted the look and the feel of what we have to be completely different. ... Our brand, our logo everything, we wanted it to feel more comfortable for people and welcoming. It’s different. ... We didn’t want to be another gym ... we wanted something that represented strength but then also that was representative of the beauty of your journey all at the same time.”

Q: When you got your cycling space, was Flow Spin always going to be the name?

A: Barnes: “That one seemed easier. That one was, ‘OK. What are we going to name this?’”

A: Laswell: “We treat our clients as if they’re family ... but we wanted to create the same inspirational environment over there, with Flow Spin. They’re our flow tribe. It’s community wherever you go, whether you’re at Iron Orchid or at Flow.”

Q: What is your advice to that person who is just starting a workout regimen? Starting to exercise?

A: Laswell: “My advice is just find something that you love.”

A: Barnes: “And something you can sustain. A sustainable approach, and don’t try to kill yourself because results aren’t going to happen overnight. It’s going to be patience and dedication. … Don’t work through pain.”

Q: Is there anything you would like to add?

A: Laswell: “I would like to emphasize it’s very tailored, very individualized. We really try to take a proactive approach to people’s movement. We believe that movement is key to results, and the better you move the stronger you get, and the better your results can be. You just learn something about your body throughout the process. ... We’ve made a point to demonstrate we’re not just another gym in town.”

Joseph Bustos: 618-239-2451, @JoeBReporter

Learn more

  • For more information about Flow Spin, go to or call 618-205-1400.
  • For more information about Iron Orchid, go to or call 618-205-1234.
  • The gyms are at 2921 N. Center St. in Maryville.