August Burns Red lead singer opens gym for the body and the mind

Jake Luhrs, lead singer for Lancaster metal band August Burns Red, opened YourLife Gym Nov. 7.

Reportedly the first of its kind, the gym at 2301 Harrisburg Pike, Lancaster, incorporates mental and physical fitness in one location. It will include mental health resources from HeartSupport; a non-profit mental health organization Luhrs founded 10-years ago.

“We need to think about mental health now more than ever—there’s more fear, anxiety and loneliness in people’s lives as they deal with the effects of the pandemic on their daily life,” he explained, “I want people to understand that mental health isn’t just about people with {mental health} issues; it’s about how we deal with our life on an ongoing basis. I want people to follow their heart and to make time for self-care.”

The desire to open a mental health gym surfaced when the 35-year-old musician was 24, but he shelved the idea. But about three years ago the idea popped up on his radar again. “That time I had actually discussed it with a few people, but I didn’t have the time and effort to put into it,” he said.

That changed this spring. “We had just released ‘Guardian’ {a new album by the two-time Grammy-nominated band} and were the third day into a world tour, when we were told we had to go home because of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Luhrs said, “For 15 years of my life I hadn’t spent more than two months at home. I love Lititz—it’s a pretty town with a rich history, and my home is in a quiet place. It’s nice for me to come home to quiet, peaceful place.”

Going to a gym has been part of his life for several years. He started going to Iron Fit Gym in Lititz after a divorce. There he not only enjoyed the workouts, but also getting to know other guys and be part of the Lititz-area community. When he found out that Iron Fit was closing in May, he got serious about opening a mental health gym.

YourLife Gym incorporates mental and physical fitness in one location PHOTO/PROVIDED

Things came together rather quickly. He found the right space: YourLife Gym occupies about 6,000 square feet in East Hempfield Township that formerly housed a Gold’s Gym. A man of faith, he found it fitting that YourLife Gym is in the same complex as Reality Church.

For assistance with gym equipment, Luhrs reached out to a friend he knew from the music world, Andrew Hall, president of Arsenal Strength. Hall launched the Knoxville, Tennessee, strength equipment manufacturing and gym design company in 2015. Luhrs also asked Joel Chandler, a fitness trainer he knew from his hometown of Columbia, South Carolina, to serve as the fitness director.

The gym has two dieticians and features an equipment area and smaller rooms for individual training sessions. HeartSupport has two counselors and will offer classes that include men’s and women’s group sessions.

“A lot of people are telling me I’m crazy for opening a gym during a pandemic. But God gave me the most precious gift of all—people who believed in my mission,” Luhrs said.

When Luhrs was 15 he wanted to be in a band. He and his sister put together a garage band that went through a number of musical styles including hip hop. “It was fun, but what really triggered me was going to my first show. I was 17 and saw ‘Strike Anywhere’ playing at the Brooklyn Tavern in Columbia,” he said. “They had an amazing sound and the lead singer was passionate about the music. I was blown away by his showmanship.”

Jake Luhrs, lead singer for Lancaster metal band August Burns Red PHOTO/PROVIDED

After the show, Luhrs asked the singer for his autograph. “I realized I didn’t have anything for him to write it on, so I rolled up my sleeve and he signed my arm. Then he rolled up his sleeve and asked me to sign his arm. I couldn’t believe it; he was a rock star and he was taking the time to talk with me like a normal guy. I wanted to impact people in that way.”

Luhrs continued to perform in the Columbia area, and when he was 20, a friend showed him the August Burns Red album “Thrill Seeker.”
“I listened to it and loved it,” he said. “The music was progressive and had a lot of energy and passion. I said I would love to be in a band like that.”

A few months later the same friend told him the band was looking for a singer. After giving it some thought, Luhrs sent a note to the band asking for an audition. A few weeks later rhythm guitarist Brent Rambler asked him to try out. “I quit my job, packed up my 1989 Honda Civic and headed to Manheim to try out and joined the band (in 2006),” Luhrs said.

Since then he’s called the Manheim-Lititz area his home. “Opening YourLife in the Lancaster area is a way I can give back to my community. I felt called to open this gym at this time.” Luhrs said.