skip to Main Content

A stream of friends help a local fitness instructor recover from the storm

By Richard D. Smith I September 22, 2021

“Give me five good ones!” Alex Obe happily cheered on a group of fit and energetic people.

But Obe wasn’t talking about push-ups, and it wasn’t an exercise class. It was Monday, September 6, and Obe was hoping for at least five stationary exercise bikes that hadn’t been destroyed when the adjacent Millstone River flooded his Iron Core Fitness gymnasium in Rocky Hill.

Alex Obe, owner of the Iron Core Fitness gym in Rocky Hill, cleans up after the flood. (Photos by Richard D. Smith.)

A stream of friends, customers and neighbors showed up to lift dumbbells, kettlebells and weight plates. They cleaned the mud off the equipment and carefully stowed the items inside the building.

“Alex is going to want us to move all this once more”, jokes a member of the team, to the knowing smiles of the others. “It’s all a trick to get us to practice!”

The real trick had been played by nature on September 1, when the remnants of Hurricane Ida created a brutal weather event in the mid-Atlantic region and floodwaters engulfed the Iron Core gym. Obe Fitness.

Iron Core Fitness Gym on Route 518 engulfed in 3-4 feet of water.

In response, around 50 people — Alex’s fitness clients, parents of Montgomery School freshmen taught by their wife Stephanie Shaffer Obe, as well as friends and neighbors — easily dropped plans to Labor Day holiday to work in an intensive cleanup effort.

“We knew how much work they put into the gym, the sacrifices they made,” says Alexis Soron of Montgomery, who was on hand with her husband Nate and their two teenage children, all good friends of the Obe family. .

About 50 people showed up on Labor Day to help the Obe family clean up their gym after the flood.

“People kept showing up,” says Johnny Rooney of Rocky Hill, another teacher at the Montgomery school with Stephanie Obe. “Everything was on deck!”

Alex Obe (pronounced oh-BAY), 44, is of Nigerian descent. He and his sister were born in the United States, but lived in Nigeria for part of their childhood. Their mother worked for Nigerian Airlines; their father was an entrepreneur with computer and alarm system companies. Alex and Stephanie met when they were students at Bucknell University. Both graduated in 1999, he in psychology and she in education.

Alex worked for some time in corporate information systems. But “the fitness always felt good, it was good,” he says, adding with a smile, “I needed to make people sweat.”

He worked for the New York Sports Club chain, eventually managing two locations, including the Princeton Shopping Center. In 2006, he purchased personal training studios in ShopRite’s Rt. 206 business center, later moving it to the nearby Research Park complex.

The sale of PTS in 2019 saw the purchase of 200 Washington Road in Rocky Hill – originally a 1700s gristmill and more recently the studio/storefront of John Shedd Pottery Designs – for the new Iron Gym Core Fitness by Alex. (The Obes were already residents of Rocky Hill, having left Lawrenceville in 2009.)

Stephanie Shaffer Obe has been teaching in the Montgomery Township school system since 2000, first as a substitute teacher and now as a full-time first grade teacher. (“She’s highly respected,” says Johnny Rooney. “Parents and kids love her.”)

The Obe family was in Jamaica when the storm passed through Rocky Hill and the Millstone rolled in. (It was sort of a work vacation for Alex, who was giving workouts there.) Word quickly spread on social media that Iron Core Fitness had been flooded. A happier deluge followed, of friends and acquaintances asking for help.

Montgomery resident Kim Toedtman helps clean and sort medicine balls.

It was Stephanie who had suggested to her husband that he “should really say you need help.” And so Alex, who is a badass, did it, via text messages and Facebook posts. (Their children were also told by friends.)

Johnny Rooney, his wife Angie and their two children responded. “It was such a big event,” he says. “It was so ‘community’, for such a great family who are so well loved and respected.”

The article continues after our sponsor’s announcement.

Belle Mead resident Alexis Soron, who trained with Alex, added: “It was a daunting task. But there were so many people and everyone worked so hard that everything was done quickly. It was amazing.”

Alexis first met Stephanie (who later taught their son in first grade) through mutual friends. She trained in person with Alex and also followed her virtual workouts during the coronavirus quarantine.

“He really cares about everyone who shows up to his classes,” she says. “That’s why there was such a turnout. He deserves to succeed. »

Several interviewees compared the Iron Core Fitness cleanup to the end of the classic Christmas movie It’s a wonderful life in which a community comes together to save a beloved family savings and loan bank threatened by a sudden crisis.

“It was unbelievable and humbling,” says Alex Obe, “because I didn’t expect it.”

Back To Top