One-on-one training studios take fitness personally

Personalized fitness is no longer the domain of movie stars and world-class athletes. Studios providing one-on-one fitness are catering to clients who prefer their fitness far from the all-purpose gym crowd.

"This is definitely a growing area," said Meredith Poppler of the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA), the trade association of the fitness club industry.

In 1999, 4 million Americans were using personal trainers, according to IHRSA, but now the number hovers around 6.5 million.

Poppler said personal-only trainer facilities run the gamut from franchises to independent, boutique clubs that pop up in major cities.

Dwayne Wimmer, owner of Vertex Fitness Personal Training Studio in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, said his clients range from retirees to students who are often fleeing mass-market gyms.

"It's never crowded, never busy, always focused, and the music isn't blaring," said Wimmer, who has operated his studio for more than 11 years.

Many of his clients, he said, have been frustrated at the big gyms because they didn't get the attention they wanted or needed.

"Others are intimidated by big health clubs," he added.

An individual session at Vertex costs $90 an hour, comparable, Wimmer said, to a personal training session at a standard health club chain.

But he added that his studio makes it more personal beginning with a discussion about health, injuries and goals.

"Every time they come in its one-on-one. Every inch (of the workout) is being monitored and critiqued."

Steve Morrison, a disk jockey, has been going to Vertex for almost eight years. He said that personal touch has allowed him to reclaim major chunks of his day.

"Having the trainer there completely maximizes your time," he explained. "I used to spend close to two hours at the gym. Now I go three times a week for half an hour and I have better results and no injuries."

Morrison said even when he works out by himself he tries to use what he learned.

"It's the form. It's having the trainer there," he added.


At the Rich Barretta Private Training Studio in Manhattan, training sessions are conducted in 10-square-foot 3-square-meter) private training areas.

"Everyone has their own station, with their own mirror, their own lighting. It's very private," said Barretta, who has operated the studio for four years.

A former bodybuilder who won the Mr. America title in 1987, Barretta has been training clients for more than 30 years. After interviews, he and his staff pick one trainer to work with a client. People who train in his studio range from celebrities to professional athletes and pregnant or overweight women.

Many, he said, have been down the wrong road with personal trainers.

"They get stuck with what I call the coffee sippers," he said, "generic trainers who'll sip coffee during a session."

Phase IV Health and Performance Center, in Santa Monica, California, is a physical rehabilitation center, a personal training gym, and a health and fitness laboratory all in one.

From marathoners to moms, physical therapist and founder Robert Forster said clients are evaluated, given specifically created programs and re-evaluated every three months.

Forster, who worked with the U.S. Track and Field team at the London Olympics, believes standard gyms fail many people.

"I've watched people do the dumbest things," he said of a recent visit to a gym. "I've seen grandmothers with osteoporosis do the same exercises as my Olympians."

Rather than clients flailing about on their own, he said a personal trainer can add focus and personal expertise.

"In fitness, so many people just train and train till they break," he said.