By Gavin Menu
A host of changes in the fitness industry, including the rise of group classes and personal training alongside increased awareness about health-related issues, has crowded the field in terms of traditional gym memberships and training all by your lonesome.
Personal training is nothing new to the East End or New York City, where well-heeled customers can afford spending upwards of $150 per session to obtain optimal health and nutrition with annual fitness bills running deep into five figures. At the same time, a fresh dynamic has emerged allowing more people access to personal training through small group sessions, which can make the business of operating a private fitness facility more of a win-win situation for business owners and their clientele.
MuvStrong, opened last year on Springs Fireplace Road in East Hampton by trainers Gordon Trotter and Mike Delalio, provides plenty of one-on-one personal training but has also been focusing on the development of small groups — three to six people who train together multiple times weekly and receive specialized treatment, testing and training for roughly $40 per session for those who show up three times a week. MuvStrong’s small group training is currently priced at $499 per month for up to three sessions per week, a business model Trotter says is as beneficial to customers as it is to the gym.
“We want it to be more affordable, but we also want it to be hands on,” said Trotter, adding that the monthly charge motivates customers to come with greater frequency. “Not that one-on-one is dying, but people want to work in groups and compete with each other. It’s just human nature.”
Allison Duchemin, a resident of East Hampton who is new to group training, was apologizing to the trainers during her first week of training at MuvStrong. At 41, she has struggled with injuries and knee surgeries that prevented her from going to the gym or exercising in general. The group dynamic motivates her, she said, and the individual attention she receives from trainers like Delalio, who is a certified assistant physical therapist, helps tremendously with her recovery.
“In the past, you either had a personal trainer or you were on your own,” Delalio said after a recent morning workout in which he scrambled around the facility like a conductor, moving kettle balls, ropes, boxes, mats and TRX straps. “This is the middle ground. And with a group of six, if I have to work around someone who has a nagging back or an aching knee, I can change some things within the small group. Also, the one thing the group really adds, that one-on-one training is missing, is that intrinsic drive to compete with everybody else.”
“It’s a mental workout, too,” said Duchemin. “There’s accountability and they let you know if you’re doing something wrong, and especially for someone like me, with seven knee surgeries, that’s important.”
In addition to adult groups, Trotter and Delalio host youth programs with sports-specific training exercises, and groups of elite local athletes, some who compete at the highest levels in college.
“The first thing we do is we screen everybody,” said Delalio. “If someone has a knee issue and we’re doing goblet squats, they may not be there right now, so we can do a body weight squat, we can do a TRX squat, a beam squat, where they’re comfortable but they still feel like they’re getting work done. Keeping it to those small, tight groups allows me to do that and the screen allows us to get ahead.”
Delalio said people who train in small groups at least three times per week can expect to see noticeable improvements in their everyday lives in just two or three weeks.
“It really depends on how often you’re coming in,” he said. “If you’re coming once a week, it’s going to take a little longer because we’re working against the other six days. If you’re coming three days a week, you’re going to see gains pretty quickly. I had a woman come in the other day and she had this bright smile on her face. She said, ‘I went to the gas station to exchange my propane tanks and I carried them both to the car and put them away by myself.’ It’s moments like those that I love, those little things that get better.”