Northeast Ohio gyms see shift toward personal training and wellness

the bar atheletics

the bar atheleticsGoing on two years of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, gyms around Lake County head into the new year with their doors open and people working to become a better version of themselves.

What’s different is that going to a gym isn’t about busting your butt just to work up a sweat. Instead, people have started better prioritizing their health, taking a more holistic approach, which includes working with personal trainers and different personalized programs.

“We were originally a CrossFit gym, and when I came in, we became a transformation gym,” said Michael Cedeno, owner of Dukes Barbell Club in Perry Village. “People didn’t really realize what we were and thought we were just a CrossFit gym, but we’re a lot more than that. We handle nutrition, bodybuilding, personal fitness and cardio.”

Cedeno, who also works as a personal trainer, opened Dukes in 2021 after COVID initially hit. The biggest challenge when trying to attract customers was fighting “the stigma of the old gym.

Still, some people have different expectations of what going to a gym means nowadays. For Heath Wenzel, co-owner and lead movement specialist at The Bar Athletics in Willoughby, his new clients go through an intake process to help chart a course that’s best for them.

The Athletic Bar in Willoughby has shifted its focus to health and wellness and not just fitness for members and clients. (Sean Fitzgerald — The News-Herald)

“We try to learn about their past history, what their expectations are, and then we sit down and formulate a plan. We do an in-body scan, which is overall composition based on not just a number on the scale,” Wenzel said.

“People have an expectation, but a lot of times they come in and just from the process going organically, they make some adjustments. People come in and think all they need to do is work out, but in all actuality they need to build some healthy habits,” Wenzel added.

Currently, Cedeno and Wenzel don’t see the coronavirus driving away customers amid the spread of the omicron variant, both noting they keep their gyms and equipment clean.

Both owners are honest with their members and clients, and Cedeno notes how not sugarcoating anything allows for better expectations for transformations.

“I believe our uniqueness is the fact we don’t sugarcoat anything. I’ve noticed a lot of gyms in the area are like that. When you really look at their transformations versus the transformations we’ve had, you can’t compare, it’s like oranges and apples. It’s going to take work and they put the work in,” Cedeno said.

With the shift to personal training and wellness since coming back from the shutdowns in 2020, Wenzel’s membership is up.

Around the area, more and more gym websites have been offering personal training. Wenzel believes a big reason for the shift from the standard old school approach was COVID serving as a wakeup call for many.

“I do believe 100% that COVID had an impact. I believe people are taking their health more seriously. For us, with what we put out on our social media and website, we’re all about education and empowerment,” he said.

Something that’s frustrated him and people he knows is how fitness has become confusing for many.

“The sad truth is people feel like they have to be fit in order to come to a gym, when in fact the gym was created for people to come and become educated to lead a healthier lifestyle,” he stated.

“Even with COVID, Americans still need to take their health a little bit more seriously. I think we can do a better job at that. Nothing extreme, just 150 to 160 minutes a week and 30 to 40 minutes a day of physical activity.”

Usually around spring is when Wenzel sees an uptick in people coming in, and it’s the same every year because people realize around the new year that they want to do better.

“I’m always hopeful I have a line out the door in the spring, more so not because they’re afraid of omicron, but really because they’re taking their health and wellness a little more seriously this year. Everyone goes into the new year wanting to eat better, lose weight and exercise. Those are the top three resolutions every year for a reason. Let’s make a lifestyle change and not just a new year’s resolution.”