The Training Station, a premier fitness facility in Philadelphia, Pa., can be found tucked away in a high-end plaza famous to the local area, called The Piazza at Schmidts. Amongst offices, restaurants and shops, the club resides on the third floor of an office building overlooking the Philadelphia skyline, and the view offers a unique workout experience to The Training Station’s members. Philip Clark, the owner and a former Olympic-caliber athlete, said that a unique member experience was what he was going for when he opened the club.
The idea to open the 5,000-square-foot club fell into Clark’s lap in 2008. “Bart Blatstein, the developer of the Piazza, wanted a gym to be a part of the community,” explained Clark. “One day, in the fall of 2008, he bluntly asked me, ‘Do you think you can run a gym?’ I answered, ‘yes.’ I worked through the night on a pro-forma and narrative of the project, and gave it to him the next day. He was impressed and encouraged me to develop the project with my resources. I spent every dime I had to develop and finalize the design.”
After hard work, and with help from Blatstein, Clark was ready to open The Training Station in February of 2009. However, he first wanted to pre-sell memberships. Nine months before the club’s grand opening, he opened a sneaker store, with an architect’s model of the gym inside — a calculated move by Clark.
“The sneaker store’s specialty was gait analysis, whereby a customer is filmed while running on a treadmill,” explained Clark. “The footage is downloaded to a computer and analyzed, and then particular shoes are recommended. I planned on closing the store when the gym opened, but the store was so popular that I moved it into the gym. I met so many people at the store that, by the gym’s opening day, there were hundreds of people who already knew about it, and there was a local news station doing a live broadcast.”
If the Training Station’s members aren’t impressed by the sneaker store, and the view of the Philadelphia skyline, they may be by the club’s state-of-the-art equipment, suitable for Olympic-level training.
“The local press repeatedly calls The Training Station the best gym for serious runners, powerlifters and Olympic weightlifters,” said Clark. “We are a good place for runners because a world-class runner owns the place — we have the city’s most recognized gait-analysis and shoe-fitting service, and the treadmills can run at 4-minute-mile speed. We are a good place for powerlifters and weightlifters because we have a collection of male and female barbells built to the exacting standards of the International Powerlifting Federation and the International Weightlifting Federation. No other commercial gym in Philadelphia has these particular services and equipment.”
The Training Station’s reputation for elite training didn’t spring from nowhere. It took hard work and motivation on Clark’s part. “My budget did not allow me to hire the number of employees that I planned on hiring, so I had to work constantly — as many as 110 hours per week,” said Clark. “The treadmills are calibrated every morning. The power racks are lubricated on a regular basis. We spend more than 20 hours a week cleaning each piece of equipment ourselves. When equipment is out of service, we schedule a service appointment, but we still try to fix it ourselves instead of waiting for a technician. When our members need something that we cannot give them, like specialized physical therapy, we contact the people that can help them.”
Clark’s hard work has brought recognition from the local community to The Training Station and its owner. “I believe that the best for the best, is the best for all,” said Clark. “So, we give our members the same things that elite athletes receive — a beautiful workout space, the best equipment in its class, expert coaching and unmatched experience with physical activity and health. Because we have created a place that allows members to train like pro athletes, no club in Philadelphia has received the amount of media coverage that The Training Station has.”
By Rachel Zabonick