A Health and Fitness Visionary
Sharon Gutwin, a physical therapist and the owner of the RehabGYMs in Vermont, considers herself to be a visionary in the health and fitness industry. In 2003 she opened the first RehabGYM location, which combined fitness and physical therapy.
“As a physical therapist, I saw potential in using my profession in a proactive, preventative manner,” explained Gutwin. “Exercise, along with good nutrition, is fundamental to health and active aging. I also saw an opportunity to offer more to people in physical rehabilitation, than is typical in a traditional clinic.”
With three separate locations in the Williston, Vt. area, the RehabGYM offers members options in athletic training, along with physical therapy and aquatic therapy. Additionally, in Vermont, if the member’s insurance provider includes physical therapy, RehabGYM can accept payment via the insurance provider. “Insurers (in Vermont) pay for any physical therapy by a licensed and credentialed physical therapist, no matter what setting, provided the rules of care are followed,” said Gutwin. “And, now in Vermont, insurers are obligated to cover physical rehabilitation by an athletic trainer — not to be confused with a personal trainer.”
According to the American Council on Exercise®, athletic trainers are certified health care professionals who have the ability to assess and treat acute and chronic injuries and illnesses, versus personal trainers, who have the ability “to develop and implement fitness programs for clients who have no apparent physical limitations, or who have received medical clearance to exercise.”
Due to its medical-oriented services, the RehabGYM’s amenities were designed to revolve around rehabilitation and wellness. “The RehabGYM has what is typical of a physical therapy clinic, and what is typical of a fitness gym,” explained Gutwin. “When I began, there were no medically-oriented gyms. And today, I know of no other true gym, and true physical therapy clinic, as one facility. The facility, in design and systems, functions as one place for fitness, prevention and rehabilitation.”
A unique amenity of the Williston location, designed specifically for physical therapy, is the pool, which features an underwater treadmill, and a continuous current that members can swim against for resistance training. “The range of equipment is broader to service the full spectrum of physical exercise, in combination with offering high-quality rehab services,” said Gutwin.
Although the club has been successful in Vermont, Gutwin said she faced skepticism from other physical therapists when she first opened. “Being a visionary, I anticipated this,” she said. Additionally, Gutwin’s business took a blow when a manager she had hired, left the club to open a competing facility nearby. However, Gutwin learned from the negative experience. “From this experience I have instituted more legal protection of both intellectual property and physical property, which is important prior to launching the RehabGYM nationally. Every challenge has brought opportunity for personal and professional growth, and the business is stronger for what is gained. We now have a much more qualified manager in place, which I am excited about, going into the future.”
In addition to her members, Gutwin, as a local business owner, has made additional commitments. “I have a strong commitment to the community, and will offer services and sponsorships when and where I can,” she said. “Charitable giving plays a vital role in any good, ethical business. The RehabGYM’s staff volunteers countless hours raising support in a wide variety of ways, including for local sports, events, cancer research, Special Olympics, adaptive sports, music, humane societies, Make a Wish, leukemia research, Girls on the Run … I want the RehabGYM to be known for being truly caring and generous. The keys to success of the RehabGYM are a good reputation as being ethical, unique, genuine and focused on relationships.”
By Rachel Zabonick