by Kathleen Dolan
On the corner of 20th Street and John F. Kennedy Boulevard in Philadelphia, there’s a place where everyone knows your name. And it’s not a bar. Instead, it’s a new fitness studio that, despite its sleek and shiny look, feels like a neighborhood gym.
F45 Training Center City is its name, and its owners are two physical therapists and graduates of Chestnut Hill College, Dan Vizak ’07 and Joseph Swoyer ’08. Their gym is part of an Australian-based franchise of fitness studios, F45 Training, that specialize in high-intensity interval training. Vizak and Swoyer’s location, which opened in May, is Philadelphia’s third F45 studio. Philadelphia Magazine’s Be Well Philly chose their studio as its “Studio of the Month” for July, and the magazine published a feature on it in May.
While their F45 gym is one of more than 1,500 in 45 countries across the world, Vizak and Swoyer’s message is exclusively their own: They want you to be part of a team and feel like family as much as they want you to have a good workout.
“It’s science driven,” Vizak said. “Results are guaranteed if you are consistent, and it’s designed so that you keep coming back.”
Swoyer added: “It may sound corny, but when you come here, you’re like family.”
The “F” in F45 stands for functional, meaning the workouts, of which there are more than 4,000 exercises, strengthen your muscles for everyday movement. Classes are themed and incorporate the entire body, balancing cardio and resistance training. Each class is 45 minutes long — hence the "45" in the name — and they begin as early as 5:45 a.m., making it an ideal place to exercise for the working person. The studio also offers clientele, whose ages range from 18 to 65 years old, an eight-week challenge and a diet plan.
“You never do the same thing twice — it keeps it fun,” Swoyer said.
As physical therapists and athletes, Vizak and Swoyer have unique and well-rounded insight into fitness training. In addition to operating the F45, Vizak works as a physical therapist for NovaCare, and Swoyer owns a physical therapy home care business, Fix Me Up PT.
For all its global reach, Vizak and Swoyer have created a space that is friendly and interactive. Each F45 follows a group-training structure, and Vizak and Swoyer are especially excited about this team aspect. Everyone works out together, and with professional trainers running the workouts, clients benefit from modifications and expert advice.
Swoyer described the functional movement screening as a significant element of F45. Offered to all new clients, the screening identifies deficits by looking at seven movements, such as squats, lunges, and push-ups. This allows the two to get an idea of each person’s strengths and weaknesses, like shoulder range or hamstring mobility.
“It’s not an anonymous gym experience,” Vizak said.
Vizak and Swoyer try to familiarize themselves with everyone that comes to the studio. For example, a young woman recently expressed concern to Vizak that she may miss a few classes while traveling for work. Vizak offered to call the hotel gym where she would be staying to figure out what equipment they had so he could customize a workout for her.
Vizak and Swoyer have known each other since elementary school. They both majored in biology at Chestnut Hill College and participated in college sports for a couple of years. Although they crossed paths many times, they didn’t become close friends until they were doctoral students at Arcadia University, where they both received doctorate degrees in physical therapy. The idea to combine their professional pursuits and passion for fitness in a business venture came about while working in their fields after graduation.
Two years ago, Vizak and Swoyer traveled to Maryland together to take their first F45 class and participate in other high-intensity workout programs like CrossFit and Orange Theory. But the two ultimately decided F45 was for them. In the end, they’re happy with the choice they made.
And health-conscious Philadelphians are, too.
F45 Training Center City is located at 1900 John F. Kennedy Blvd., Philadelphia, PA, 19103. For more information, please visit f45training.com/centercityphiladelphia/home or call 215-792-4345.