Trainers wrestle for use of Payne Whitney

For the first time next month, Yalies will be able to select personal fitness training provided by Payne Whitney Gymnasium officials. But two students who recently began their own training business say they’re being muscled out.

Michael Jones ’12 and Gregory Mittl ’12, the founders of F15, will meet with Ezra Stiles College Master Stephen Pitti
Michael Jones ’12 and Gregory Mittl ’12, the founders of F15, will meet with Ezra Stiles College Master Stephen Pitti

Both Payne Whitney and the student start-up began designing separate training programs this fall, without each other’s knowledge. The students, Michael Jones ’12 and Gregory Mittl ’12, had intended to conduct some of their sessions in Payne Whitney, but Duke Diaz, the director of intramurals, Payne Whitney and recreation who was appointed by Yale Athletics this fall, has since told them they could not use the gym. The two sides met Wednesday to discuss how the gym and the company can coexist but came away without a solution.

Now that the gym will house its own personal trainers, Diaz said it makes no sense to allow a competing business to operate in the gym.

“It’s not someplace that’s to be used for a private profit center,” Diaz said. “It’s something that I’m not going to allow.”

But Jones said whether or not they can forge a partnership with the gym, he and Mittl plan to continue their business.

“Our training is not contingent on using the facilities, so [the program] will continue,” he said, adding that membership rates would be unaffected.

COMPETING FOR CLIENTS?

Last spring, Jones and Mittl founded F15 Training to help freshmen combat the proverbial “freshman 15.” They have since expanded their target demographic to all Elis.

“Yalies’ lives are stressful,” Mittl said. “And the impetus to work out sometimes gets pushed aside. Working out is a crucial part of surviving the Yale experience.”

When classes started, F15 Training began posting flyers around campus and meeting with potential clients. Jones said he now has two clients — one is a Yale student, and the other is a family friend he trains over the online video chatting service Skype.

In addition to weightlifting routines, Jones said his and Mittl’s sessions also include activities such as yoga, body weight exercises such as pushups, balance training and core stabilization, Jones said.

Meanwhile, Payne Whitney Gymnasium has been devising its own personal training program since last year. Payne Whitney fitness center supervisor Elias Georges collaborated with another independent student trainer, Joshua Colon ’10, over the summer to draft the gym’s training procedures and liability documents, Colon said. Payne Whitney plans to launch its program in October, when Colon leaves for Oxford, England, to study pharmacology.

(Georges could not be reached for comment last week because he is on medical leave.)

Colon, a pre-medical political science major in Silliman College who “worked closely” with the managers of Payne Whitney for three years, launched his own independent company at Yale this summer. After a month of marketing using flyers, Craigslist and business cards, Colon said, he acquired a steady influx of clients, but he declined to say how many. Most of them are graduate students, staff and faculty, he said.

Since June, Colon has expanded his business, which does not yet have a name, by forming a partnership with United Kingdom-based dietary supplement producer Protein Power. The drug company would refer its clients to Colon’s to expand his clientele, and vice versa. Colon said he has already 10 clients awaiting him in Oxford.

“Profits have been excellent so far,” Colon said, declining to give the amount. “I have enough clients to not worry about Oxford educational loans.”

Colon said he has already been offered a position at LA Fitness in Oxford but hopes to find work as a personal trainer in Miami, his hometown, once he returns to the U.S.

‘LIKE THE WILD WEST’

The F15 founders met with Diaz last Wednesday to try to hash out a compromise, but Jones said they need more time. After Wednesday’s meeting, the founders decided to halt their marketing thrust and postpone consultations with potential clients until after they meet with Diaz again this Wednesday, Jones said.

He added that he and Mittl will meet with Ezra Stiles College Master Stephen Pitti to discuss the possible use of the Morse-Ezra Stiles gym, which is under the control of both colleges’ masters. Pitti declined to comment Sunday.

Regardless, Jones said, the F15 founders are purchasing training equipment using their own money in order to stay independent, if they need to.

Diaz said he is looking to hire qualified applicants to serve as personal trainers, and Jones said that he and his partner might join Payne Whitney if it offers programming that allows them to use their training methods. But in Wednesday’s meeting, Jones said, he got the impression that Diaz did not yet have a clear vision for the program.

“Until Payne Whitney understands what [its personal training program] looks like, we won’t understand what it looks like,” he said. “The Payne Whitney program is extremely young, almost pre-infancy. Trainers haven’t been hired, and there’s no real programming or vision that we sense.”

Diaz acknowledged that Payne Whitney officials have not finalized details of the program, but he said Payne Whitney should offer personal training by the end of October at the latest.

Colon also said Payne Whitney has a bit more work to do to ensure the success of the new personal training program. Colon said Payne Whitney has missed some important networking opportunities, such as the Sept. 6 New Haven Road Race, an event that attracted more than 1,000 locals and potential Payne Whitney clients.

Diaz said Payne Whitney officials have no firm marketing plans, but they intend to use a variety of methods, such as University e-mails and flyers.

Yale is one of the last Ivy League schools to include personal training among its athletic offerings. Princeton has had its own personal trainers since 1995, and Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania also have established programs. These universities also prohibit other personal training companies from using their facilities.

“I think it’s an enormous mistake for a fitness center — whether it is a college or commercial gym — to allow outsiders to use its resources for personal gain,” said Matthew Brzycki, Princeton’s assistant director of campus recreation. “Personal training must be regulated otherwise it becomes like the Wild West.”

But Jones said he and Diaz did find some common ground, because they both care about the fitness and health of Yale students. Jones said students will have quality fitness options no matter what happens.

“People will be taken care of,” he said, “and there will be more fitness offerings than last year.”

Payne Whitney’s fitness facility, the Adrian C. Israel Fitness Center, has 20,000 square feet of strength and conditioning equipment.

Correction: Sept. 22, 2010

This article “Trainers wrestle for use of PWG” inaccurately described the ownership of the gym in the basement of Ezra Stiles and Morse colleges. Both Ezra Stiles Master Stephen Pitti and Morse Master Frank Keil control the gym, not only Pitti. Additionally, Pitti had not heard of the proposal by Michael Jones ’12 and Gregory Mittl’s ’12 to use the Morse-Ezra Stiles gym prior to his conversation with the News on Sunday night.

Comments

  • Mel_

    I’ve worked with Josh, he runs a great program and is very professional. His workouts really challenged me and helped get me out of a rut with my routine. Payne Whitney’s lucky to have him advise on starting up the new program.