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A Unique Model

Timothy Callaghan balances facility ownership and management with hands-on training.

Subject: Timothy J. Callaghan, CPT, LMT

Company: Liberty Fitness, New York City

A Unique Business Model. Liberty Fitness employs six personal trainers and three massage therapists, and an additional 50 independent-contractor trainers use this space. “We are one of the few facilities in New York City that has its own staff and is also open to independent trainers,” says owner Timothy Callaghan. “Our state-of-the-art computerized card-access system allows us to handle the traffic smoothly. Prepaid access passes can be purchased for any number of visits. Gym entry is recorded by the system, and training sessions are billed separately.”

Wearing Different Hats. Callaghan limits his work with clients to between 15 and 20 hours a week so that he has time for his duties as owner of the facility and for managing the staff. “I have worked with some of my clients for 10–15 years, but I don’t take on any new clients,” he says. “My hand-picked trainers come from the college program where I am on the faculty. The students go through an internship at Liberty Fitness after which they are equipped to work with new or current clients.”

Serving as a Fitness Matchmaker. If a would-be client calls or walks through the door of Liberty Fitness, how are they assigned to a trainer? “Depending on the needs of the client, I can assign them to one of our staff trainers or, if scheduling or programming is a problem, I have 50 independent contractors to choose from. I’m like a personal training matchmaker! I enjoy all the different trainers here. It’s interesting to be in the gym where everyone uses different techniques and philosophies.”

Performing a Detailed Screening. Callaghan’s comprehensive physical assessments are unique to Liberty Fitness. “Thorough prescreening tells us a lot about patterns of physical weakness or tightness so that we can safely select the right exercises for our clients to keep them moving forward, not backward.”

Types of Clientele. Who trains at Liberty Fitness? “People of all ages, many of them Baby Boomers,” he says. “I’ve educated myself and my staff to work with special populations and special conditions, so we can help a broad range of people.”

Inspiring the World to Fitness. Callaghan prides himself on the nonthreatening atmosphere at his facility. “We call ourselves ‘The Alternative to the Overcrowded Mega Gym,’” he says. “Clients really appreciate the atmosphere.”

What do clients appreciate about Callaghan as a trainer? “I’ve spent a lot of time educating myself,” he says. As a former professional dancer and choreographer, I have a good eye for proper form and body alignment. I can modify basic exercises to the ‘nth degree’ for variety, or to meet special needs. Clients really appreciate this creativity.”

Biggest Challenge. Callaghan says that, as a business owner, it’s demanding to keep up with growing competition. “Our business definitely has a specialty niche, but consumers have many choices in NYC. We give ourselves an edge by maintaining the facility incredibly well. Many first-time clients think the 7-year-old gym is brand-new.”

Why He Loves His Work. Callaghan isn’t interested in being known as the trainer who works clients harder than anyone else. “I can do that, but that’s not what lights my fire,” he says. “When clients come in who have had surgeries or joint replacements and are in pain, I love to look at what is tight or weak and what is unbalanced in their bodies. I then focus on helping them create optimal structural balance so that they can do whatever they want. I train a few people in their 70s who still play singles tennis or do downhill skiing and feel in the best shape of their lives. That’s exciting.”

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