Maybe it’s the psychology major in him talking, but Method Fitness owner Amahl Harik says that hiring trainers who can understand and empathize with the gym’s clients is far more important than recruiting fitness experts for their technical skills.
Harik, who leveraged his 20 years of personal training experience into opening two Method Fitness gyms — first in Providence, and about a year ago adding a second location in East Greenwich — says he set out to create “a different environment from the typical gym — more cultured and sophisticated.”
After working for years in Boston, Harik opened his first Rhode Island gym on Westminster Street in Providence, across the street from Classical High School. At the time, the revival of the West Side neighborhood was still in its infancy, and the gym didn’t quite click with the local vibe. A move to Wayland Square was more successful, promoting Harik to relocate to a bigger space in Richmond Square about four years ago.
Both gyms have a decidedly different feel than a Planet Fitness or World Gym. In place of bold colors and acres of fitness equipment are rich architectural details and ample space for customized workouts.
Located in a former mill building, the soon-to-be-expanded, 2,400-square-foot Richmond Square gym has a huge former kiln in the middle, now ringed by the reception desk, with the interior converted into changing rooms. Guests at the rustic, high-ceilinged East Greenwich gym are greeted at a desk built from a slab of walnut, built by Harik himself. In place of pictures of jacked, attractive 20-somethings are lithographs taken from Grays Anatomy (the book, not the TV show).
People don’t necessarily come to a gym for the decor, but the warm colors and woody interiors are welcoming to “people who want to get fit, but don’t want to be in a gym environment,” says Harik.
At Method, most sessions are one-on-one, with personal trainers who are matched with clients after a detailed intake session, where information is gathered on fitness level, goals, and workout and injury history. The emphasis on personalization requires well-rounded professionals, says Harik.
“We look for trainers who are technically proficient but also smart, intuitive, and able to talk to adults,” he says. “We are less technicians than support people. You have to understand that this is a people business. I have clients who have been with me since the beginning, and the relationships we build with people is the most gratifying part of the job, along with seeing the changes we can make in people’s lives.”
Trainers and clients have access to typical gym equipment like free weights, benches, and exercise balls, but “the equipment is really the most incidental part of the equation,” says Harik. “A good trainer can give you a good workout using just a towel.”
“Our focus is on fundamental exercise that is fun and dynamic and interesting and fresh,” he says. Trainers create dynamic workouts that evolve over time, so the body is constantly challenged. A typical session is a mix of strength and conditioning, incorporating techniques drawn from everything from yoga and pilates to Olympic powerlifting. “We don’t believe in chasing all the latest trends,” Harik says.
Working out at Method Fitness isn’t cheap: a half-hour workout with a trainer is $45, and an hour costs $80 (there’s a 10 percent discount when buying a 10-pack of sessions). Harik suggests that clients work out two to three times per week to get good results, but that can include running or working out on your own, not just at the gym.
“However you want to approach it, we will support that,” he says. “The ultimate value proposition for us is that our clients leave feeling good.”