Thirteen years after opening on Chagrin Boulevard near Warrensville Center Road, Club Fit, like those who work out there, is still going strong.
By Zachary Lewis
Owner Philip Stotter isn’t big on marketing, or even street presence. The way he sees it, all he needs to generate traffic is word of mouth, recommendations by current clients.
“I’ve always liked to let people come to me,” says Stotter, a physical therapist turned gym owner and inventor. “I felt if I had a good service, the word would get out.”
The strategy seems to be working. And with good reason. Unlike just about every other gym in Northeast Ohio,
Club Fit has a fruitful target demographic: older adults, ages 55 and up. It’s an age group drastically under-served by traditional fitness centers and sometimes in need of help mastering functional movement or regaining mobility after a fall or visit to the hospital.
Seemingly simple movements like sitting, standing, climbing, and picking up objects, “These are the things we lose as we age, and we don’t even know we’re losing them,” Stotter says. “Really what we’re looking to do here
is help people function better in life.”
Most clients at Club Fit work closely with Stotter or one of his specialized trainers to develop and go through a
custom exercise or functional movement plan. Those who can are free to use the equipment on their own.
Others, meanwhile, work alone or in small groups on “Big Red,” Club Fit’s nickname for the equipment at the heart of Active Aging 360, a program Stotter developed recently and hopes to take nationwide.
Big Red has eight exercise stations, each equipped with a screen and a virtual assistant known as AAVA, and allows users to go through a structured regimen of exercises simulating real-world movements like getting out of bed, placing objects on shelves, climbing steps and ladders, and picking up bags of groceries.
Over time, users improve their stability, core strength, flexibility, and proprioception, all of which are key to preventing falls and injuries, avoiding the hospital, and living independently. At the moment, Stotter also is developing an electronic shoe insert that will monitor balance, foot position, and weight distribution, and communicate that data to a smartphone app.
“I’m trying to break down the barriers between what’s fitness and what’s therapy,” Stotter says. “I really love helping people. I love what I do.”
He also loves Shaker Heights. Although he’s not currently a resident, he’s definitely a fan, having grown up and attended school here. He brought Club Fit to Shaker in an effort to serve a population he knew to be savvy, close-knit, and health-conscious.
“It’s that kind of place,” Stotter says. “People know who I am.”