When the YMCA announced in 2014 that it was closing its Eastern Avenue recreation center, fitness trainer Paul McCarthy didn’t come up with the idea of opening a gym in the Arden Arcade area where he could continue teaching his yoga and strength and conditioning classes.
Instead, Linda Martin, a retired Sacramento State communications professor, and about 35 other YMCA members cajoled McCarthy into looking for a place where they could continue training with him. McCarthy had designed his YMCA classes with mature adults in mind, people age 50 and up, he said, and he had found that helping them overcome the challenges of aging was rewarding.
“It was an opportunity to get people interested in themselves for the long term,” said McCarthy, 59, who worked in sales for much of his adult life. “I wasn’t selling something. I was selling people on themselves and what they were capable of doing … I fell in love with it.”
Together, he and his students found a new 6,000-square-foot home at 4440 Marconi Ave. in late 2014. McCarthy called the gym FIT4U, naming it for the personal training business he has operated since 2003.
McCarthy continues to offer personal training at FIT4U, a service that drew Lawrence and Susan Crane, the owners of Sacramento’s Party Concierge. Susan Crane, who’s in her early 60s, told me that McCarthy was recommended to her by social marketing guru Anne Staines of Sagent Marketing and later discovered that he also worked with her neighbor, attorney Mark Ellis.
“I’m more flexible,” said Crane, who joined FIT4U in January. “I’ve also seen a big improvement in my core and my movement. It gets so where you don’t move as well as you used to, and you have to get up off the floor, and ‘Oh, my God, that’s an effort.’ ”
The 69-year-old Martin, who has worked out with McCarthy for about five years, said the trainer doesn’t let his students get away with playing the “I’m too old for this” card, though plenty of people still try it.
“He’s so knowledgeable … about what’s going on in the body,” she said. “He can see how we’re doing exercises, and he notices if any of us are doing them in a way that could be unproductive or harmful.”
McCarthy said he and two other FIT4U instructors work in concert with doctors, chiropractors and physical therapists to improve overall health and wellness, not just fitness. However, it’s not just about the instructors, he said. The students who inspired him to open a storefront for FIT4U have created an atmosphere of community at the gym.
“Wellness usually doesn’t take place on your own,” he said. “It’s a mental state. What we do here is come, socialize. We go on walks. I see the older group of people telling new members, ‘Here’s what was going on with me. Here’s where I went. And, here’s where I’m at now.’ We support one another.”
Besides personal training, McCarthy said, he and two other instructors offer classes in yoga, tai chi, exercise ball, and strength and conditioning. He thinks carefully about his customer profile before adding any classes, he said, because he wants to be sure it fulfills a need.
He said he is hoping to add classes for people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia because physical exercise has been associated with a lower risk of losing cognitive abilities. And he is looking into getting trained in hanna somatics, a type of mind-body training that has helped many people manage and alleviate chronic muscular pain.
“I’m incorporating things that are really viable for everyone,” McCarthy said. “Everyone is going to have something that they can do. It isn’t about pushing people to the next stage. It isn’t about them just being fit.”
Some yoga instructors want to push clients to do increasingly difficult poses, McCarthy said, but that’s not the goal at FIT4U. At his gym, he said, the goal is to improve relaxation, flexibility, balance and overall mental wellness.
“I’ve seen a lot of individuals who will go and pump iron, but they’ve got a lot of other stuff going on,” he said. “They may be just as fit as you can imagine. They can lift 60 pounds, but they can’t handle the next crisis that comes along. Is that person well?”