Trainer in Mystic exercises his right to grow
Mystic - Greg Drab started his personal-training business nearly 16 years ago, fresh out of college with a ton of energy but not a lot of experience.
"I couldn't find a job that paid better than Wal-Mart," he said. "So I created my own job."
With a small loan from his parents after finishing a master's degree in exercise science at the University of Connecticut, Drab started Advantage Personal Training in a 500-square-foot space. Because of the facility's small size, he did one-on-one training almost exclusively, starting with only a handful of clients.
Just last month, Drab made a giant leap in a new direction. The opening of a 7,000-square-foot building off Gold Star Highway - where a wide range of exercise equipment and an expansive, open setup allow for all the advantages of personal training as well as the option of group or even solo exercise - allows Drab's staff of 12 to offer anyone from a professional athlete to the weekend warrior a place to get fit.
The new training site is a stone's throw from the Mystic Indoor Sports facility that is a tennis club but soon will be providing space as well for baseball, football, lacrosse and soccer practices. And Drab sees synergies in having two health-related businesses in close proximity heading in new directions at the same time.
"Kids are inside too much," he said. "We have to find more ways to get them moving around."
At his new Advantage Personal Training facility, plenty of room means lots of space for moving around on knee-saving indoor sports carpets. Half the gym has been left open so clients can try out functional fitness exercises to burn calories and work on flexibility.
"We have lots of group exercises," Drab said. "This space is good for that."
Group exercise is one of the new and more affordable directions that a large space has offered up to Drab's 170 clients, most of whom followed him from his previous 3,600-square-foot facility at the former Old Mystic Mill. And the gym's wide-open spaces allow trainers to keep an eye on several clients at a time who can come in and work on exercise routines by themselves when they do not have a regular weekly appointment.
"Our people use our facility," Drab said.
On the other side of the high-ceilinged gym are plenty of weightlifting and cardio machines to build muscle and improve heart health. Free weights of various sizes line the walls as well.
Another part of the building soon will be outfitted with a fruit smoothie bar in keeping with the club's overall philosophy of improving dietary health as well as fitness - not to mention offering a social aspect to the facility. Rooms in the back are set aside for physical therapy and massage offered by professionals who lease the space.
Drab said Advantage Personal Training, which includes a business of the same name that he co-owns with Calvin McCoy in Niantic, is known for its philosophy of combining different forms of exercise to get the best results possible.
"I'm a fan of Bruce Lee," Drab said. "He studied many different martial arts and took the best things and made his own style. I like to learn the best methods from all the different (exercise) disciplines and evolve it into a training program."
Drab's philosophy attracts an interesting mix of clientele, with younger folks showing up early and late and an older crowd appearing midday. Clients include children with special needs and top athletes such as former NFL player Jacques Cesaire of the San Diego Chargers, Mets pitcher Matt Harvey when he attended Fitch High School and Heather Buck when she was burning up the basketball courts for Stonington High.
Drab has developed exercise programs to work on specific goals for many top athletes, but the majority of his clients have simpler requests, such as losing a couple of dress sizes, taking off a few pounds or improving strength. One of the best parts about his staff, Drab said, is they approach fitness from a variety of different backgrounds, including nutrition.
"Having a variety for folks is huge," Drab said. "We're the best part of our clients' day."
Name: Advantage Personal Training
Principal: Greg Drab
Where: 2906 Gold Star Highway, Mystic
Years in business: 16
No. of employees: 12
Ribbon cutting: 5:30 p.m. Friday, followed by a chili cookoff competition starting at 6 p.m.