Healing Power – Geist Fitness

Geist Fitness strives to bridge the gap between physical fitness training and health care

Writer  /  Jon Shoulders

Ben Mitchell, Teresa Damush, Jake McKinley, Joe Damush and rescued golden retriever Ricky.

Ask a member of the training staff at Geist Fitness and they’ll tell you physical exercise can be much more than a technique to blow off stress or enhance energy levels – it can actually serve as a form of medicine.

Each trainer at Geist Fitness, a locally owned, private club on Fall Creek Road, holds an Exercise is Medicine (EIM) certification – a worldwide health initiative launched in 2007 by the American Medical Association and the American College of Sports Medicine to integrate physical activity more closely with the U.S. healthcare system. General manager and full-time trainer Ben Mitchell, a Brownsburg native who has been with Geist Fitness for nearly five years, says local physicians and therapists refer chronic disease and post-rehabilitation patients to his facility, where he and fellow EIM-certified trainer Jake McKinley create fitness programs tailored to individual clients.

“The rehab or hospital phase is a temporary fix, and people need to remember that after they’re done with that phase it’s still an ongoing process to keep their bodies healing and functioning, and that’s where we come in to fill that void,” Mitchell says.

Clients may find themselves sweating away on cable machines, stability and medicine balls, free weights and step platforms under the close guidance of their trainer at Geist Fitness, which Mitchell says is currently the only facility in the state where all trainers are EIM Level II certified.

“The Level II certification means we can work with post-rehab clients and those with orthopedic or chronic disease issues after they’ve been cleared by their doctor and move out of that rehab setting,” Mitchell explains. “We’re trying to make connections with a lot of hospitals in the area, which is something we’ll be hitting hard through 2017 to establish client referrals.”

Mitchell says Geist Fitness members don’t have to deal with the sorts of distractions common to many fitness establishments, such as the constant clanging of weights from throngs of exercisers or long waits for equipment use. The facility, founded by owner and New Jersey native Joe Damush in 2000 after he relocated from California, has recently transitioned away from offering general memberships and group classes, and all of its clients are personal trainees.

“We’re a small, boutique-style gym – we’re not the big-box, intimidating type of place, and I think that’s what people like about our setting,” Mitchell says. “It’s always fairly quiet in here, with Jake and I as the full-time trainers and Joe doing some training as well. People can’t just come in the door to join and work out on their own. We do that because we want room to work with our clients who like the privacy and that personal connection.”

In the spirit of advancing the healing power of exercise, McKinley says the workout routines customized for clients at Geist Fitness, centered on pragmatic, functional body strength, can improve day-to-day living for post-rehab individuals and make daily tasks easier for those of advanced years.     

“Functional exercises are typically full-body movements that use multiple joints and planes of movement while emphasizing stability of the core musculature,” says McKinley, who has been with Geist Fitness for nearly two years. “It’s all about teaching all the muscles to work together rather than isolating them to work independently.”

McKinley says such training can improve balance and coordination, making daily tasks as simple as getting in and out of a vehicle easier for aging adults. One of McKinley’s clients is local Geist publisher Tom Britt.

“For me, it’s not about trying to get huge and kick sand in people’s faces, it’s about quality of life,” said Britt. “I turned 50 this year so staying flexible, active, and keeping as trim as possible is more important to me now. My training sessions with Jake are just part of my weekly schedule.”

Mitchell’s credentials also include certification with the Titleist Performance Institute (TPI), an educational organization specializing in fitness and physical rehabilitation geared specifically toward something near and dear to the hearts of many seniors and retirees – the golf swing. Steve Bullerdick, a Fishers resident and avid golfer who began TPI training with Mitchell in February of 2016, says the program has helped him shed a few unwanted pounds, increase his agility and enhance his golfing prowess in the process.

“I was an ironworker for 28 years and I’ve always had some strength, but when I retired in June of 2015 I could tell I wasn’t as nimble as I wanted,” Bullerdick says. “With the TPI you’re working out and using weights, but it’s incorporated in swing motions. I ended up developing muscle and losing several pounds within the first few months of training with Ben. It’s a lot of focusing on the hips, core, upper arms and shoulders.”   

Mitchell feels the TPI training program, while related specifically to the improvement of his clients’ golf abilities, ties in to the general mission of the Geist Fitness staff – to provide the local community with a means of enhancing their physical well-being.

“Basically, people are looking for improved quality of life, and that’s the majority of our clients,” Mitchell adds. “They want to be able to get through a day and play with their kids without pain. It’s like the old saying that you can’t enjoy your wealth if you don’t have your health. It’s important to be able to physically do what you want to do and enjoy your life in that way.”

For additional information on Geist Fitness, including personal training programs, call (317) 595-8990 or visit geistfitness.com. For information on the Titleist Performance Institute program offered at Geist Fitness, go to geistfitnesstpi.com.

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