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Nontraditional approach keeps family-owned gym business fit

Juan Carlos Santana is founder of the Institute of Human Performance in Boca Raton, a gym for fitness consumers that also serves as a campus for professionals seeking more fitness education, certifications and training.

The business is a reflection of his personal philosophy rather than a corporate strategy, says Santana. He views himself as an artist first and says his business has grown much the same way, organically.

He said he approaches the concept of fitness as a community need. The facility has a resource library featuring DVDs and books. And it serves as a research and development site for equipment manufacturers and an internship site for universities. It offers specialty certification programs and is a training site for law enforcement and security. It also is a training site for high school, college and professional athletes.

Santana's business is family-friendly in a variety of ways, he says. His own family: sisters, his mother and his children play roles in running the company. And fitness training programs are geared for all consumers: moms, dads, children and grandparents.

Creating relevance has given the company staying power in a tough economy, says Santana who is also a contributor to peer review journals and trade magazines.

Details:

Institute of Human Performance, 1950 NW Boca Raton Blvd., Boca Raton. Web: ihpfit.com. 561-620-9556

The drill-down:

When did your idea first occur to you? In 1999, after working in several gyms, I knew that creativity could not survive in the standard gym. Most gyms are commercially driven, and to this day, most big gyms are based on client failure not client success. The machine that drives the modern gym is "sell memberships at a faster rate then their members quit, increase the EFT at all cost." We don't keep clients by wrapping them up in a contract — we earn their business with superior service and a incredible environment.

What steps did you take to ensure keeping the business up and running despite the economy?

I expanded my educational tour and certifications to the international market. I toured 21 countries in 2009. Now, students from all over the world come to IHP to learn about training methodology. Additionally, our international scope allowed us to secure a significant fitness endorsement contract from TechnoGym, the largest equipment company in the world. The timing is not strategic in nature, but rather an organic evolution of our work and moving forward at a pace that has not been seen in our industry.

You'll be celebrating a re-grand opening Jan. 14. What significance does this have? We've seen other gyms fall like snowflakes over the last 10 years. Every person who likes to exercise wants to use their life's savings to open a gym. That's like someone who likes to eat opening up a restaurant. The prediction: inside of 2-3 years about 95 percent of entrepreneurial hopefuls will lose their life's savings and some shrewd business guy buys the equipment/location as part of bankruptcy for 15 cents on the dollar. Like most people in successful businesses today, IHP has been through a lot. Over the last 3 years, 7 gyms within a 6-mile radius of IHP have closed. This is an invitation to the community to show what they have right at their doorstep.

What's your philosophy on owning and running a business.

I'm more of the artist type, IHP was never meant to be a traditional gym, thus the name. It was meant to be a laboratory; an 'art-room,' a place where trainers, employees and outside fitness professionals, could come and train their clients with no creative restrictions and with the latest training methods.

What is the best advice you ever received? Stay small, work hard, don't compare yourself to the competition — they are usually way behind you. Dare to dream.



13 Fitness Tips

Develop strength before cardio.

If it has a label, don't eat it.

Develop your core before your extremities.

Train for flexibility through functional strength training — not static stretching.

Train integrated movements not just isolated muscles.

Give yourself at least 2 weeks to establish a habit.

Don't train through pain.

Don't copy generic workouts.

Don't train with a trainer just because they have a great body.

Don't lift without a spotter.

Don't advance too fast — follow proper progression.

Don't do your cardio before your strength training.

Don't buy snacks for the house.

Details:

Institute of Human Performance, 1950 NW Boca Raton Blvd., Boca Raton. Web: ihpfit.com. 561-620-9556

ckent@tribune.com or 954-356-4662 Twitter.com @mindingyourbiz

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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