FAIRFIELD, Conn. – Ken and Debbie O’Toole want you to get in shape at their new gym, Ozone Fitness Center. But the Fairfield couple doesn’t just want to “put you on a machine and count repetitions,” as Ken describes the approach in other gyms.
“I think that there is a need for a professional approach to personal training,” Ken says. “That needs to come back into the industry. And since the big-box clubs have forgotten about it, we find that there is a need for it.”
The O’Tooles have more than 35 years of work in fitness centers between them. Ken has focused mostly on business operations at larger gyms, while Debbie has been running classes since she was 19. After becoming disenchanted with the corporate structure of other gyms, the two opened Ozone last month.
The two pitch their new business as a way to “put the personal back in personal training.” Debbie meets with every one of the gym’s new clients to offer an evaluation and design a fitness plan. From there, the gym’s members work out in one-on-one sessions with trainers or in small classes.
“A lot of times people get lost in the back of the class, so they’re not getting the results that they want,” Debbie says. “So we have more of a shared personal training. A lot of people like that — they don’t like 5 million people in the class.”
The gym operates on a “zone fitness” system, which the O’Tooles describe as similar to a martial arts belt system. Their clients work on a series of basic exercises first. When their execution is perfect, they move on to higher levels. Once they’re ready, they test their skills in a small ceremony with friends and family to cheer them on.
The two also hope to specialize in focused training for youth sports. Part of the fitness center’s 5,000 square feet is a 25-yard indoor turf field ready for athletic drills. The O’Tooles have also decorated their gym with memorabilia from Fairfield’s four high schools and its universities.
Ken and Debbie also extended their personal approach to hiring staff. The O’Tooles “hand-picked” five trainers they had worked with in the past. Athletic training director Bill Fellah says the approach was better for him as an employee as well.
“In a commercial gym, you have really strict guidelines,” says Fellah. “We can really shape the way we want our clients to develop ourselves, as opposed to going to someone higher up.”
Ozone Fitness Center is located at 338 Commerce Drive, Fairfield. An open house will be held from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 20, with demonstrations and free fitness assessments. For more information, visit its website.