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Koko FitClub brings the computer age to the local gym

Published 1:41 pm, Sunday, June 10, 2012

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  • Stephanie Weinstein, master fitness coach at the new Koko FitClub, demonstrates the strength equipment. Photo by Ian Brash, June 8, 2012, Darien, Conn. Photo: Contributed Photo
    Stephanie Weinstein, master fitness coach at the new Koko FitClub, demonstrates the strength equipment. Photo by Ian Brash, June 8, 2012, Darien, Conn. Photo: Contributed Photo

 

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When was the last time you went to the gym? If the answer is, "I can't remember," you might want to speak with Darien resident Steve Powell. A former bond trader turned Ironman World Championship contestant and avid marathon runner, Powell wants to show residents how his new Koko FitClub can change their lives.

"It's the computer age being brought to fitness," Powell said of the Boston-based franchise, which has locations throughout the country. "Eighty-four percent of Americans don't belong to a gym, and we're trying to solve that."

The Koko FitClub, which opened May 31 at Goodwives Shopping Center, seeks to address the main complaints people have of gyms. For starters, the workout doesn't take long. Inefficient and misguided workout regimens, which can take upwards of two hours, are refined into a lean and well-organized 30-minute core strength-training program and a 15-minute cardio exercise, Powell said.

"It's a terrific approach to fitness for anyone from 15 years of age to 80," he added.

Financially speaking, Koko has done something no other gym can: remove the cost of a personal trainer. For $89 a month -- which, according to Powell, many local trainers charge per hour -- Koko provides the benefits of a personally tailored workout regimen that even a professional trainer would envy. The secret behind Koko's success, described by Business Week as "what the fitness industry needs," is taking the guesswork out of going to the gym.

"It's a customized workout that is achievable," Powell said. "Clients are totally self-sufficient."

A gym membership comes with a small white flash drive -- a Koko key -- which users plug into one of two different types of machines, one for cardio training and one for strength training. The machine calibrates the client's initial strength and endurance, height and measurements, including arm length to torso length, and then tailors a workout to those specifications.

Clients can also amp up their routines if they're working toward specific goals. If you want to gain greater athletic prowess or simply burn fat, there are programs geared for those objectives. If you have breast cancer, diabetes, arthritis or various other ailments, there are exercise routines tailored for you.

Powell believes that the daunting prospect of designing a workout, especially to alleviate the complications of something as complex as arthritis, can overwhelm even the most determined individuals under normal circumstances.

"People feel they don't know what they're doing," he said.

Because clients only change machines once and feel less distracted by their environment, he feels Koko addresses common gym grievances.

The strength machine, which looks like a souped-up Bowflex, has a video display that walks clients through each workout and, among other features, monitors pace.

When a client first sits at the machine, he is welcomed by a simulated personal trainer which instructs him on how much weight should be used, the proper form and technique for each exercise, and also uses past achievements to motivate. Over time, by successfully keeping pace and reaching milestone goals, Koko members receive points that can be redeemed for various "prizes" offered at the gym, including lanyards and T-shirts. Powell is engaged in a competition with fellow staff members to attain the symbolic trophies. In addition, users can monitor past successes and historical capability online using a web page designed specifically for Koko members.

"Were not really a gym, we're something completely different," Powell said. "The program constantly challenges your body and never lets your muscles get complacent."

Coming from an Ironman participant, we'll take his word for it.

For more information, call 203-309-5050 or visit Darien.kokofitclub.com