When Rob Kennedy and Elisa Dely started Genesis Fitness & Wellness in March 2013, they were determined to provide the kind of personal training no one else was — in-home personal training, catering specifically to an older clientele, such as seniors who needed to improve their strength and mobility.
But they discovered pretty quickly that their customized, in-home model appealed to younger people as well. Now, almost three years later, Genesis has grown from the two of them to a roster of 20 personal trainers and 200 clients, and in January the company began offering its services in Grand Rapids.
“Our clientele has become really diverse,” Kennedy says. “We have clients that range from teens through 90-plus.”
“We are really seeing the growth in those who are in the mid-40s and older,” Dely says, “especially with those who are working professionals, because they don’t have the time. They really like the idea that you will come to their house and they don’t have to go out somewhere to exercise.”
Genesis Fitness & Wellness experienced 85 percent growth in the last year alone, and expanding its services to Grand Rapids was based on demand, Kennedy says. Genesis hired five new trainers just to work in that market.
“We started getting calls from people up there who had heard about us and wanted to know if we would come to Grand Rapids to work with them,” Dely says. “That happened often enough that we knew there wasn’t anyone up there providing the in-home services we did.”
But Genesis’ philosophy about personal training and working intimately with people in their home environments isn’t for everyone. Kennedy and Dely say they are challenged to find trainers who are as passionate about their kind of personal training as they are.
“It’s very intimate — we are in people’s personal spaces and we work with their physical beings. It’s never the same with any client,” Dely says. “You have to understand people’s physical needs and what they are trying to accomplish. Our trainers not only have to have the science and the knowledge, but they have to have the right personality, too. You can run people through workouts all day long, but if you don’t have the right personality for the person you are working with, then it’s not going to be successful for that person.”
To ensure that clients are matched with the right trainer for their needs and goals, Dely and Kennedy meet with clients before pairing them up with a trainer. Dely says they’ll spend an hour talking with potential clients to learn their goals, needs and limitations and then pick a trainer for them based on that information. And as clients’ goals change, they may need to be matched with another trainer.
“We are very upfront with our clients and trainers about the fact that we use a team approach,” Dely says. “Clients keep in contact with us to let us know how they are doing, and we’ll touch base with them. Sometimes a client might change their goals, such as deciding they want to start training for a 10K or they are going to have knee surgery and need a trainer that focuses on and has experience in that, so we pull in another trainer to work with them.
“It’s about what’s right for the client.”
Another service that Genesis offers is nutritional counseling. Dely is a certified nutritional specialist and believes that a complete fitness regimen includes dietary choices as well as exercise.
In the U.S., research has shown that the number of meals people eat away from home, such as getting fast food and going to restaurants, is increasing. Dely says that it’s important to recognize this trend and help people figure out how to eat away from home in a healthy manner.
“I have one client who works full time and whose children are in sports, and she’s constantly on the go, so the best way for her family to eat is to grab and go,” Dely says. “We work with that — help her to see the healthy options there are for them. We go to where people get their food and give them helpful hints to make the best choices – whether they are eating at The Union or Panera or grocery shopping at Meijer.”
While Genesis’ hallmark is its in-home training, the company has an agreement with Snap Fitness to use its facility at 2026 Parkview Ave. for those clients who opt not to do in-home training.
Genesis trainers charge $65 an hour for their services.
Dely and Kennedy say that while their business’s growth has been fun and challenging, they aren’t motivated by the financial reward.
“You have to be driven by the small successes, like watching an 80-year-old go from starting out lifting soup cans to progressing to 10-pound weights,” Dely says. “It’s thrilling to see people’s lives changed.”