Fitness in Hoboken
Mile Square Fitness Flourishes
Hoboken fitness instructors enjoy Manhattan salaries in a small town environment.
Hobokenites are a health conscious bunch. Just walk along the promenade by the Hudson on a given day during the morning or evening rush hour, and you’ll witness oodles of runners, walkers, bikers and skaters getting their daily burst of adrenaline.
Gyms are dense within the Mile Square. There are eight official fitness facilities and many new condos have gyms of their own. Three swimming pools are open for use to the public. Dance studios abound, and yoga and Pilates studios are multiplying by the minute. There is a gym specifically for kickboxing and facilities that offer classes in the Martial Arts.
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Fitness professionals from areas as varied as personal training to yoga are thriving in this fitness minded community. Mara Kimowitz, a beautiful former professional dancer with the Mark Morris Dance Group and still makes guest appearances with the Metropolitan Opera, is now a personal trainer in Hoboken. At 27 years old, Kimowitz is content about having retired to the Mile Square several years ago.
“I’ve never had a problem finding clients in Hoboken,” Kimowitz says. She has seen her clientele increase at a consistent rate since she moved to Hoboken and even works six days a week to meet her client’s needs. “I thought that business would slow down a bit during the summer, but new clients are calling me,” she says.
Robert Hicks concurs. “Opportunities for fitness professionals in Hoboken are getting better and better,” says Robert Hicks, a personal trainer at the YMCA. “There is always an open window for new teaching opportunities.”
Hicks has been employed by the YMCA for the past eight years, during the last five of which he worked as a personal trainer. His diverse clientele – stockbrokers, stay-at-home Moms, hairdressers, and college students – is increasing as the population of the town is swelling with newcomers.
And some of his devoted customers are trying to lure him away from the YMCA, to their home, or the gym in their building. But Hicks won’t budge. “My schedule is so packed that training people in other buildings hasn’t come up yet,” he says.
Why so drawn to working in Hoboken?
“Instructors love to work in this town because Hoboken residents love to push themselves,” says Sabrina Sarabella, the administrator of the Group Fitness program at the New York Sports Club.
According to Sarabella, roughly 75% percent of the instructors she employs at her gym are part time. They teach classes at night to break the monotony of their day jobs, and to find a creative outlet. “They teach because they love fitness, and want to share it with an enthusiastic group of people.”
Betsy Stem, a part time aerobics instructor at the NYSC who is a designer for AH Schriver swimwear, looks forward to teaching her class on nights and weekends. Stem, who grew up dancing and teaching aerobics classes with her Mom, has taught in Hoboken for the past 8 years.
“I love teaching in Hoboken because everyone is in the same frame of mind but it’s not as competitive as it is in Manhattan,” Stem says. She thinks that because gym memberships are so pricey in the city, Manhattan dwellers are much more critical of their instructors. “If the class doesn’t live up to clients’ expectations, they walk-out,” she says. “That doesn’t happen in Hoboken.”
Fitness professionals can shop around Hoboken’s manifold gyms to find the right work environment. “Each club has its own personality,” says Lizette Suvach, a former instructor who taught at H.A.C. and the YMCA for 8 years. “As long as you get into a club that fits your personality, you will have more opportunity to grow your career.”
Lisa Picek, former head-coach of the Stevens Sharks swimming team left her coaching job, and applied to various gyms in Hoboken to work as a Personal Trainer. She was looking for a club with a flexible schedule, positive gym environment, and an increase in salary. After going on several interviews, Picek decided that she wants to manage her time start her own Personal Training Business.
But after going on several interviews, Picek decided to start her own Personal Training business because she wants to manage her time, make more money, and do what she loves. At a gym, clients pay about $60 dollars an hour, and the trainer only pockets half or a third of the price. “I win and the client wins,” Picek says. “I can go to the clients’ home and transport the equipment, but I can keep the difference that the gym would otherwise keep.”
Picek believes that her BA in exercise science, and knowledge of kinesthesiology, physiology, and anatomy will enable her to better train clients. “But Hoboken residents should watch out,” she says. “There are some individuals without credentials on other Hoboken websites who try to market themselves as professional trainers.”
With so many places to choose from, Hoboken residents and instructors are happy. “With so many clubs in one square mile, people can now choose a place that is convenient for them based on where they live or work in town, which is a major determinant as to whether one will use a gym,” says Suvach.
“The amount of clubs offering group fitness classes has nearly doubled in such a short time and the variety of classes keeps developing based on what the trends are in the industry – and I think that the classes offered in Hoboken health clubs are of the same calibur as some of the top NYC clubs,” says Suvach.
Staying up to date
Kimowitz, the former dancer turned trainer, already an expert in several areas, increases her certifications as the needs of her clients change. “I’m certified in various areas, such as Pilates, injury prevention and rehabilitation and pre-natal” she says. “When a client of mine got pregnant, I got my pre-natal certification so I could keep working with her.”
Suvach, who now teaches kickboxing, body sculpting, circuit training, spinning and step at Columbia University concurs. “You will have more leverage at work if you have more certifications” she says.
Trainers agree on one thing. “It’s nice to have so many job options,” says Picek, who works full time as a gym teacher at the Hoboken Charter School. She relies on her second salary for savings and extra expenditures such as travel money. “Someone like me living in Hoboken need additional income,” she says.
How do you know your trainer is qualified?
“Make sure that they have a Bachelors or Masters degree in Exercise Science or a related field,” says Picek. “If they don’t, make sure that they have a long history teaching sports and are ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) certified.”
This spring, after a prolonged injury to my left hamstring, I chose to work with Mara Kimowitz, a former dancer, to strengthen and stretch my achy leg. “I’ve had many pulled muscles,” the she told me. “I’ve even had to dance on strained muscles.” Reassured to hear that she’s been in the same boat, I decided to work with her.
Before we did any type of personal training, Kimowitz spent an hour evaluating the strength and flexibility of my legs. “Did you know that your left leg is twice as flexible as your right?” she asked. “Your right leg is much stronger than your left,” she told me before I answered her question.
We only started working out after she compiled enough information about me to fill five patient’s hospital charts. But her thoroughness, like that of a good physician, was encouraging. “You injured your hamstrings because you have a weak lower back and bad posture” she told me and prescribed a regimen of Pilates.
My injury healed in five weeks. I was surprised and somewhat disappointed. As a struggling freelance writer living in Hoboken I couldn’t afford to pay anymore. Hopefully in a couple of years I can.