Today we're sharing Part I of our interview on starting a medically oriented gym with Jonathan Di Lauri, MPT, CMP, TPI CGFI. Jon is the Owner of JointCare Physical Therapy, a Head Therapist, and Golf Performance Expert. Thanks to Jon for enthusiastically sharing his experience and advise with our readers!

Why did you decide to start a medically oriented gym?

It’s been 12 years in the making starting in an outpatient facility. I made several startling discoveries:

  • Even into adulthood, no one ever really teaches you how to work out the RIGHT way.
  • People were too focused on using exercise to change how they look and not their joint health.
  • Our patients were returning to exercise environments with under qualified professionals, only to return injured.

Armed with that knowledge, I not only produced and created an instructional DVD, but I also created a medically oriented gym for those people who had transcended disease and who had finished physical therapy. We wanted them to get the RIGHT training and results. I also used to go to gyms with my patients and they were not being correctly oriented to the gym equipment. Additionally, the patients were being sold personal training that was far beyond their physical abilities. With all of this coming painfully clear to me, the stage was set to launch our gym.

How did you get started? What are the first steps?

It’s been a long road. I’ve found that there are many ways to do it right and do it wrong. To get started, there’s a space requirement. No specific square footage required, but I’d say 1,000 to 2,000 square feet would be good to start. Your square footage depends on the intensity of the program you intend to offer.

There is also an equipment component. We decided to lease equipment up-front to keep costs low. We leased a 12 piece circuit of weight machines and cardio equipment from a re-manufacturer.

It’s critical to develop your business model and what you will be offering as your underlying message or product. We created a model based on my DVD. The goal is to allow people the opportunity to learn how to exercise the RIGHT way and continue to pursue a healthy lifestyle after therapy.  The difference is that as therapists, we are the fitness experts and we needed to be the ones to help people understand the correct foundational techniques to avoid injury and get results while keeping them within our office setting. Patients leaving therapy must learn how to use their body correctly and apply that knowledge to an exercise lifestyle as recommended by the The American College of Sports Medicine and The National Heart Association for example.The truth is, the majority of people are not getting that basic levels of fitness education and how posture plays a crucial role in preventing injuries.

What are the legalities of owning both a PT Clinic and a medically oriented gym?

There are a lot of ways to do it. I’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars to give you this information. In some ways, it breaks my heart but I view it as giving back to the profession.

We created a separate limited liability company not owned by me, the physical therapist. We needed to create space, or legal barriers, between my license as a physical therapist and the fitness side of things. Anyone considering starting a medically oriented gym needs to look at the practice act in their state. In New Jersey, we are allowed to educate people on exercise and it’s not considered physical therapy.  It’s considered Physical Therapy Instruction (for more info read the New Jersey Practice Act).

This separate company is registered as a gym. In New Jersey, there are certain requirements to do this. Normally, a gym has to post a bond. As long as you don’t offer a membership over 3 months, posting a bond is not required. Much like anything else, there is a lot of paperwork. I would advise that you consult with a legal team before doing anything else. It’s important that the newly formed company coordinates with the Practice Act and satisfies the requirements for a gym. Basically, Healthy Lifestyle Management, our medically oriented gym was required to register with the state as a health club/gym.

Ready for Part II of our interview with Jon? Click here for more information about the location and business model needed for a medically oriented gym.

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