Rob Piela is not a man concerned with fancy frills. His two-year old gym, GOTHAM, located in the heart of New York’s West Village, is Spartan in the good way. It is best described as having a singularity of purpose – to push yourself to your limits, often through boxing, compound exercises and kettlebell work. Neither Rob nor anyone on his accomplished staff coddle you – this is not the sort of gym where you’ll spend half your time chatting idly with your trainer. There is an emphasis on hard work, reflected in minimal décor and a high decibel level. The dedicated clientele are in remarkably good shape. Looking around, you recognize many of them from the silver screen or the runway.
“Your body works the same way it always has. Many other gyms might have bells and whistles, but GOTHAM is more about the environment and making people feel comfortable while they are here. It’s just more authentic.” says Rob, when asked about why he took the route he has with GOTHAM. When much of the industry has gone the route of fancier machinery that display more metrics, Rob went the opposite direction. He zigged when everyone else zagged. He stresses, “it’s a bit more raw and authentic. It should feel like a club – and that feeling will not be driven by bells and whistles.”
It seems to have worked well – search GOTHAM’s popular Instagram feed and there is no shortage of pictures taken with boldface names. Around New York it’s become a fashion statement to be seen in a GOTHAM sweatshirt. Few gyms have ever managed to accomplish this – when asked how, Rob offers simply that “we treat everyone as normal people. We don’t do anything special for anyone in particular but rather we treat everyone as if they are special. When someone has some celebrity, we recognize they are just normal people and treated like anyone else would be. From their perspective, I think they enjoy the fact that they are part of the GOTHAM community that doesn’t put them on a pedestal. They are greeted and treated the same as anyone else. The focus for all people who come to GOTHAM is the workout – everyone at the gym, no matter who you are, works out hard. There isn’t anyone sitting just looking around.”
In some ways, this no-nonsense approach has been lost in this age where gyms have become as much about amenities and socializing as exercise. GOTHAM has pointedly moved away from that. Apparently, this is something people have been craving. Consistent with this no-nonsense attitude is a central focus on boxing. This isn’t cardio boxing or shadow boxing, but real boxing – it’s not unusual to see a pro boxer training for an upcoming fight. When the supermodels get in the boxing ring, they are expected to focus on the technical fundamentals of boxing, not just as a means to get a cardio workout, but with real attention to learning the skill.
A former pro boxer himself, Rob doesn’t view boxing as the one true form of cardiovascular exercise, rather, he recognizes that it is only as good as the effort expended. Still, he thinks people have embraced it because it’s “as much about the education that comes along with the sport as much as the exercise that my clients enjoy. It may not be the singularly best workout; it’s as good as any other cardio workout, but people enjoy it more as compared to say a stationary bicycle because the curve is so vast that you never stop learning boxing. And people inherently enjoy getting better at something and learning. If you’re a runner, at some point it’s just running. Boxing is never just boxing if you’re dedicated to improving.”
Rob espouses a holistic approach with those he trains – his interaction with his clients extends to advice on nutrition and diet. He understands the deep need for a personalized approach to nutrition alongside his or her exercise regimen, “I’ve got such a diverse background, as do the trainers at GOTHAM, that we can customize everything for the client to make it suit their needs. We are not a cookie cutter solution – there is no prearranged ‘the GOTHAM way’ – it all varies based on the client, their mindset, their goals, and so forth. Eventually we get them to the place where want them to go.” It’s this understanding that has made Rob so receptive to WellPath and what it does for nutrition – a similar appreciation that every client is different and what they need to help them achieve they goals may differ radically.
GOTHAM seems to have discovered a model that people have been craving – all while looking at what everyone else has done, what all the forecasters have said was the future, and setting out on their own path. Asked about GOTHAM’s future, and his own, Rob says “I would like to stick with New York at first. Have a couple more locations in New York, eventually move into other major markets.” He’s quick to add, “I want to take the time to always make sure we staff it the right way though. Personally, I will always train, I love that and it’ll always be my passion.”
To learn more about GOTHAM, you can find them at www.gothamgymnyc.com.