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Downtown Gloversville becoming a fitness hub

Owner and certified yoga instructor Samantha Yates at her studio, Fitology 360, located at 44 S. Main St. in Gloversville. (The Leader-Herald/Ashley Onyon)

GLOVERSVILLE — Three downtown locations have been transformed in just under a year by businesses that can help area residents get their bodies and minds in shape, giving rise to a growing fitness industry in the heart of the city.

On Nov. 4, Gloversville native Samantha Yates opened the city’s newest health and wellness studio, Fitology 360, at 44 S. Main St. It became the third fitness related studio to open downtown within a two block radius of the Four Corners in just under a year.

Yates, who began practicing yoga about four years ago, received her yoga teacher certification in 2017 as a way to deepen her own practice, never planning to instruct others. After her own teacher passed away, Yates said she wanted to honor her “yoga mama” by becoming a teacher herself and began teaching classes at Soluna Yoga in Schenectady.

She never planned on opening her own studio either until longtime friend William Rowback Jr. approached her in August suggesting she look at an available space in his South Main Street building.

“When I walked in I could just see it, that’s when I knew,” Yates said while at Fitology 360. “It’s easy to relax here.”

Owner and certified personal trainer Jarrod Johnson at his gym, Go For It Personal Training and Fitness Studio, located at 7 Church St. in Gloversville. (The Leader-Herald/Ashley Onyon)

The studio features light colored wood floors and walls painted in warm, earthy tones. Lamps around the edges of the space provide soft lighting, which along with a few tapestries and other pieces of artwork create a calming atmosphere.

Relaxation is one of the benefits of yoga, according to Yates, a competitive runner who initially started practicing yoga to build strength and soon found herself besting her personal records while embracing a new approach to life.

“I love everything about yoga, it’s mental clarity, it’s emotional clarity. Obviously it’s physical, but it’s like a whole new lifestyle, when you practice yoga, on your mat and off your mat, it changes your life,” Yates said. “Yoga teaches you to be mindful, patient and to reflect. When you take that off your mat you are out in the world being mindful, patient and reflecting on decisions and situations.”

Yates is hoping to impart these benefits to other locals at Fitology 360 where she said people can come as they are for individualized yoga instruction, an approach she learned when she received her teacher certification while traveling on business in Colorado.

“It’s different from any training that has ever been done in this area, which is why I loved it so much,” Yates said. “If there is one person or 10 people in a class I am going to teach to the room and to that individual versus ‘here’s what we’re doing today.’ It’s about the individual experience.”

Owner and certified yoga instructor Debbie Zalondek at her studio, Twelve Green Petals Yoga, located at 33 N. Main St. in Gloversville. (The Leader-Herald/Ashley Onyon)

Rather than teaching a set plan that she never deviates from, Yates said she can tailor the roughly hour long classes she teaches to the needs and wants of the individuals in attendance while leading them through a total-body workout unless students instead ask to target a specific area.

“Aside from swimming, yoga is one of the only full body workouts you can do,” Yates said.

Yates said weekly classes in the style of a vinyasa flow, that sees yogis fluidly moving from one pose through the next, or a yin style, that sees students holding a particular pose for minutes at a time before moving on to another pose, are appropriate for practitioners at all levels with poses that can be modified depending on the individual.

For first time yoga practitioners, Yates will offer an eight-week beginners class starting later this month. Registration for the class is currently full, but she plans to offer the course again in the future if there is interest.

Weekly classes at Fitology 360 include offerings at 5 a.m. every weekday, 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, a power yoga class on Saturdays at 1:30 p.m. and a mid-morning class at 10 a.m. on Sundays. Each class ends with a period of guided meditation. In the future Yates also plans to offer guided meditation and Reiki sessions at the studio.

Yates pointed to the 5 a.m. weekday classes as filling a particular need for local yoga practitioners who work during the day and may struggle to find classes they can partake in due to their daily schedules as she once did.

“A 5 to 6 a.m. class will work for them, because now they can get home to shower and get their kids off to school and still be on time for work. That has always been something that I have wanted from yoga studios and was never able to do, so I would practice at home at 5 a.m.,” Yates said.

Similarly, Jarrod Johnson was looking to fill a local need when he opened Go For It Personal Training and Fitness Studio at 7 Church St. in July where he takes clients through scheduled one-on-one workouts tailored to their individual fitness and overall health goals.

Johnson helps hold clients accountable to themselves while gradually modifying their behaviors and adding physical activity as they strive towards goals like weight loss, improved fitness, becoming healthier through exercise, establishing a proper diet or removing obstacles to their health like smoking.

“The demand for this is here, and people are taking advantage of the services looking at it more as an investment in themselves,” Johnson said. “It’s easier to stay active when you have a program to be in.”

Johnson acknowledged that while there are gyms throughout the area where anyone with a membership can go to workout, people without the background or knowledge surrounding proper exercise and diet may struggle to realize the results they are looking for or to simply exercise with any consistency.

“That’s kind of the glory of personal training, you design to the individual. That person’s needs are take into consideration,” Johnson said.

He added that exercising at the gym can be intimidating for some people who may feel more comfortable working out in a private studio like Go For It.

“Privacy plays a big role in that,” Johnson said. “Especially for beginners.”

Since opening the personal training studio, Johnson said he has taken on a number of new clients, adding to the number of people he previously trained out of his home.

“I’m very busy, I can’t complain. Opening this has opened so many more opportunities as far as new clients and retaining existing clients,” Johnson said.

Between clients at Go For It and residents at Estee Commons where Johnson works as the senior residential facility’s personal trainer three days a week, he said he meets with upwards of 25 people individually two to three times per week.

“That’s recommended. Aside from what they do with me they’re assigned a certain number of hours to exercise without me, a total of five hours per week is recommended to attain proper results,” Johnson said.

Given the volume of clients he has already taken on, Johnson said a second personal trainer who is currently completing his certification will join Go For It by the end of the year.

“It’s getting to the point where I’m not going to be able to sustain this on my own,” Johnson said. “We’re thriving in this environment.”

Just around the corner at 33 N. Main St. Debbie Zalondek has been pleasantly surprised by the number of students regularly attending classes at Twelve Green Petals Yoga since she opened the studio just under a year ago on Dec. 1.

“I’ve had businesses and built them up before, so I’m used to the slow start of things and had no expectations when I opened,” Zalondek said. “Usually it takes three years for you to start building.”

“Right away things took off, I was in shock. I did very well here the first year,” she said. “I’m looking forward to the next year.”

Zalondek credits the business’ early success in part to its merger with Glove Cities Yoga which had a devoted student base in limited space.

“At Glove Cities Yoga they could only have so many mats,” Zalondek said. “Laurie [Freeman] and Marlene [Guiffre] brought their classes from Glove Cities, they’re great.”

Twelve Green Petals offers at least one class each day, with the daily schedule released each week on Facebook and on a notice board at the studio, typically featuring a mixture of morning options at 8:30 a.m., afternoon courses at 4 p.m. and evening classes around 6 p.m. throughout the week and weekend.

“Each week could be a little different,” Zalondek said.

Zalondek focuses on the mind–body connection primarily through flow based and yin style course offerings that help students build strength and flexibility while attaining peace of mind.

“Whatever else you do, everything can benefit from yoga,” Zalondek said. “Personally I get a lot of Judo students who say ‘it’s helped me so much’ from the cross training.”

“For my own practice I do it for peace of mind, sometimes I want to move and sweat,” she added. “There’s a lot to this practice.”

Courses at Twelve Green Petals are suitable for all skill levels, with students asked to enter poses at the most basic level, students who are comfortable can transition into a more difficult position or remain in the initial pose.

“All classes are for everyone. You have to go at your own pace, at your own breath. Just do what your body desires,” Zalondek said.

For true beginners, Zalondek pointed to gentle flow classes with Twelve Green Petals’ newest certified teacher, Anna Moudgil, as a great entry point that has already attracted a number of new students.

“She is rocking that class. It’s amazing. For a new teacher normally it takes forever to build,” Zalondek said.

The studio also features a weekly guided meditation class on Sundays at 6 p.m. with Gianna DeLilli, general manager of Mohawk Harvest Cooperative Market.

While the emergence of a health and wellness industry downtown through the opening of three new studios over the past year might seem surprising, Downtown Development Specialist Jennifer Jennings said the growth seems to be following current national trends.

“Generally across the country we’re seeing more of a focus on mindfulness and healthiness that is not just diet related. For the last 15 years people have started to look more closely at the food they eat, processed versus whole foods, and I think this is a migration of this process to working out and moving the body,” Jennings said.

Jennings, whose position focuses on promoting downtown revitalization, said revitalization is a 15 to 20 year process that typically begins with the advent of entertainment and events that help spark economic development and lasting change. She pointed to health and wellness studios as sometimes taking on the role of entertainment venues in modern culture.

“It’s my observation that health and fitness are being attached to entertainment and events in advance of downtown apartments that will be coming in the next two to three years,” Jennings said.

In the meantime, Jennings said the city and the surrounding area hold a potential client base to support all three new businesses which will in turn help support other existing and future downtown businesses.

“I think these businesses add to the overall economic health downtown. Someone going to a yoga studio is likely to go across the street to the co-op to get a smoothie, or to get something to eat or drink afterwards. When you have to walk from Sam’s studio say for example to the co-op you pass a lot of other businesses,” Jennings said. “Within the downtown business district there is absolutely the ability to cross pollinate to generate economic growth.”

“For every local dollar if it is spent with a small business in downtown it circulates throughout the community beyond the services that dollar was originally spent on and that helps the community as a whole,” Jennings added.

Jennings pointed to the potential for additional health and wellness related businesses to open downtown as the city becomes the hub for overall well-being, while noting that the market for fitness studios is likely fully tapped by the new businesses downtown in addition to gyms and studios on the Route 29 arterial and in the city of Johnstown.

“I think Gloversville is already a hub for services in Fulton County in terms of healthcare and mental health and now of physical health as well so that is a great move forward for us,” Jennings said. “I really do believe there will be other similar businesses opening up that focus on whole body healthfulness, but maybe not physical health.”

Moreover, Jennings said the growth of a successful health and fitness industry downtown will demonstrate the city’s vitality and potential to prospective investors.

“People who want to invest in downtown — those larger investors looking at whole buildings — they absolutely need to see proof of concept and a track record of success downtown, they need to know their investment is a healthy one and is likely to see healthy results,” Jennings said.

“I think these new businesses and the interest of new entrepreneurs in downtown is absolutely an indication we are moving in the right direction and I think they show there is a culture here that is looking in a holistic way not just for entrepreneurship, not just body health, but community health,” she continued.

Being part of building a stronger, healthier community was one of Johnson’s goals in opening his studio downtown that he hopes is a shared among Go For It Personal Training and Fitness Studio, Fitology 360 and Twelve Green Petals Yoga.

“We’re all working towards a common goal of wellness and self-preservation. This is not a competitive thing,” Johnson said. “We should all work together to create a healthier city and environment.”

“Our area is kind of behind on the times in comparison to other cities where it’s not uncommon to see wellness and fitness related studios in abundance,” he added. “That wave is just reaching our area.”

Similarly, Yates said in opening Fitology 360 downtown she felt she was joining the local health and wellness community rather than attempting to compete with other local businesses.

“I think the more options we give people and the more we work together the better,” Yates said.

Zalondek, whose business is just about to celebrate its one year anniversary, said she thought it was “awesome” that two other studios opened downtown in the past year.

“I think it’s exciting and I’m all for it,” Zalondek said. “I think business creates business and we need to get these storefronts filled.”

Johnson, Yates and Zalondek also share an enthusiasm over being part of the revitalization of downtown, which Zalondek said she can see clear signs of from her past experience observing the rebirth of downtown Schenectady while running a flower shop there for 20 years.

“I think this is the beginning from what I saw in Schenectady,” Zalondek said. “Downtown is starting to come alive.”

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