“Full Circle”: Local Gym Owners Make a Difference in Their Hometown

Zach Snyder has been an athlete all his life.

From wrestling at Connellsville Area High School to NCAA competition at Penn State University, Bullskin’s Snyder has always enjoyed athleticism.

But it wasn’t until he worked for a physical therapy clinic and took over a branch of a gymnasium that he saw his own potential to run a training center.

April Miller intended to get physical therapy when she started college until hesitation about applying for graduate school led her to consider her true interests.

Aaron Panigall and Nicole Bohince sought to fill a perceived gap in the local fitness industry, and Tyler Zimmer was inspired to make a difference in the lives of young athletes.

Now, Snyder, Miller, Panigall, Bohince and Zimmer each have their own gym, right in their hometown.

Although their journeys to independent business vary, five regional fitness instructors share an approach to function over form.

Snyder, 35, graduated from Penn State with a degree in exercise science in 2009 and soon applied for his personal training certificate at the University of California, Pennsylvania. After several years as director of operations for the Mt. Pleasant branch of Innate Fitness — originally based in Latrobe — the gym closed and Snyder was at a crossroads.

Recognizing his passion for training athletes, Snyder opened his gym just down the street from the former Innate Fitness site.

“I just took the leap,” Snyder said. “I was at a point where if I didn’t take the plunge and take over the business, I was going to have to find a job. And I loved what I was doing, so I stuck with it.

Open since May 2018, Snyder Strength & Conditioning in Mt. Pleasant specializes in hands-on lifelong movement training and supplemental training for athletes of all ages.

Snyder said his goal is to help people achieve functional goals rather than purely aesthetic goals.

“A guy fell the other day and said he caught himself with his arms. He said ‘I caught myself and didn’t even hit the ground.’ one word,” Snyder said.

Miller, 24, of Level Green, had a similar approach.

Having been exposed to topics such as kinesiology and biomechanics while studying rehabilitation science at the University of Pittsburgh, she said she learned to sift through misinterpreted messages about fitness being presented. on social networks.

“It’s hard to filter it all out. You do not know. You just follow the content,” Miller said. “But do people really know what the content means?”

Miller added that she refrains from using phrases like “fitness” and “exercise” to describe her business because those terms have different — sometimes negative — meanings for different people.

“People say practice law, practice everything, but they don’t say practice this,” she said. “It feels good to train and do things right.”

That’s Miller’s philosophy when working with clients at Adroit Athletics, a gym she opened in Trafford in November 2021.

Go home

After completing her undergraduate studies at Pitt in 2019, Miller decided to take a year off to work as a critical ophthalmology researcher before applying to medical school. This change, however, still left her unsatisfied.

“I did a lot of self-reflection and internalization and thought ‘What do I really want to do?’ ” she says.

It didn’t take him long to realize that helping people learn was his greatest passion. With certificates in personal training and running coaching, Miller sought to open his own gym in the building that once housed his father’s business, Miller Tool Co.

The 2016 Penn-Trafford graduate said it was “very full circle” to start her own business in place of her father’s, as well as the place where she grew up.

“It’s very gratifying that my father had a business here, that he was successful and that he was able to have a full career here,” she said.

Panigall and Bohince grew up in Latrobe and Greensburg respectively, both surrounded by athletics. Panigall competed in track and field at Greater Latrobe High School and Duquesne University, and Bohince played softball for Greensburg Salem High School and Seton Hill University.

When both athletes noticed the lack of comprehensive health support in the local gym scene, they sought to provide it and give back to the communities where they grew up.

Through Virtus Barbell, located in Greensburg since 2012, Panigall and Bohince, of Greensburg, offer a variety of wellness services. Beyond typical gym equipment, Virtus offers physiotherapy, massage therapy, supplements and more.

Panigall, 40, said this approach to fitness has yet to catch on in western Pennsylvania, but he and Bohince, 35, are worth it.

According to Panigall, the gymnasium – which has grown from its original 30 members to around 350 – “evolved out of necessity”.

“We saw a need here, and we like to help where we come from,” he said.

For Zimmer, 30, having a gym in his hometown — Export Alphalete Performance & Fitness — is about providing young athletes with the tools he lacked in his high school and college football career.

“I did my footwork and my football stuff in a church, like on a church basketball court. I didn’t have that,” he said.

Inspire the next generation

Zimmer, a Greensburg resident and 2010 Penn-Trafford graduate, played football at Duquesne for two years before transferring to Seton Hill to finish his college career.

But it wasn’t until a positive experience with Tim Cortazzo Sr. – owner of FSQ Sports Training in Trafford – that Zimmer was inspired to offer the same kind of support to athletes of all ages.

“Just the way (Cortazzo) taught me – taught me how to move better and educated me through the process – my body was amazing,” he said. “There’s a right way to do this, and I want to contribute to that side of the fence.”

Seeking to follow Cortazzo’s lead, Zimmer has specialized in training sports teams since opening Alphelete in 2016, also serving as a strength coach for the Seton Hill men’s lacrosse team and linebacker coach for Hempfield Area High School.

Zimmer said he enjoys working with young athletes and inspiring them to “dream big” whatever the pursuit.

“Too many people are negative. Just because you’re from Harrison City and Penn-Trafford doesn’t mean you can’t go to the NFL,” Zimmer said. not set yourself up for positivity and success and optimize those steps to try to get there?”

Likewise, Snyder is entering his fourth year as the head coach of Mt. Pleasant Area High School’s wrestling team. He said the job was not limited to teaching his children sports.

“Just influencing the kids – I’m in charge of trying to be a positive role model in these kids’ lives,” he said. “I’m just trying to be helpful, because not everyone is going to wrestle in college. I understand that, but if you can take life lessons from it. That’s all it’s about.

Although he doesn’t coach an athletic team, Miller said Adroit Athletics extends its services to the community through a partnership with PTARC, the Penn-Trafford Area Recreation Commission. Miller said it included spin, cardio kickboxing and aerobic walking classes for a variety of age groups.

Although they went about it in different ways, each owner emphasized a similar ongoing goal for their gym: to maintain a holistic approach to health in the fitness industry.

“For me, it’s really mind, body and spirit,” Zimmer said. “That’s fitness and health to me. If you’re healthy in mind, you’re going to be healthy in your body, and if you’re healthy in mind and body, you’re going to be healthy. healthy in your mind, and they literally support each other.”

Quincey Reese is a staff writer for Tribune-Review. You can contact Quincey by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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