Story and photos by Rick Hiduk
(originally published in the Wyoming County Chamber of Commerce Impact Magazine)
Ben Spencer, owner of Spencer Fitness at 146 Lawson Lane, off Rt. 6 west of Tunkhannock, understands that the journey to a healthy lifestyle is different for every individual. Variables in age, body type, skill level, and personal goals each play a role in determining what fitness and nutrition plan is the best fit for each person. But any form of fitness, Ben maintains, helps an individual meet the daily challenges of life with increased vigor and renewed sense of self esteem.
“Physical fitness can bring balance to a person’s life in many ways,” Ben remarked. “It can improve overall state of mind, help one feel more accomplished, help one set and achieve goals, and help to influence friends and family members to also improve their health.”
Ben is a 2013 Tunkhannock High School graduate who went on to Clarion University to obtain a degree in Sports Management. “About half way through my junior year, I decided that I wanted to open a gym.” Ben also has a minor in Nutrition. “I have a lot of advice to give people about eating healthier,” he noted with a smile.
His first challenge was to find the perfect building that provided enough space for group classes and individual workouts. Ben also wanted the business to be highly visible. He found both on Lawson Lane. The ceilings are high and the temperatures are comfortable, even on the coldest days that we’ve had this winter.
Ben is a big proponent of both “functional fitness” and CrossFit workouts. “Functional fitness is more about people staying healthy by moving around and not necessarily by lifting heavy weights,” he explained. “My biggest goal is to make people in the area healthier.”
Ben is certified as a CrossFit coach and conducts CrossFit classes at the gym. The high-intensity interval training, also referred to as MetCon, mirrors movements that people perform in day-to-day life, like squatting, pulling and pushing. Some people are intimidated by the term CrossFit, but Ben maintains that it is adaptable, and it is fun. “It’s not competitive at all,” he stated. Currently, participants in the CrossFit classes range in age from 13 to 70.
“For me, it provides the results a little bit quicker,” said gym member Jeff Appel, a real estate agent at Classic Properties. He finds the different types of exercise, strength flexibility and endurance within the structured workout to be both challenging and motivating. “You can take for granted how fit you were when you were younger. Before you know it, you’re way far away from where you were.” CrossFit training can help a person get back into shape faster, he related.
“Working on developing a fitness routine is giving me more energy and bringing more balance back to my weekly activity levels,” said Neil King, a commercial banking officer at Community Bank. “the time that I have spent at Spencer Fitness has been a positive investment toward my fitness.”
“Participating in classes there has helped me learn more about the value of a fitness routine for balancing my daily life,” the Chamber’s own Allison Schultz said of her experience at the gym. She has been a member since the facility opened in October. “The style of fitness that Ben offers is not the gyms that the community is used to. The daily workout plan, along with Ben’s constructive coaching have proven to show positive results for my day-to-day physical tasks.”
Initial consultations at Spencer Fitness are free. Ben likes to hear what each client’s goals are and help them determine what form of exercise will lead to a successful gym experience for them. “I enjoy meeting and working with all the different types of people,” he said. It is very important to him that class participants are enjoying what they do, as physical and mental fitness work hand-in-hand.
“People often come in and tell me that they are feeling out of shape and that it has them feeling down,” Ben related. “But exercise is the best way to produce endorphins, which give you that happy feeling.”
Keeping tabs of how his clients are progressing leads to an evolution in their overall approach to a healthier lifestyles.
“You’re encouraged to push yourself but within your own limits. That was a deciding factor for me to go there rather than any other gym,” said Jeff, who is impressed at how much can be packed into a one-hour class. “If I were to go to a regular gym and try to accomplish everything, I’d be there for hours and probably end up only working out for about 20 minutes.”
“I’m a beginner when it comes to being at a gym to do CrossFit, but Ben made me feel welcome,” Neil told us. “He explains how to do each activity while including different difficulty levels depending on your own fitness level, and he offers feedback on technique improvement.”
“I ask a lot of questions to find out what they want to achieve – weight loss, less pain, feeling better – and how they feel they are doing,” said Ben. “I walk them through the workout and then work with each person to show them what to do. As I get them moving, we reassess their goals to make sure that we are hitting them.”
The gym isn’t the only place where Ben feels at home. He started coaching swimming at Marywood University right out of college and served as assistant coach there in 2019. He currently coaches the Pacers Aquatic Club at Marywood, which has members from 3 to 21 years old.
Bringing more teens and young adults into Spencer Fitness is one of Ben’s goals as he also looks to expand programs to include yoga, nutrition, massage therapy, physical therapy and more intense weightlifting for those who are looking to up their game. Building upon the services offered at the facility will also require the hiring of additional employees.
Current members agree that people should feel that they need a “gym buddy” to attend. “You may not know anybody when you go in, but you’ll end up meeting people that you’ve never met before,” Jeff remarked, noting that the increase in socialization is also good for one’s mental health.
As the weather breaks and cabin fever escalates, Ben will offer free Intro to Fitness classes during the month of April. The 30-minute sessions will be held on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6 to 6:30 pm and on Saturday mornings from 8 to 8:30. The Wyoming Chamver of Commerce will give away a one month free membership to the reader with the best attendance.
To learn more about Spencer Fitness and to contact Ben for a consultation, interested readers can follow Spencer Fitness on Facebook at www.spencer-fitness.com, or call 570-240-3101.