John Edwin, founder of Strength Personal Training and co-owner of Strength Academy in Northern Liberties, works everyday to help people achieve a healthier lifestyle and reach out to the community around him and beyond.
How did you get started in the fitness training business?
I have a degree is exercise physiology and my initial thought was to go into physical therapy. After doing an internship, I decided that wasn’t the field I wanted to pursue. And I actually went into business sales when I graduated college.
I woke up every morning with a lump in my throat feeling like I wanted to do more and that I had more of a purpose in life. Interestingly enough, my wife emailed me a position. I basically took it on a whim and left my professional job for something that wasn’t secure and I did really well right off the bat, to the extent that I was in the top 20 trainers out of 2,000 for the Eastern seaboard. I started Strength Personal Training in 2004 in Old City. It was just like one room with no signage or advertising.
What do you do as a trainer.
I teach strength conditioning classes, athlete conditioning classes, hit circuits and personal training. I’ll also have different companies hire me to come and talk about health and wellness. When we talk to a lot of doctors, most of the sicknesses and diseases can be prevented by a healthier lifestyle, exercise and fitness. So, anytime someone contacts me to speak, I go to talk about health and wellness. I also do warm-ups for large 5ks and different races.
How has your business made a difference in the community?
People were coming from outside Old City to train with me. As a personal trainer, I’ve had multiple clients lose more than 100 pounds. When you do that, naturally for someone it’s life changing. That, for me to see, is extremely awarding. I’ve worked with athletes from a young age all the way through high school and college and some professional athletes. We’ve been able to build up a good following.
What led you to the Northern Liberties location that you’re at now?
I’ve been looking to expand for the past three years. A lot of gyms were contacting me to partner with them. I just hadn’t had the right fit yet. But when this gym went up for sale, myself and two other owners decided to get together and buy them out and that’s what formed Strength Academy. Strength Academy is the umbrella business of Strength Personal Training and Cool Hearts Muay Thai.
After looking at this area, it’s really unique to Philadelphia. And you have audience right around you that sees you. When members and students come in and they feel the openness and energy, I mean, it’s contagious. There’s nothing like what we do here anywhere in Philadelphia.
What do you do outside of the gym to help the community ?
So, on Monday I ran a boot camp to support the Front Row Foundation and this morning I ran a boot camp to support another charity called Come Unity. Whatever money we raise, Strength Personal Training will match it and will all go to that charity. I’m on the board of Front Row Foundation. They basically take people dealing with chronic illnesses and we create an event for him or her. I’m also involved with Come Unity, which brings immediate relief education and sustainability to different communities in East Africa. I actually went to Ethiopia and Kenya for three weeks about two years ago to help them out.
Also, high schools have contacted us and we’ve brought inner city kids in and done some boxing with them. We’ve also taught women’s self defense at no charge. We’ll donate classes and equipment to local events that are happening, like PAWS (Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society) had an event recently that we donated a few classes and boxing stuff to.
Is there any particular success story that you’ve had in the past that is really inspiring?
About six weeks ago, I had client who’s a professor at Temple. He’s been training with me on and off for the past few years and he wanted a big goal, so I told him let’s get him involved in a powerlifting competition. His thing was that he was 42 years old and there was no way he could do it. I got him into the powerlifting national championship, which is in Essington by the airport, and we trained our asses off. Six weeks ago, he won two national championships. That was awesome to see that.
– Text and images by Coleen O’Hara and Lauren Brown