Deborah McDermott is a self described fitness nut.
Folks around Danvers may know the McDermott family from town sports like baseball and flag football, where dad and Danvers native Jeff helps coach his boys; or they may recognize wife Debbie, originally from Topsfield, as the Fitness Instructor at the Danvers YMCA has taught for many years, and can be seen warming up small groups during walks as part of her personal trainer vocation.
The new co-owner of The Gym Downtown in Hamilton, reflected on the path that brought her to the fitness industry. The former dancer, Masconomet Regional High School cheerleader and accomplished sprinter noted that, while sitting still is not one of her strong points, it was precisely where she found herself following a catastrophic injury to her knee in college.
“I went to Northeastern, and was just walking down the sidewalk and stumbled-I blew out my ACL,” she explained. “Here I was, after doing all these sports in high school, and I get injured just walking down the street.”
The recovery process was limiting, and proved to be more than difficult for the high spirited, active lifestyle McDermott was so accustomed to. Admittedly, she said, “I was not good about the physical therapy following my first knee surgery, and wound up having to have a second knee reconstruction just after college.”
Unwilling to give in to the setback, McDermott, took the experience as an opportunity to learn all she could about the human body, how it responds to injury, and the importance of physical fitness. ”I feel like in school there wasn't a lot of information given to athletes about how and which muscles to strengthen, and why. I feel if I had that knowledge, I wouldn't have blown out my knee,” she said.
After graduating with a degree in psychology, McDermott decided to go to classes and get her Personal Training Certification in 2000 after taking some fitness classes and falling in love with the lifestyle. She’s been involved in the teaching aspect of fitness ever since. “I enjoy helping people and I like they are usually grateful in what you do for them; I just enjoy people, and I always enjoyed teaching; this is a different road to that path,” she said.
The leap to business ownership happened unexpectedly in early 2012, and when the opportunity to buy the business where Debbie worked as a personal trainer for years arose, the McDermott’s knew it was the right move for their active family.
McDermott explained, “I've been a trainer here since it opened as Steve’s Gym. Steve and I met at Fitness Firm (in Beverly) where I taught group classes and he was a trainer. When he opened the gym in 2003, he called me.”
Gym ownership was a dream McDermott had barely allowed herself to imagine. But with a healthy client-base, the McDermott’s realized the timing was right for them both to jump into the business ownership side of fitness, because, as Jeff put it, “ It's a lifestyle, and this is how we live and what we want to do, so why not make it a business? I want to be here doing this for, arguably, forever.”
The couple divided up duties, with Jeff taking over the marketing and acting as manager of day to day responsibilities, and Debbie as the on-site personal trainer, (“I consider myself a personal trainer who happens to have a facility,” she said). Then the couple hit the ground running, literally. The change in name to The Gym Downtown was the first logical step.
Next, they transformed, painted and updated the facility- all without ever closing, even for a day, to provide their clients a seamless transition.
Workout programs are tailored to target each individual’s specific goal and need, whether it be for weight loss, strengthening, conditioning or maintaining.
“My business model is to work with clients,” she explained. “Some people come in every week and just pay by the week. It's not cut and dry, I know it's a struggle for people ,so I try to work with people on a payment schedule. I also offer two free training sessions to learn the equipment and design a program, you don't just get thrown into the equipment.”
Small Group Training sessions begin with a warm-up walk outside for 20-30 minutes, weather permitting, before coming inside to begin working with free weights or the machines.
“If someone is looking to lose weight, we may concentrate on more cardio. And we mix it up between free weights and machines; we do full body, which includes your back, chest, biceps, triceps, and always end with core- abs and stretching,” Debbie described. “A lot of people have injuries, which we are attuned to. Every person is different.”
Future plans are already being discussed, such as expanding into the barn-space behind the property, offering more group classes, and adding TRX Suspension Trainer, a workout system that leverages gravity and your bodyweight to perform hundreds of exercises, which is something trainer Eric Knight specializes in, as well as kickboxing and boxing.
New clients are being offered an introductory special to try out The Gym Downtown free for one week, with no commitment or contract. “Come in and check us out during your regular workout time and give us a shot to see how you like it,” Debbie invited.
There are also Membership Special's to help folks get more fitness time for their dollar, offering one month free with a six month sign-up, two months free for a one year commitment.
With machines and free weights on the main level, and a separate cardio room upstairs; showers with a free towel service, exercise balls, flat screen tv’s and four onsite certified personal trainers, The Gym Downtown has every amenity of some larger clubs, but with a neighborhood feel. Debbie described it as a “Private facility where you get individualized attention.”
The space is homey and inviting, the clientele, diverse. Jeff explained, “We see everyone from the hardworking teachers, to retirees, and a handful of twenty-something's, and even as young as 14 to 16 year olds. Some of our clients walk here from their nearby homes, while others might travel up to fifteen minutes, from all over, like Beverly, Essex, Ipswich, Manchester and Danvers. There's no hassles with parking, it's not the mall. When you're here you're here.”
Jeff continued, “It's the exception to everything I hate about the typical gym. There's no scene here, you feel like its your own place. People come in and grab the clicker, put what they want on the tv, get in their workout and they're on their way.” Debbie agreed, adding, “It's a family atmosphere, and we have more than a few families who come here together to work out.”
With people getting back into their fall schedules, the McDermotts have noticed a shift in energy, as folks continue to welcome them to the neighborhood. They said they are thrilled, not only with their warm reception, but to be able to share their passion and knowledge about fitness with the community.
The Gym Downtown
161 Bay Rd
South Hamilton, MA 01982