Game Changers
improve your health, fitness and nutrition … and maybe even your social calendar
by Sharon A. Shaw

Ten years ago Tracy Viola needed a boost. She was working toward her master’s degree and had moved back home to save money. On top of that, she had just gone through a breakup. “I’ve always been a big believer in endorphins,” she says. “They help if you are tired or lonely.” And so, Viola toured Devon Fitness, at first because it was right around the corner from where she was living, but also because she was impressed with how nice, clean and well maintained it was.

Soon she was not only working out there, but also working there part-time at the juice bar, getting to know the members and the staff. One of the trainers asked his client, Mike, if he could introduce him to Viola. They met at a holiday party hosted by the club and eight months later the pair was engaged. Married seven years now, they have two children and remain members of the club. “What I love about Devon Fitness is that it is very sociable; you get to know everybody,” she says. “They knew me and Mike well enough to set us up.” 

While Viola’s story may be especially unique, Devon Fitness co-owners John McCaffrey and Lisa Hoekstra feel their club has been able to change many members’ lives. “Working out is the cheapest form of therapy,” McCaffrey says. “It makes you feel better.” The facility, constructed in 2001, was largely designed and built by McCaffrey to suit the members’ needs. It offers luxurious locker rooms, an infrared sauna, group exercise and Spinning rooms, massage therapy, nutrition services and a juice bar, fully stocked with water, sports drinks and a variety of fantastic protein smoothies for which they are known.

Devon Fitness offers the latest and greatest forms of equipment, too, including virtual cycling machines that simulate nearly 30 bike courses, requiring riders to not only peddle but also steer the course, and the step-mill escalator that allows them to choose terrain from a variety of landmarks, including Big Ben, the pyramids, the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building. Such high-tech pieces not only prevent boredom by keeping users engaged, but also allow them to track their progress and ensure an effective workout.

Other engaging forms of cardio and strength training include an exciting lineup of group classes such as yoga, Pilates, Pump and dance. Hoekstra describes the Zumba class as lively and vivacious. “It’s like a dance party.” Another benefit, she says, is that it is overseen by a professional. “For one hour someone tells you what to do; you do not have to think about your routine.”

For those who find that sort of additional guidance helpful, the club employs a team of dedicated personal trainers, who provide customized one-on-one sessions, focused on weight loss, toning, athletic training and overall fitness. All of its personal trainers are certified, and some carry specialized degrees in sports training. Each trainer has his or her own motivation for doing what they do; some have a military background, others compete in marathons or coach team sports. Devon Fitness does its best to match each client with the trainer best qualified for their needs. “The client’s goal is the trainer’s mission,” Hoekstra says. “They are working for the client to maximize their goals. The trainer is there to do it according to clients needs.”

To help its members understand how the food they eat affects these goals, Devon Fitness recently hired registered dietitian Erin Andersen. She provides counseling for clients to help them reach goals pertaining to weight loss and improved performance. Andersen is passionate about preventative nutrition therapy and believes the connection between food, fitness and health go hand in hand with well-being. Her mission is to help improve her clients’ quality of life through healthy eating habits and lifestyle changes. She has experience with various medical conditions as well as mindful/intuitive eating, which she incorporates into her counseling practice. Under many of their health-insurance plans members pay nothing out of pocket to work with Andersen to improve their eating habits.

Improving one’s health requires a multipronged approach. “You have to incorporate all three,” McCaffrey says, namely, cardiovascular exercise, strength training and proper diet. “Our overall mission is all three,” agrees Hoekstra, noting that research shows exercise and proper nutrition can reduce the risk—or lessen the severity of—many health problems, including diabetes, heart conditions, high blood pressure, cancer, osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s.

Of course, life—and health—is about so much more than just the condition of our bodies; our spirits are also important to maintain. “We take care of our bodies, our health, so we try to take care of other people, too,” Hoekstra says, and so the duo is working with to organize a fall concert fundraiser. “We wanted to work with [this organization] because it is proactive and is trying to get women to be proactive about their health.”

Helping others certainly has its rewards, but McCaffrey also believes it is important to keep stress levels down by indulging in ones favorite pastimes. Watching the fish in Devon Fitness Club’s saltwater tank is certainly relaxing, but it is also a nod to McCaffrey’s love of big-game fishing. He has enjoyed the sport from Canada to Ireland to the Caribbean. He was even a part of the winning team that pulled in a 470-pound blue marlin, winning a $1 million tournament.

Others may find this sort of release from running, biking or hiking, and so Hoekstra is excited to share that Devon Fitness is now a Park and Ride station for the Chester Valley Trail that runs along its property line. Users of this trail can walk, run, inline skate or bike from Norristown to Downingtown and are welcome to stop at Devon Fitness to check out the facility or enjoy refreshments at its juice bar. 

Whatever the motivation for joining Devon Fitness—improved mood, strength, endurance, weight loss or some other aspect of health—one is sure to find something that will improve his or her life.

Devon Fitness
Syms Building
1340 Swedesford Road, Berwyn