by Kelly Pollock, feature writer Buzz Cafe
When RC Training & Fitness moved to the Oak Park Arts District right before Thanksgiving, they had already thrived for several years in their previous home on Madison Street. They had simply outgrown the space and needed more room. Now with almost double the square footage, Ross Oberlin and the rest of his team at RCTF are ready to take the business to the next level in their new gym at 335 Harrison Street.
Since his days as a high school wrestler in Elmhurst, Ross has always had a passion for fitness. He majored in exercise science at Illinois State University and worked for Special Olympics after graduation. It was then that he realized that he also loved coaching. It was this intersection of fitness and coaching that led him to his vocation as a personal trainer and to the business that he founded—a semi-private training gym that offers an individualized custom training program for each member.
Back when Ross was fleshing out the details of his new business idea, he went to his grandparents’ lake cabin to spend some time alone. One day, he was sitting on the dock watching a man in his early 40’s learn to water ski. As Ross tells it, “Skill acquisition doesn’t happen quickly in middle age and this guy was getting walloped. He was trying his best, but he kept falling. Just as I was getting up to leave, he tried again and this time he did it. He was water skiing! And he let out an involuntary whoop. It was such an expression of joy, of his pride in himself. He was crowing!” That crow struck a chord in Ross and he knew that he had found the name of his new business, RC Training & Fitness (the RC stands for “Rooster’s Crow”), and its mascot, a rooster.
Ross goes on, “He wasn’t the youngest, he wasn’t the first, he’s not going to be the best, he’s not even going to be very good, but he was so proud of what he just did. It gave him a new definition of who he was and what he was able to do.” And that, says Ross, is what the gym is about. “If you’re proud of something you accomplish in this gym, then we’re going to celebrate that with you. It’s about your individual goals. What anyone else thinks about it doesn’t matter.”
Although the concept is his, Ross is quick to credit the success of the business to the rest of his team which includes Operations Manager Abby Resek and coaches James Young and Sydney Stacey. In addition, his wife Michele is “the reason this place exists” and does all the back-end work. Even Ross’s young daughters Lucy and Jojo motivated him when the process of moving to the new space felt overwhelming. “I had a vision of Lucy running on the turf in the back room, and that’s what inspired me when things got hard. It was a special moment when the turf went down and I got to see her do it. It was just how I saw it in my head.”
At RCTF, every member has an individualized custom training program that is designed to meet their goals. The 60-minute training sessions are scheduled online and most people train two or three days per week. Each session has a 1:6 coach-to-member ratio. For those people who aren’t yet sure if the model is right for them, RCTF offers a no-obligation Kickstart Membership for $299. The Kickstart begins with a consultation to discuss fitness goals and then a one-on-one orientation session. “After six weeks of training, we hope you’ve started to see some results, and you’ll have a good understanding of what it’s like to train here. Most people fall in love with our gym and want to join.”
The sense of community that their business model fosters is extremely important to Ross and his team. “We don’t want people to pay for a membership and then not show up. We’ll check in on people who we haven’t seen a while. There is no shame or guilt. We want our members to feel cared for.”
RC Training & Fitness is located at 335 Harrison Street. Training sessions are offered Monday through Saturday at various times of the day. They can be reached at 708-434-5291 or through their website at www.rc-fit.com.