We sat down and talked with Joe Albin of Prototype Fitness in Naperville, IL. He explained the thought process behind the name of his facility and how his fitness journey shaped the path to improving people's lives through strength.
How would you describe your title?
Joe Albin: I'm the owner of Prototype Fitness. Also, I don't like to throw the term owner around, or creator, or CEO, or anything like that. I'm just another one of the trainers on the team.
Good, that's great. I love that perspective. It shows leadership right there, as far as being a boss. So, where should people go to grab more information about Prototype Fitness?
Joe Albin: So typically when people find out about Prototype Fitness, it's because of a referral-based program that we have. We obviously have Facebook, and YouTube, and @prototype_fitness on Instagram that every business should and could have, although we don't necessarily rely on it.
When people are needing information, it's because a friend of theirs, or a neighbor, or coworker already works out with them. So most of the time they will contact myself or one of the trainers directly, and gather that information, or come into the gym to gather that information a little bit easier to answer specific questions, based off of what we do and how we do it. It's just a little bit different, and we'll get into that deeper later, but if somebody wanted basic information- who are we, where are we at, what's our contact information, what type of services do we offer? Then that's gonna be our main website, and the website is something more than an informational location, yet there are some visual components to that, but what we do is a little bit on the unique side. There's no cookie-cutter program for everybody.
So, no matter what, if they go to our website, we're gonna refer them to contact us directly. Every person, like every person's fitness goals, their schedule, their ability, their lifestyle, everything is so unique that we can't have a one-size-fits-all approach to it. So, when somebody calls us, then we can divulge more information specific to that person and what their needs are.
Gotcha. Okay, that sounds good. How many years have you been operational?
Joe Albin: Me personally, since 2007. Prototype Fitness was incorporated at the end of 2011, fully functional in 2012. So about '12 to now, it's been Prototype Fitness at some capacity or some level. I started training in my senior year. I'm trying to think ... it was maybe 2007.
Okay. What sort of training do you offer for your clients or your members?
Joe Albin: As far as the training, now what that person's or individual's training consists of is going to be specific to them; but our focus is a strength training or resistance training foundation with a mobility aspect of it. So unlike some programs- "Hey, come and lift weights, lift weights, lift weights, go hit the treadmill," what we're trying to do is incorporate maybe not just only weight training, but resistance training whether it's band or bodyweight, or vests or sled. We got some new guys, but we want to make sure that we don't create too much muscle tension, so we'll have a mobility component as well so people can move freely and be a little bit more functionally fit or functionally capable.
My personal bread and butter is going to be the "Box Gym" approach, so how do they incorporate a fitness program, yes, that might be push-ups or squats, or cardio, or whatever, but how can we implement "Box Gym" at some capacity, to spice things up or make it just a little more interesting than your normal, run of the mill, pick-things-up-then-put-it-down approach.
Right. And so is this going to be more like group fitness or actually one-on-one training?
Joe Albin: Our main focus is one-on-one training, so it is very much a personal training gym. That is our main focus, and why and how we were created; to account for the individual, and address the individual needs.
As we slowly started to go, 1) we ran out of time, or hours of the day to train people. But the other thing was, these individual sessions that we started with were like well, "My sister, my neighbor, my kids' teammate's mom would get a kick out of this." Or "I want a friend of mine to work out with me." And we slowly started converting into group sessions- Not boot camps by any means.
So we're not doing boot camp fitness and general fitness, you know, 10, 15, 20 people tops. We're hitting that 6 to 8, that 8 to 10 range; individual training, just in a group setting. So each person still might have, "Hey Nick, you, me, and Tom over there are going to be within the same workout," but you might be doing a trap bar deadlift. I might be doing a dumbbell deadlift. And Tom over there might just be practicing and repetition his hinging.
It's gonna vary within a workout, just happens to be in a group setting. That's also our unique selling point or our USP, but that's also our way to help as many people as we can instead of working 20 hours a day.
Okay. So how would you describe your community?
Joe Albin: As a whole, even from our youth clientele- our youth scholar, youth performance- all the way up to our- I got a couple of people that when they're in town, they're 82 and 83 years old-
Yeah, we range. Except for the slight- I don't want to say difference- because it's not necessarily a difference. People that we attract are slightly like-minded individuals, where they take fitness very seriously. It's not just something that they do. "Oh in two weeks, I've gotta get ready for a vacation so I'm gonna start working out. I'm going to start eating right." It is not just a "I'm going to do this 3 months, 20 pounds, weight loss program and be done with it." It's a lifestyle that we implement. I don't call it life coaching, I call it lifestyle management.
So every time that we get somebody in, most of the time, they're already in that "I work out because this is who I am and it's just what I do" from a mental and a physical standpoint.
If they are unsure or brand new to fitness or working out, they eventually grow into that thought process where "This is something that I need because the benefits as a husband, as a wife, as a coworker or doesn't matter what it is." Everything tends to improve or benefit from the physical activity that we take 'em through.
Gotcha, okay. So you're building that community and not just allowing people to just come in and leave. It's getting to know them a little better and sharing that with everyone else?
Joe Albin: Yeah, it is very much so a community. It is very much so a family-feel, even though we have quite a bit of people for personal training at these smaller sessions.
Pretty much everybody knows everybody through somebody or somehow, first name basis. It's not just "go to a big box gym, scan your card, your client number, nobody knows you. You're paying your due and using their facility and you're on your way." They're coming in with a purpose. They're coming in with a plan. They kick butt for 50-60 minutes and then they're on their way.
We don't necessarily turn people away, but we do make it very clear upfront that, this is not a "Hey, we're coming here to socialize and grab-ass." You can socialize and talk, and I have no problem with that, but we have an agenda. We have a plan that we are needing to accomplish and do. And we're going to do that. We establish that level of standard or expectation pretty quickly. People know that, share that. It's kind of like a "no BS" gym- not a muscle gym or a meathead gym like that, but there are things we've got to do and we're going to maximize our time 'cause we have other stuff to do.
Cool. So on a more personal level, would you just give a brief summary of your fitness journey?
Joe Albin: Me, personally? I played sports growing up. That was just the way it was. When I was growing up, you played baseball, basketball, football, and that's just the way it was.
When I was a sophomore in high school, we got a strength and conditioning coach which was at that point in time, just a little bit on the new side, but we really knew what a strength and conditioning coach was. It wasn't the science teacher coming in and supervising our gym workouts- "yeah do this." It was a very specific and methodical approach to our strength and conditioning.
So it went from being out on the football field or the basketball court or the diamond, you were working at your sports-specific skill set. However, when you were off that field of competition, you were working at improving your body. And it was that different thought process- I played football. That was my main thing. I played that all the way up through college and I played quarterback. Instead of just learning the plays, instead of just throwing the football, instead of just increasing my footwork to get better and be the best football player I could be, knowing that there were other things that I could do, that could increase my advantage over the opponent or the opposition, was just mind-blowing to me.
From 14, 15 years old, I knew then this strength and conditioning thing was my calling and something that I wanted to do just because it intrigued me so much.
Fast forward, I went to college. I went to a D3 school, so nothing crazy. I pursued exercise physiology and got a Bachelor's of Science in that because again, it just intrigued me. The amount of science, and biology, and chemistry, and physiology that was going into what I thought was just lifting weights, again was just mind-boggling. I was so used to working out with this mentality of "This is going to make you better for your sport."
I started to dabble and train other students that weren't in a sport, and they were noticing and telling me that doing this working out stuff- whether it's coincidental or a byproduct of it, it doesn't matter- "I'm sleeping better, I'm staying a little bit more alert, my focus has improved, I'm getting things done more efficiently."
And that was when I kind of had figured it out that, "Okay, so athletes benefit from this type of weight lifting or mentality, but so do general population people." And then instead of being a coach, because being an athlete, it was difficult to train athletes, that's when I realized or understood that there was a profession called personal training. I knew that that's what I wanted to do.
I wanted to work with the general population, or kids that were not set in their ways with bad habits or taught certain ways that were bad habits. And that just kind of progressed from there. My first job was at a big box gym. And I very quickly learned that the politics that were involved in that, there was a lot of red tape. There was a lot of things that I couldn't do that I felt should be done, but if the people behind the desk thought, "Nope, that doesn't work for us," I couldn't do it.
I decided to step away and go into the private sector where I did personal training. And three or four years into it, that's when I started thinking, "Okay, maybe I can do this thing on my own and run my own business." I already have an entrepreneurial mindset of "If I'm gonna do it, I'm gonna do it all in." And I want the risk. I want the reward. I don't want to rely on somebody else to get the job done.
That's how Prototype Fitness was formed. I thought things should be done a certain way, and when they get done the right way and people benefit from it, I'm gonna rinse and repeat and I'm gonna do it again. So that people do it the right way, learn to love it, or like it, or at least appreciate it. And then it just kept standing and growing from there.
Love it, man. With your fitness journey, how did the name Prototype Fitness come to be?
Joe Albin: The definition of Prototype is basically finding one way to do something and then modeling everything after it. So my plan of attack and my business model and my way of training, I know it works. I know it's going to guarantee results, whatever those results are. I know it's going to happen. So I developed this way of doing personal training; how you implement it, how you talk it, how you do it, how you live it. And then that was my kind of model in which I implement in everybody else.
I built up this prototype, as far as how I wanted it to be done. And then I model everything else off of it.
Is that something you share with your personal trainers that you bring onboard? As far as how you do it, so that way they have the same mindset? Or the same idea?
Joe Albin: Yeah. So it's more of a philosophy and a way of doing it. Where it becomes tricky, is people's personalities. Trainer's personalities are different, which I like. I don't want just a bunch of me's as far as personality goes. I don't think I'd be able to handle that. But as far as the dedication and the level of service and attention to detail, and the way they go about the program, it's more of philosophy when I have other people do it. But I want their personality to show through.
The terminology is the same. Your plan of attack might be a little bit different because everybody's a little bit different. So where I might progress somebody from a goblet squat to a barbell back squat, somebody else might just be on air squats and box squats for a long time.
But the attention to detail and the focus, and the terminology, and the outset, the intangible stuff- that's all, "Hey we have to do this a certain way, because this is what people expect." Especially when we charge what we charge and throw the term "guarantee" on there, there is no deviating from that.
Okay, cool. I love it, man. With your experience that you've had now and the mindset that you have - if you were to start again from scratch, what would you do differently?
Joe Albin: Oh boy. You know what? That's a really good question, but I don't think I would do anything different, and I'll tell you why. Because everything that happened, and all the decisions that I've made thus far have gotten me to this point. So if I did things differently, I don't know if I would still be here.
I had a very, very, very cushy position a few years back where I was managing a gym. My decision to leave that kind of prompted me into opening up my own facility. Where if I had not left that position, because it was easy and comfortable and unbelievable money, I would not be here. I would not have one gym. I would not be opening up another gym.
Starting at a big box gym- if I started off in personal training or coaching, I wouldn't understand the way things work and the politics behind it. So I would not know to go to the individual personal training. I don't know that I would change anything. Maybe I'd move and go somewhere warmer.
None of that affects my professional journey. All the things that I've been exposed to, decide to do this, not that, decide to do that, not this; all have led me and brought me to where I am today and where we're headed in the future.
That's one of the best answers that I've ever heard.
Joe Albin: Wow, well thank you.
The last thing would be just, did you have anything specific to add?
Joe Albin: As far as Prototype Fitness goes, no. What I do like to always tell everybody that I come in contact with is, it doesn't have to be Prototype Fitness. It doesn't have to be personal training. It doesn't have to be boxing, because that's all the stuff that I do and I hold near and dear to my heart. What I do always, always, always tell people is to continue to look around, continue to shop, continue to "kick the tires," if you will, on all types of physical, mental activity. Because our body and our minds need something. So if it's running, swimming, dancing, yoga, lifting, boxing, whatever, powerlifting, I don't care what it is. My goal as a fitness professional is just to tell people, "Hey, you need to do something, and you need to find that something that kinda jumps out at you and you kind of hold near and dear to your heart."
But that's not specific to Prototype Fitness, that's not specific to me, that's just everybody can benefit from.
Right, words of wisdom from a creator.
Joe Albin: Thank you.
Absolutely. Well, Joe that was the questions that I set aside for our interview today. Again, I appreciate you taking some time and just going over this with me.
Joe Albin: Yeah, shoot no problem, anytime.