Keith Fine Topeka’s Fitrition bulking up space, services

Keith Fine Topeka’s Fitrition business more than doubled its size with a move last week to a new location at Fairlawn Plaza.

Owner Keith Fine wasn’t worried about his usual exercise routine because physically relocating fitness equipment was a workout in and of itself.

“It’s a gym, so everything weighs a lot,” he said, laughing. “We have over 6,000 pounds of just weights, on top of the racks and the equipment, and drilling anchors into the ground. Everything weighs a lot. That was rough. Late nights, long weekends.”

But Keith Fine said the move was worth it because adding significant square footage to the store sets up his vision for the business’ future. The store moved from Fleming Place to 2114 S.W. Chelsea Drive, on the south side of Fairlawn Plaza where the Bernina sewing store was located.

“We needed more room for people, and we needed to diversify our services,” he said.

Keith Fine, who has been a fitness trainer in the Topeka area for many years, opened Fitrition as a fitness and nutrition coaching company three years ago. Since then, he has seen classes grow, and he needed more space in order to maintain that growth.

“In work with athletes of all ages, really, we wanted to be able to do more indoor speed and agility, instead of just strength-based exercise,” Fine said. “At Fleming Place, we really couldn’t do the service with athletes that we want to do with them because we were limited on space. That was one of the main motivators, to increase the number of the youth athletes that we see.”

Keith Fine Topeka’s Fitrition, which at this point doesn’t offer drop-in options for clients to exercise, conducts most of its work in group classes or individual coaching. Group classes have been getting full, especially during evenings and early mornings.

The new space also offers a separate office area, which Fine enlarged slightly, where he and three other instructors can meet with clients or groups without disrupting ongoing classes.

“Instead of just being a place where people show up and work out, you can be a place where athletes come and do speed and agility (training), or where adults and youth can come and hold nutrition classes without disrupting what our bread and butter is, which is holding the fitness classes,” he said. “That’s 70 percent of our business. It needs to be 35 percent of our business, and it will be over the next three to five years.”

Fine is motivated and sets goals, just as he encourages his clients to do. One of those goals is to expand the nutrition component of his business. A few years ago, he recognized a problem in fitness training. Although he required exercise physiology degrees for Fitrition staff in addition to credentials in strength and conditioning, only about 10 percent of the coursework in those areas prepared trainers to work with clients on nutrition, he said.

“The majority of people out there who are coming to work out have some sort of goal that is dependent upon their nutrition,” Fine said. “Educationally, we’re not equipping coaches like myself to coach them effectively, but yet most of our clients aren’t seeing a nutritionist or a dietitian. We need to have some middle ground where we educate the coach to better nutritionally equip their client.”

Fine connected with Precision Nutrition, which is a behavioral model of nutrition he called “foundational” and not a fad. The platform offered training for him, and allows Fitrition to offer clients software for tracking nutrition, cookbooks and other useful ways to eat right.

That part of the business is still growing and moving in the direction Fine wants. He is separating the nutrition coaching from fitness sessions so the consulting is focused and sets individual goals.

The key, he said, is to look at behavior.

“It’s not based on ‘eat this, not that’ kind of thing,” he said, adding that setting unrealistic goals is a problem. “What you will do is more important than what you should do. I can tell you to eat broccoli, eat chicken. I can tell you to eat whole-grain rice. I can tell you to eat your vegetables and your fruit, but if you’re not going to it, it doesn’t matter. I want to find out what your goals are, I want to find out what your behaviors are, and I want to match them and progress those slowly towards being effective to one another.”

The approach worked for Magen Hawkinson, 32, who watched her husband lose weight with nutrition consulting and fitness coaching while she was pregnant with their fourth child. After giving birth in 2015, Hawkinson began working with Fine too.

“He just really knows what he’s doing. Everything he does is tailored to what each person needs,” she said. “The workouts are all specific to me.”

Hawkinson hesitated and searched for words to make sure she accurately quoted Fine. “Basically, his big thing is that you can set goals but if your behavior doesn’t match, then your outcome isn’t going to be what you want it to be,” she said. “I reached my goal weight that he had set for me back when I started with him, after about a year. It had seemed impossible, the number we set. I was 185, now I’m like 125.”

Although Hawkinson is quick to say part of her weight loss can be attributed to baby weight, she has been thrilled to reach her goal. She is now working with Fine on body composition, getting her body fat down to a healthy range.

Like Hawkinson, Coralee Evans was impressed with Fine’s knowledge and ability to tailor the program. She has worked with him for about eight years, beginning when he was associated with another local gym.

“He is very technically knowledgeable, so you understand that what you’re doing is appropriate for you and your fitness level,” she said. “He makes us work really hard. He challenges us and pushes us and prods us — I walked out kind of limping today. But that’s OK.”

Fine talks goals “all the time,” she added. “I always tell him my goal is to get there. I’m 65, so I want to stay strong.”

He practices what he preaches, setting five-year business goals. He would like to see a traditional gym included with the studio and be doing more with technology when that happens, helping people to track their work to achieve their goals. He also envisions a second location.

Ultimately, Fine’s passion is to make lives better.

“A lot of what we do is convince people that they are as powerful as they really are, that they’re as capable as they really are,” he said. “Whether or not you change something physiologically about them, they’ll feel better about themselves. They’ll do more. And that’s what you want — you want to empower people. That’s our main mission here. Are people leaving here feeling better about themselves every day?”