Installed in a trailer, it rolls up to the client's door and makes exercise impossible to shirk


April 14, 1991|By Susan Baer | Susan Baer,Washington Bureau of The Sun

POTOMAC — Potomac

Let's be honest here. This is not for everyone.

Or as Potomac housewife Marilynn Breslau says, "Some people wouldn't drop a grand a month on this."

Some people, indeed!

But for those willing to drop major bucks in order to drop major pounds, the year-old Fitness Fleet, a traveling gym that rolls into your driveway and beckons your biceps to its bench press, is a nearly excuse-proof way to exercise.

"When someone rings your bell at 7:15 and says, 'I'm here,' you do it," says Mrs. Breslau, 42, a three-time-a-week Fitness Fleet devotee. "It's the ultimate way to exercise. What I'm saying is: I don't do it any other way."

Developed by musician-turned-entrepreneur-turned personal trainer Fred Daniels, the 5-ton Fitness Fleet (a fleet of one so far) is a 32-foot trailer, pulled by a pickup truck and completely outfitted as a gym.

It's carpeted, wallpapered, climate-controlled. At one end are a Stairmaster, Schwinn Airdyne stationary bicycle, rowing machine and leg press. At the other end, free weights, bench press and assorted other fitness contraptions (all of which are bolted to the floor).

Mr. Daniels has even equipped his $100,000 muscle-See mobile with mirrors, mini-fans, jugs of water and a stereo -- you may choose the music to which you'd like to sweat.

The price tag for an hour's worth of personalized training and up-to-your-door service? Anywhere from $35 to $60 a person, depending on the time of day (early mornings and evenings are prime time) and whether the lesson is for one or two.

Clients must commit to a minimum of 12 weeks, at three times a week, and pay each month up front -- "so that they've got that investment," says Mr. Daniels, 38, a sprightly, jocular sort. "I set it up to get results."

Mrs. Breslau, who works out three times a week with her husband, Allen, a communications executive, says the couple spends $960 a month for the gym-on-wheels. "With the money issue, it's a matter of where your priorities are," says the mother of a 4-year-old, who says she has tried, and failed at, every other exercise program.

"I joined an aerobics class," she says. "I put on my leotards and went to the car wash."

Running? "Boring."

The Breslaus even tossed around the idea of buying exercise equipment for their home. "But I was afraid of the same thing. We'd put it in and then sit there and look at it."

Which, in fact, is exactly what happened when Mr. Daniels lent her a NordicTrack for her bedroom. "I stayed in bed and thought, 'Wow, that's a really nifty piece of equipment.' "

Her current personalized program, which she has been following since last June when she called the Fitness Fleet for help, works "because Fred comes to the door and gets me out. If you don't feel like doing it, you do it anyway."

"I never had a biceps" she marvels. "Now I have a muscle 4 inches wide, and I can pull out Giant [supermarket] bags three at a time."

Mr. Daniels, who's certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine in Chicago, says he currently has about 25 customers, all of them in upscale Washington suburbs, who include "out-of-shape businessmen," a triathlete, a 74-year-old asthmatic and a 13-year-old girl with foot problems.

One of his customers, Stephen Finger, a 48-year-old systems engineer from Potomac, employed Mr. Daniels' services last spring as rehabilitative therapy after a serious illness left him nearly unable to walk. The Fitness Fleet, which would come to him, perfectly fit his needs, he says. But when his insurance company refused to cover the exercise regimen, since Mr. Daniels is not a licensed physiotherapist, Mr. Finger had to quit.

Recently, however, he has started again -- at his own expense -- and hopes to continue as long as finances permit.

Mr. Daniels says he hopes to expand the therapeutic end of his business, and in fact, is now pursuing a degree in exercise biochemistry at George Mason University. "I've had all the important courses," he says, "kinesiology, exercise physiology, anatomy."

A native of Rosslyn, Va., Mr. Daniels left the College of William and Mary after three years to sing and play lead guitar in a series of bands. After 10 years as a musician, he ventured into business, starting a home-cleaning service, dabbling in marketing work -- and now hitting the road with his traveling gym.

The McLean, Va., father of three hopes to add a second rig to his fleet by the end of the year and eventually franchise them around the country. But he can't think of anyplace better to have started than in the Washington area.

"The stress level of the average person in D.C. is straight through the roof," he says.

So for now, he travels the Washington beltway, the "Exercise and Muscle Guide" bouncing against the wall as he, his weights and his not-so-stationary bike roll along at 55 mph.

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