December's featured gym in my new monthly series of local gyms and fitness studios in Champaign Urbana is Pursuit Fitness & Performance Institute. Just in case you you missed November's highlight of the Stephen's Family YMCA, you can read all about that here.

Pursuit Institute is located inside of the newly opened Lodgic Workplace but they have been around for several years. One of the key differentiators of Pursuit Institute is their focus on the client. They truly tailor the experience to you as the individual client from your first introductory consultation meeting. After a brief tour around Pursuit, you quickly see that they have just a little bit of everything in terms of fitness, strength and cardio equipment. For a fitness enthusiast such as myself, I felt like a kid in a candy store with all the 'fitness things' available within arms reach to incorporate into my workout.

That said, you can definitely go and workout individually at Pursuit Institute if you have a membership for the facility. I did this first with a free trial pass I received at Lodgic and was able to get a little taste of what the facility had to offer in terms of equipment. The memberships are exclusive and limited so you know when you go to workout you won't be fighting for equipment or stepping on someone else's toes.

Their true bread and butter however is their personal training services. Before you even pick up a weight during your first personal training session, you'll go through a series of introductory consults and assessments to better inform the trainer and yourself about your goals, capabilities, limitations and areas of opportunity. In all my experience and trainers I have had in the past, I have yet to have a trainer work to understand in detail my goals, strengths, current capabilities and limitations.

The first step is a one-on-one consultation with you and the trainer. I met with Garrett Ardnt, the president and founder of Pursuit Institute and in this consult Garrett and I discussed my fitness goals, any current muscle aches and pains, my current fitness routine, a day-in-the-life of a current workout. We then talked through next steps to develop a plan that would help me work towards the goals discussed, avoiding injury including how we will measure progress along with what can be done to track success/measure that progress. In my case, my goals were to complete a pull-up, gain muscle strength and cardio endurance especially running with my walking rest to run ratio.

Once that initial consultation is complete, you can choose through a variety of training packages to get you on the right track to meet your goals. Over the course of the last few weeks, I worked with Garrett as he developed a plan that would help me to reach the goals outlined in the consult.

As part of the training components, the client will go through a functional movement assessment to help better determine any strength or movement limitations. In my case, it was uncovered that I have less range of motion with spinal flexion on my left side and my left glute was lacking in strength compared to my right. In the next phases of assessment and training, those details would be looked at in a little closer detail as a fitness plan is developed that is tailored to me, my capabilities and limitations. I asked Garrett how my assessment compared and the answer surprised me but I think it was awesome and one more reason I really like this place. Garrett's answer summed up was there really is not a baseline to compare because it is all unique to the individual and what their body is capable of.

In my case, I have slight scoliosis that might be factor with the limitations I have with spinal flexion and the weakness in left glute/hip could be from a variety of factors. I have occasional knee pain on my left leg when running long distance and this could be that when the pain flares up, I overcompensate on the right side resulting in less strength in the left among other possible factors. I would always have a different limitation because my body is structurally different than the next person.

So often we compare ourselves to others when we can't squat as low or get as much range of motion in a particular exercise and it's simply not our fault. This also came up during the consultation and reminds me that at the heart of everything is the client, what they can do and what goals they've set their sights on. Our bodies are unique, Pursuit Institute recognizes this and we, as the individual client, should embrace that.

After the functional assessment, I met with Garrett to do a different type of training assessment, the MAT (muscle activation technique). An MAT is an assessment to evaluate the client's ability to produce efficient muscle contraction. If you have loss of muscle contraction you will likely experience decreased range of motion, and therefore decreased physical performance. With the MAT training session targeting specific muscle areas, some of that normal muscle contraction can be restored. MAT can also help with a quicker recovery from a muscle injury, overall mobility improvement and a decrease in daily aches and pains. Not only that, it can improve your physical performance by improving recovery in between activity and address overcompensations in movement that might inhibit performance and predispose you to injury. I probably fit into that last camp with the knee pain that creeps in every now and again with long runs. I'm likely overcompensating with another stronger area of my lower body when that happens and those aches and pains have a way of showing themselves.

If you've gone through the assessments and MAT you'll probably then ready to dive into a personal training program to help you reach your goals. I met with Garrett for a personal training session designed specifically for me. Everything in that session tied directly back to the previous conversations and outcomes from the previous assessments. As a runner, I needed assistance with a warmup that I could do anytime but mainly on the days that I'm heading out for a training run. Rather than starting out cold, I now have a pre-built warm up including ladder drills that I can start with to get my legs moving forward and laterally as well as some dynamic stretches that I can use to actively prep for activity. My training session also included exercises to address to the lack of strength that I have predominantly with my left glute as well as exercises that will help me work towards my goal of completing a pull-up.

One of the great things about training at Pursuit Institute is that it comes in all shapes and sizes. You can do individual training, partner training or small group training. Not only that, there are a variety of training packages you can choose from to fit your needs. Whether you are looking for a quick 30 minute session or a full hour, there is an option for you. You can also purchase sessions monthly or in a package of 5, 10, 20 or 30. The more you commit to your goals through a package, the more money you can save. Hit your goals, save money...total win!

An additional feature offered at Pursuit Institute is their recovery room. The recovery room is a small private room within the space that has recovery compression pants/boots and sleeves. Using this equipment has shown to aid, improve and enhance the recovery process. You can read a little more about the science of it all here. I tried out the compression pants and it took a few minutes to get used to the compression feeling but next thing I knew I was completely zoned out and could have even fallen asleep if I was in there any longer. You could think of the compression pants like a mini massage for your lower body. As a runner, this is an especially nice thing to have access too. I have to say, it was pretty relaxing and my legs feel good!

If I haven't sold you yet, you really just need to go and try out Pursuit Institute for yourself. It's an awesome facility with a totally well-rounded program to help you reach your goals, help you attain your maximum fitness potential while supporting and aiding in muscle recovery and sports performance. I have learned so much about myself in the last few weeks that I have already begun to incorporate and take note of current strengths and limitations within in my own workouts. You will come out of the assessments with a better understanding of your physical fitness, your strengths, limitations and areas for opportunity and will be ready to put all that learning to the test with a comprehensive personal training program.

The team at Pursuit Institute is well-informed and experienced in the fitness industry. They design the programs with you, the client, at the heart of the experience which makes a total difference and definitely makes them a place worth visiting and trying out. Whether you've been on the fence about personal training or it's been something you've been thinking about incorporating into your fitness routine, I highly recommend Pursuit Institute. As an added bonus, if you sign up for a tour of the space and initial fitness consultation through their website, you will receive a free assessment and training session to kickstart your journey! Tell them Ali sent you!

Check back in the new year for January's featured fitness studio, Hatha Yoga & Fitness!