By Michelle Francis
John Stewart of Custom Health & Fitness – A Man Determined to Achieve
You know things are different the moment you pull up to Custom Health & Fitness on California Boulevard. For one thing, there’s a large sign that reads Open 24 Hours, which is certainly a rarity around town. And, in the middle of the day, I find I can’t enter the building because I don’t have a key card to grant access. That’s because safety is of great importance to proprietor John Stewart. His goal is to offer the people of Napa “high quality, convenience, cleanliness, and community involvement – all at an affordable price.” And he knows how to deliver.
Stewart is a champion Powerlifter and Bodybuilder, who earned the title of “Best Lifter” at the APA California “Raw” Powerlifting meet in 2009 – six years after sustaining an injury that was supposed to have rendered him unable to do much more than lift a toothbrush or a coffee cup. “I suffered a complete tear in my [right] pectoral muscle, and was told I’d never lift again,” Stewart said.
Undeterred, Stewart doggedly searched for a surgeon who knew how to fix his injury. And after undergoing surgery, he established his own physical therapy regimen that had him working out four hours a day, four days a week for an entire year.
It was during this period that Custom Health & Fitness began. Officially started in January 2004, Custom Health & Fitness began as a one-man, traveling-fitness operation. Stewart offered in-home fitness training to clients wherever he could find them: as a result, he would often traverse Napa, San Francisco, and Sacramento in a single day. His tenacity paid off. By 2005 he had a strong client base in Napa and was able to provide personal training by appointment-only in a small building at 520 California Boulevard. The business grew in a way that is true to the community spirit of Napa: positive word-of-mouth reviews helped the business flourish, and that growth hasn’t stopped. In 2006 Custom Health & Fitness evolved from personal training by appointment into a standard health club, and business kept steadily improving so that, come 2007, Stewart was able to expand into a second unit in the building. In order to better serve members with varying schedules, in 2008 Stewart decided to make the gym a 24-hour fitness club with key card security; he has since added two more sections, providing a total gym space of 5,000 square feet.
What seems to drive John Stewart, aside from his complete love of, and respect for, health and fitness, is a sense of purpose.
John returned to Powerlifting and Bodybuilding in 2008 to prove to himself that he could. He bulked up from his then-weight of 195 pounds, to 250 pounds, won his trophies, and returned to see his original Physical Therapist who had told him he’d never lift again. He has officially retired from the sports now, but he is able to apply those same principles of quiet dedication and fortitude for the benefit of his current clients. When I asked him to talk about his favorite success stories, he told me of clients who worked with him for multiple years to learn about healthy food, overall nutrition, and proper exercise, and who were able to lose more than one hundred pounds in the process. He also told me about clients with back pain who came to him looking for a functional version of fitness therapy; these individuals worked on stretching and strength training and, over time, transformed from clients who had difficulty sitting in their cars to clients who could perform the daily functions of life without pain. He beams with pride as he describes the stories of single clients whose success inspired entire families to pursue healthy living. But, what seems to be nearest and dearest to his heart are his connections with members of the community: with other local businesses and with individuals who began as clients that have become lifelong friends.
It’s not surprising, then, that when I asked him where he sees his business in five years, he readily responds that he hopes to expand from 5,000 square feet to 7,500 and increase his interactions with the community.
In order to maintain the community feeling and positive word of mouth, Stewart takes his commitment to his cliental very seriously. Cleanliness is of utmost importance, as is continuing to upgrade his machines and equipment. Custom Health & Fitness replaced every single piece of equipment in 2013, and hasn’t raised fees since then. Stewart happily explains that improvement is always a goal, and that he is “introducing all new Life Fitness and Hammer Strength machines, as well as top-of-the-line Power Step mills, treadmills, cross-trainers and elliptical machines, as well as Hammer Strength-designed weight equipment.”
It’s a testament to the something-for-everyone feel of his business that Stewart keeps his Powerlifting and Bodybuilding trophies upstairs in his office. He is there, his wealth of knowledge is there, and he seems ready to share with anybody who comes through the door in search of such information. But, if you’re beginning a health club membership for more modest reasons, those professional lifting mementos won’t be staring you in the face as you begin your healthcare regimen. Custom Health & Fitness boasts a six-person staff of easy-to-approach professionals; and, just in case you’re still a bit shy about approaching someone, there’s even a suggestion box open to all members.
Stewart takes great pride in the fact that he is able to offer versatile membership plans at affordable prices. In order to help honor your holiday fitness goals, Custom Health & Fitness has a special Napa Valley Marketplace promotion: from December 1st-21st, 2015, Napa residents can join for free with enrollment in any membership plan. Whether you want to work on serious strength training or simply lose a little weight, Stewart makes it clear that “Custom Health & Fitness [is] Napa’s premiere local fitness destination.”
Napa Valley Residents Join for free
December 1-21 with enrollment in any membership plan
520 California Blvd. Suite 12, Napa | (707) 224-2300 | customhealth-fitness.com