How We Started
If I hadn’t been cut from the Marist College crew team my freshman year, things may have been completely different.
At six foot three and 160 pounds, I was not strong or fit enough to make the team. Motivated by this rejection and determined to make the team in the spring, I began working out on my own. This changed the course of my life. After adding 25 pounds of muscle during the following months, I made the team’s first freshman boat that spring and our boat won a bronze medal at the Dad Vail Regatta, the national championship.
I didn’t stop there and continued working out. Adding more muscle to my body, I made the varsity boat as a sophomore. By my junior year, I was 240 pounds, with a 400-pound bench press, a 550-pound squat and always near the head of the pack in our team runs. Beyond the physical success, these changes had an even greater psychological impact on me. I had arrived at Marist, a shy young guy and was thrust into a life-changing leadership position. No one was more amazed than me when my teammates voted me captain in my junior year and again senior year.
This college experience made me realize the tremendous psychological impact, as well as the obvious physiological impact, regular exercise can make in someone’s life. It is what fueled the passion I have to this day for sharing these benefits with others. It also lead to my firm belief that if I was going to influence other people, I needed to practice what I preached. As a result, our team and I have exercised alongside our members, almost everyday, for more than 40 years.
Following college and a number of years in the business world, I had a serendipitous opportunity to begin working directly with Arthur Jones, one of the most prolific researchers in the field of exercise for athletic performance and health. Jones funded and conducted much of the revolutionary research that redefined the “fitness” world, creating the industry that we know today. While working with Jones, I had the good fortune to be involved in much of his seminal research.
Working for Jones, I also opened and managed the first personal training center in New York City, where I had the opportunity to train many world-class amateur and professional athletes. In addition I assisted in establishing strength programs for a number of colleges and professional teams as well as in-service training for doctors and physical therapists on strengthening and specialized spinal therapy.
One of my most memorable experiences was training my childhood hero, the legendary football player Dick Butkus. I have found that you can tell a lot about people when you train them and he was clearly tough as nails. It soon became obvious to me why he dominated the NFL for so many years. I didn’t have to push him, he drove himself harder then anyone I had ever trained and was totally exhausted, lying on the floor, when we finished!
In 1974, my wife Sandy and I moved to the Poughkeepsie area to open our own fitness and therapy center. All Sport Conditioning Center began as an 800-square-foot storefront on South Avenue. At that time athletes, predominantly football players, were the only people strength training. In fact even many baseball and basketball players had in their contracts that they were not allowed to lift weights because it was believed it would make them slow and uncoordinated! Women were being told by their doctors that working out and lifting weights would hurt them and cause infertility.
As a result most of our original members were football players and a few men who wanted to feel and look better. Fortunately, shortly after opening, Dr John Marshall, from the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, began sending his local surgical patients to us. He has been credited with developing cruciate knee ligament surgery, and he loved the rehab that we provided for his patients on the Nautilus leg extension and leg curl machines. Within a year, we were working with many of the areas top athletes as well as knee rehab patients.
Five years later, we partnered with four local businessmen and built the Poughkeepsie All Sport Club, a 25,000-square-foot facility in our present location with 9 racquetball courts and a small fitness center. A year later we built All Sport Fishkill, a 45,000-square-foot facility. In 1994, we separated with the last of our partners, by separating the properties, and we became sole owners of the Poughkeepsie gym, in what had become our hometown.
At that point we were free to implement the new management system that we had been trying to put in place for years. Janet Chianese our present CEO, and I instituted the new system, “open book management” with our team, and that began a rapid growth path for us. In the following years, our membership exploded, we expanded the property, buying surrounding properties and we added a number of large and small additions to the Poughkeepsie gym, including more fitness space, large free weight area, 4000 sq ft group exercise room and an indoor pool.
In 2001, we completed construction of our Highland gym with a spacious fitness center and indoor pool. We have now grown to 2 locations with over 80,000 sq. ft. dedicated to delivering the finest equipment, best staff and fitness programs for all ages and physical conditions. A lot of businesses talk quality but we have always been committed to the best equipment staff and credible programs. For example, we are one of a very few gyms or therapy clinics in the country who have invested in the expensive MedX equipment, which is recognized as the best strengthening equipment in the world.
In 1996, as a result of the split with our last partner, we needed to change the All Sport name. Since I had done our radio advertising for 25 years, my name was synonymous with All Sport. At the urging of a number of consultants, and in order to minimize confusion, we chose Mike Arteaga’s Health and Fitness Centers as our new name. We felt it would convey a less corporate and more personal feeling. Dropping the sports reference made it clear we are not just about athletes any more.
Another major milestone occurred in the early 90s, as a result of crippling pain from ruptured discs in my back. A back surgeon told me I needed surgery. Having seen many failed back surgeries, I consulted one of the leading back specialists in New York City. He advised me to try and avoid surgery since “it was at best 50% successful”. He suggested exercise to begin re-strengthening my back and estimated I had a 70% chance of avoiding surgery.
While working on my own rehabilitation, I heard about the revolutionary research being conducted at the University of Florida Medical School. As a result, I flew to Gainesville Florida to attended a lecture at the university on the remarkable success they were having with back and neck pain relief, using the MedX Back and Neck Rehab Machines. Within the year we were able to bring the program to the Mid-Hudson Valley and over the last 14 years have helped myself and thousands of other back pain sufferers avoid dangerous surgery and get back to a normal life.
As always we continue to work on new programs and our facilities to better serve our members. It seems like we are always under construction!
I am also passionate about reading and passing on the latest research on health and exercise. New research information is published on an almost daily basis. I have always felt that we need to be a credible source of information for our members when they are making decisions about their health. Along with being available to the members, I also work at delivering health information with our health letter, emails and our health brochures.
We have been committed for over 40 years to helping people add regular exercise to their lives for the rest of their lives! I have always believed that it is difficult enough to exercise for a lifetime; the more pleasant the environment, the more likely you will be successful for a long lifetime! This is why we focus on providing the best health and fitness programs and facilities, in a clean, friendly, welcoming atmosphere.