SOUTH SHORE — Fitness trainer John Coleman could offer his services anywhere in Chicago, but for nine years he has chosen to stay on the South Side.
Pump High Energy Fitness Center, 1933 E. 71st St., is the type of place one might see in an old film where an inner city aspiring athlete is getting trained. There are no rose gardens and people sipping lattes from sidewalk seats. There are, instead, empty storefronts, loiterers and litter.
Despite this bleak view, Coleman, 57, sees promise and opportunity.
Pump High Energy Fitness Center is located at 1933 E. 71st St. [DNAinfo/Andrea V. Watson]
His gym might be small, but he helps make big improvements in people’s lives. On a weekly basis, he sees anywhere from 35-40 children and teens. His fitness center is for all ages, but through word of mouth, a lot of youths have come seeking his help.
“I do sports performance, I do rehab, I do general working out, whatever your needs are, I can do,” he said. “A lot of kids, just want somewhere to be, don’t know where to go.”
Coleman has made it his job to help those who want to be helped. He said a lot of them want to go to college, but worry about the costs or their low grades.
“I tell them to play a sport and I can help you,” he said. “It’s a four-year ride if you qualify. If you can go to college, you can fulfill your dreams.”
“I tell them ‘Let me give you a chance to do something with your life,’ plus this is an outlet for these kids,” he said.
His background is actually in graphic design. He attended Columbia College Chicago on an arts scholarship, but Coleman said he has always worked out.
"I got deep into it and I started seeing more kids who needed training, so I would take them to the side," Coleman said.
To get through to them, he has to understand them, which Coleman said he does. He's a South Shore resident himself.
“I can speak their language and understand where they’re coming from,” he said. “I tell the kids I will never lie to you. I will tell the truth.”
His gym attracts people from all walks of life, so it’s not uncommon to see a doctor or lawyer working out. Jahmal Cole, founder of the "My Block My Hood My City" group, goes there every morning.
Coleman encourages the teens to introduce themselves to the adults and ask questions.
Member DeShon Linzy lives in the neighborhood and has been working out with Coleman for three years. A friend told him about the fitness center. When he started coming, it was to bring his son who plays basketball, but then he joined, too.
“I’ve been a member of Lifetime Fitness, L.A. Fitness, but coming here, it’s more like a family,” he said.
Linzy was in an accident that prevented him from walking.
“Since I’ve been here I’ve had more flexibility, I can touch my toes and I’m back walking,” he said. “If you have a goal he’s going to help you reach your goal.”
His 21-year-old son plays basketball at University of Tennessee at Martin and has been performing exceptionally well, he said.
No other trainer could bring out the best in him, Linzy said.
People become a part of the “village” when they join Pump High Energy Fitness center, Coleman said. They won’t get the same thing at a larger fitness center.
“It’s much more hands on and it’s really affordable,” he said. “I don’t really do this for the money, I do this for the love.”
Walk-ins are always welcome. Membership is $30 a month and there’s no contract. Personal training is $20 for a one-hour session. Call 773-241-5414 to learn more.
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