What does it take to reach the top 10 of Greatist’s 21 Most Innovative Gyms in the U.S.? For Joe Dowdell, founder and co-owner of Peak Performance in NYC, it was about finding a need in the space — and delivering. Ten years later, the private 10,000 square-foot facility is considered one of the best in the nation, boasting cutting edge equipment (including Woodway Force treadmills, Keiser Racks, and Airdyne Fan Bikes, to name a few), top-notch personal training, and what every client is after: reliable, sustainable results. But before we hit the floor, Greatist sat down with Joe Dowdell to talk “functional training,” protein shakes, and why those 23 hours a day spent away from the gym matter way more than you’d think.

What inspired you to open up Peak Performance?

I just felt there was a need for a really high-quality one-on-one training facility. I mean especially in New York City… It was post 9/11, so it was definitely a risk. But I sort of just believed in myself, in my product, and what we put together in the business plan.

What’s the philosophy here as far as training goes?

Basically we train everyone like they’re an athlete in their own right. They don’t have to be a professional athlete — they don’t even have to be a high school athlete. We just want to get them to move better and feel better about themselves. The emphasis is really placed on the client. And since everybody’s working with a trainer here, there are also fewer distractions. The focus is really on high-quality training, not on numbers — as in, “Let’s just get as many people in the gym as possible, and build our business model on that.” It’s about getting people in here that really want to be here — that really want to change. And we’re going to provide them the best support we can to make that change happen.

For those who haven’t made it up here yet, what can they expect to find?

When you come up, and the elevator doors open, they open right onto the training floor. It’s not all about the bells and whistles and finishes of the space. The training floor is the focal point. So the cardio machines look out onto the training floor; the juice bar looks out onto the training floor; the offices, too… That’s where the energy is. That’s what the focus is. Here, it’s all about strength and conditioning. And I think we’re really great at seamlessly integrating old school training methods with modern technology. Just blending the two together in a way that produces results with our clients.

So, “functional training”…?

I hate that term, honestly. Because what’s functional for one person may not be functional for another. What we do is we customize a training program for the individual. We don’t subscribe to one methodology of training or one methodology of nutrition because everyone’s different. And what works for one person may not work for another.

In your opinion, no workout’s complete without what?

A post-workout protein shake. People don’t realize that of all the changes that occur — most occur when you’re not training. The training creates a stimulus, but it’s the other 23 hours in the day, during recovery, when all the positive changes are taking place. And the way to make sure those things occur correctly is supporting those changes. Getting the proper amounts of sleep. Eating well. Eating clean. Building in some relaxation time or some “me” time.

If you could offer one “pro tip” to live by, what would that be?

Fitness has to be a lifestyle. You can’t eat whatever you want and then come in and hope the gym is going to offset that. There needs to be a well-rounded approach. So in addition to the training, it’s about proper nutrition, adequate sleep, a good social network that’s supportive. Just the three hours — or whatever it is you train a week — isn’t going to offset the other 165 hours in a week. It needs to be a way of life if you want sustainable, long-term results.

A lot of times you have to sort of meet people where they’re at. They can’t come in on Day One having never trained before and all of a sudden say you’re going to train six days a week, one hour a day, and cut out all carbs right away, and alcohol, and cigarettes. It’s not realistic. Most people need to make small changes over time, and then hopefully it will be something that will transform them into a lifestyle of health and wellness and fitness. A series of small successful changes can lead to big things.

Our thoughts exactly. But what about the competition (and the rest of our list!)?

I don’t really think we have any competition — at least in what we do. There are a lot of places out there that are doing good things (Cressey, DeFranco’s, to name a couple), but I’m 100 percent positive that nobody’s doing it to the same level that we’re doing it in New York, and in the same way. We emphasize continued education probably more than any than any other facility in New York. And I think our clients’ expectations of what they’re going to get out of training are higher here than anywhere else in New York. We try to make it a point to meet those expectations.

So what’s the future of Peak Performance?

Just to continue to provide an excellent product to our clients. We’re never satisfied at the status quo. We’re always looking to improve ourselves here. Our facility. Our brand. And ultimately the goal is to expand our brand to other markets that we see would be synergistic to what we’re doing.

The Bottom Line (i.e. your gym’s philosophy in 140 characters or less):

At Peak, our clients’ goals are our primary concern. We provide them with all of the necessary support to make health & fitness a lifestyle.

Peak Performance

Website: peakperformancenyc.com Hours: Mon-Thurs 6am-9:30pm; Fri 6am-8:30pm, Sat 8am-6pm, Sun Closed

Price: $150 per session with a staff trainer ($1,400 for 10 sessions, or $2,600 for 20 sessions); $300 per session with Joe ($2,500 for 10 sessions)

Note: Peak is a private training facility, and not a general membership gym.

Have you ever trained at Peak Performance? Tell us what you think in the comments section below!