Popular Philadelphia-based exercise concept Unite Fitness will open its first Main Line location in January. The cardio, strength and yoga combination focused studio is the first franchise for the company. Founded by Gavin McKay in 2006, Unite Fitness eschews traditional gym values in place of a non-competitive community environment.
After leaving the corporate world in New York, McKay wanted to pursue something more personally fulfilling, coming up with the idea for Unite, originally known as Fusion. That vision “came down to helping people have higher levels of fitness, nutrition and happiness,” says the certified personal trainer and yoga instructor.
A long-time athlete, McKay was used to being surrounded by a fitness team and found traditional gyms uninspiring. “When you’re playing a sport, you have a coach, teammates, nutrition,” he says. “How can we get all those benefits in one place? Gyms just didn’t cut it—everyone’s on their headphones. They’re not talking, not interacting. It doesn’t create a community or a lifestyle that really makes an impact.”
Frustrated, he developed the model for Unite, which goes through three fitness cycles in a one hour and 15 minute class. They begin with cardio intervals, allowing members to choose between types, from running to spinning to rowing, with the goal of switching up across classes. “The whole idea is to cross train, not do one repetitive movement, because that leads to injury,” says McKay, who grew up in Bucks County.
Cardio intervals typically last between 30 and 40 minutes, followed by 30 minutes of free form strength training—meaning there are no machines—ending with a warm down of 15 minutes of yoga. “It really takes you from that super pumped up muscles work to the recovery phase,” says McKay.
The program also changes on a monthly basis to focus on different areas of the body. The class-exclusive format caps at 22 individuals with 50 classes offered in a typical week.
The Wayne location (707 W. Lancaster Ave.) is the first franchise for Unite, which has two studios in Philadelphia. Heading it up is owner Dan DeSalvo, who began as a client at Unite Fitness before choosing to join the franchise.
“You get your high intensity cardio, your strength training and yoga recovery all in one workout,” says Mackie Root, a Main Line native, coach, certified nutritionist and certified personal trainer who will join the Wayne team. Like DeSalvo, he began as a client of Unite before joining the company.
Both were drawn to the all-in-one exercise concept, which eliminated the need to go to multiple workouts—like a gym for strength training and cardio, and a yoga studio for stretching and flexibility. “Just doing spin will not get it done; just doing lifting will leave you out of shape. For us, Unite is all about the integration of the heart, muscle and mind—it’s fitness, cardio, strength, yoga, fitness and nutrition,” explains McKay.
Both DeSalvo and McKay hope Wayne will be the first of many franchise locations as Unite continues to expand. “It is going to be amazing to see the results. I’m very excited and will be relieved when I open the doors and the entire Main Line has the opportunity to come do this workout,” says DeSalvo.