Get Fit in 2015 with Personal Trainers from the Rec Center

Personal trainers from the Drexel Recreation Center, from left, Chris Campli, Joe Giandonato and Chris Lee.
Personal trainers from the Drexel Recreation Center include, from left, Chris Campli, Joe Giandonato (who serves as head of fitness programs) and Chris Lee.

Hans and Franz they are not.

The personal training staffers at the Drexel Recreation Center are far from being stereotypical muscle-bound jocks. They include a former EMT, a martial arts expert, and individuals with personal experience rehabilitating from extreme injury — and they have the collective experience to help anyone from the person looking to shed their holiday pounds to an athlete looking to shave a few hundredths of a second off their 40-yard dash.

They’re part of the University’s Proactive Health Services, a wellness program designed to meet the personal health needs of Drexel students, faculty and staff. Drexel employees looking to fully commit to their New Year’s fitness resolutions can set up personal training sessions with them by contacting the coordinator of member services at the center, Morgan Kilroy, at 215.571.3834 or

Trainers work one-on-one with clients to create a personal regimen fixed to any person’s specific needs.

There are three different tiers that correspond to pricing: one that includes students, one for Drexel faculty, staff and alumni, and one last one for community members, according to Joe Giandonato, the coordinator of fitness programs at the University.

The student tier's initial package starts at $330 for six hour-long sessions, which includes personal assessments. The second tier, which includes faculty, staff and alumni, starts at $355 for six sessions and the community package starts at $450 for six sessions.

Each person's regimen is tailored and doesn't follow a cookie-cutter approach.

“My goal is to make our personal training program the finest in not only the tri-state area but the nation,” Giandonato said.

Before joining Drexel late last year, Giandonato amassed a decade of fitness experience through stints as a home personal trainer, strength and conditioning coach for high school and college sports, and corporate wellness manager for the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

“I condensed a lot of experience in a relatively short amount of time,” he said.

As such, Giandonato knows fitness and he knows his team can provide a level of competency for anyone seeking some help.

Those interested in personal training can weigh in with what they want out of their sessions and be assigned to a trainer corresponding to that.

"That's usually a determination I make along with the client," Giandonato said. "Of course, there are some logistical parameters and time constraints so there are a number of factors. We have a lot of our personal trainers who get their clients off the floor."

For instance, someone looking to hone their athletic skills couldn’t do much better than turning to Morkeith Brown.

Morkeith Brown during an NFL tryout with the Cleveland Browns.

An Army veteran who served overseas before coming back home to play football at Temple University and with the Philadelphia Soul, Brown specializes in sports and tactical performance training. He can work on preparing someone for a football combine or just help improve a person’s speed and quickness.

“There are people who are easy to train because they want to be pushed, then there are people who aren’t athletes who don’t want to do it because they’re scared,” Brown said. “You have to find their limits.”

On another end of the spectrum is Chris Lee.

Lee is an occupational therapy student set to graduate in 2016 and a former martial artist who specialized in disciplines like taekwondo, muy thai and kapkido, even training with one of hapkido’s founders, Ji Han Jae, who was featured in a fight scene in Bruce Lee’s “Game of Death.”

Chris Lee

But Lee’s life suddenly changed three years ago.

“I was in a very severe car accident in 2011,” said Lee. “I could have easily died. I had soft tissue damage near my spine but no breaks of the spinal cord.”

Lee was hospitalized for 60 days and had to learn to walk again.

“After going through the rehab process and seeing other therapists treat me and feeling the frustration, that was my motivation to go into rehab,” Lee said. “I can relate to [my clients] in that I know how it felt to not have my body where I wanted it to be.”

Naturally, among Lee’s specialties in personal training are rehabilitation, injury prevention and working with individuals who may have disabilities.

Both Maty Brennan and Chris Campli specialize in weight loss for those looking to trim extra pounds and stay fit through the year, but each have their own niche due to their past experiences, as well.

A native of Australia, Brennan originally came to the United States on a soccer scholarship and played four seasons split between Georgia Southern and Drexel.

Maty Brennan

Although he can help with soccer and general sports training, Brennan, who is also a student working toward a master’s degree in sport management and set to graduate in 2015, said he wants to help people control their exercise and dietary habits. He set up a blog called the HealthAttack where he occasionally posts tips. 

“I’ve always been helping people in terms of losing weight and getting healthy,” Brennan said. “I always liked one-on-one. Group fitness wasn’t my thing. That personal connection, you can track someone and give them advice.

Campli was a hockey star in both high school and college before concussions forced him from the sport. He now has a new area of focus: Physique training.

“I was always trying to perfect my physique and myself,” Campli said of his time playing hockey. “Looking back, fitness kind of took over. Even if I had a game, I’d be in the gym after.”

As a competitor in physique training, which is similar to bodybuilding but emphasizes the “aesthetics” of the body, Campli can train those looking to enter similar competitions or just tone up their figure.

“I just want people to feel better,” Campli said. “If I’m helping someone feel better about themselves inside and out, then I’m doing my job.”

On the topic of making people feel better, Logan McIntosh began his adult life as an EMT, tending to the sick and injured in trauma situations.

However, the high stress and long hours of EMT work comes with a high burnout rate. McIntosh wanted to keep helping people, but he found a way to do it before they needed the ambulance — personal training.

“I like the fact that I can address the health of my clients from a more holistic standpoint,” he said. “I can use exercise to improve mental health and talk with them about their lifestyles.”

Working at Drexel gives McIntosh the opportunity to reach as many people as he can and “improve health conditions that they may have though they would be unable to change.”

McIntosh gave an example.

“I had a client with bad plantar fasciitis and an Achilles issue,” he said. “She was always told it would be something she would have to deal with her whole life. She had orthotic shoes … Over the course of a year, I was able to get her out of the shoes and she’s basically barefoot now.”

Giandonato’s team extends further, including the longest-tenured trainer, Gretchen Tucker, a former two-sport college athlete who also works at the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute; Akil Piggot, who specializes in bodybuilding and powerlifting; Melisa Gebizlioglu, who can help with race and circuit training; Nick Deacon, a competitive lightweight bodybuilder; and Eric Clark, a former cornerback for the Towson University football team who specializes in weightlifting and women’s fitness, among other things.

With a team like that, Giandonato feels Drexel’s personal training program is invaluable to the health and wellness needs of the University community.

“There have been many economists that view human capital as the most valuable asset in business,” Giandonato concluded. “I have the individuals to drive this program to new heights.”