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Pegula-owned fitness center caters to the elite athlete

Jason Jerome knows that it helps to be good at what you do for a living, because you never know who might walk in the door.

Jerome helped Jessie Pegula rehab from a tennis injury four years ago while working at a South Florida fitness center. Today, he runs two specialty fitness centers for Jessie’s parents, Terry and Kim. You may have heard of them.

The first Impact Sports Performance opened in May 2011 in the same Boca Raton, Fla., development where the owners of the Bills and Sabres have their corporate headquarters.

The second opened on Halloween at HarborCenter in downtown Buffalo. Jerome, a Chicago native, and his wife, Keli, who grew up in Pittsburgh, moved to Western New York to run it.

“Terry said, ‘I didn’t think people did that anymore, moved back north when they’re down here,” said Keli Jerome, who met her husband when he was the athletic trainer at Highlands Christian Academy in Pompano Beach, Fla.

Jerome, who holds a master’s degree in sports medicine from the University of Miami, has come a long way since. Before joining Team Pegula, he was the core training specialist with the Miami Hurricanes Athletic Department and helped rehab college, Olympic and pro athletes, as well as others.

If the new (716) is a shining example of what a billionaire can do for a sports bar, the same can be said of the new fitness digs six floors up, tucked in a hallway near HarborCenter’s pair of indoor ice rinks. You won’t find craft beer, a blue-topped bar and a big projection screen up the elevator at Impact Sports. You will find spring water, protein shakes and the best exercise equipment that lots and lots of money can buy.

“They want to help the elite athletes excel and everybody else come and make themselves better,” Jerome said of his bosses.

The fitness center shows how far athletic grooming has come since Clarence native and former NHL center Kevyn Adams played youth hockey.

“You can tailor programs now based on data and science and help each player get to their potential,” said Adams, 40, head of HarborCenter’s Academy of Hockey.

Impact Sports is another piece of the Pegula hockey puzzle, Adams said, part of the showcase designed to lure teams, players and would-be athletes of all ages to Buffalo – and help build some hometown superstar athletes in the process.

Here’s how it fits:

THE CUSTOMERS

Matt Crawley, head sports performance coach, put three people through interval training during a recent day at Impact Sports, varying the intensity of the workout and looking to get maximum results. His charges: a 45-year-old mom interested in weight management; an office worker in his early 30s looking to regain the power he had during his college hockey days so he plays well in an adult league; and a collegiate soccer player in her 20s looking to bounce back from knee and ankle injuries.

“We tend to see mostly teams,” including the Erie Community College and St. Francis High School hockey squads, the Junior Sabres and South Buffalo Rugby, Keli Jerome said. Visiting teams of all ages stop in for a quick “dynamic warm-up” involving calisthenics before games. Rates – about average in Western New York – run from $60 an hour for personal training to $20 an hour for small group training to $5 a head for team training. Package rates also are available.

“We’ll find a way for everybody, at any age, who has that desire ... to use this as an opportunity to make themselves better,” Jason Jerome said.

Five staff members not only are nationally certified but have sports exercise or sports medicine degrees. They will help HarborCenter staff with the NHL Scouting Combine this spring and next.

THE GYM

Like most fitness centers, the 4,500-square-foot Impact Sports has kettle bells, medicine balls and bosu balls. It includes six weight racks. Signs above the 30-yard turf track, serving as motivation, urge competence, control and courage, character, community and swag. Several of the treadmills and all of the exercise bikes are set up along windows that overlook the ice rinks and boardwalk at Canalside.

“We always say, ‘Take advantage of the view here,’ ” Crawley said.

HIGH-END EQUIPMENT

“Everything in here is designed to create a complete athlete,” Jason Jerome said.

Most of the machines feature resistance exercises based not on plate-loaded weight but air compression.

“What’s cool about this is you get constant resistance throughout the whole movement and throughout each rep,” said Crawley, a Kenmore native who holds a master’s degree in human health and performance from Canisius College. He left a college sports training job in Florida to return home.

Equipment includes:

Keiser Column Trainer (8): Press a yellow button to add more pounds per square inch of air pressure as you run through a series of resistance exercises with this piece of equipment. A panel shows the level of resistance, number of target reps and the number of sets, as well as the percentage of peak power the user puts out during each rep. The workout can be tracked on TVs overhead. The equipment measures pounds per square inch, not pounds. Users need full extension and execution – or the rep may not be counted. It also registers the percentage of peak performance for each rep. “When you’re getting tired, this machine is going to call you out,” HarborCenter spokesman Don Heins said.

Keiser Air Runner (2): Works legs individually or together to build power; measures resistance, speed and power output.

VertiMax (4): Improves an athlete’s vertical power using resistance jumps; tends to be softer on joints than traditional equipment.

Woodway Curve (8): These nonmotorized, self-propelled, corrective treadmills are curved in shape. They’re designed to help someone run with the best biomechanics possible. “Sometimes, people freak out, but if you’re doing it right, you’re so soft on the treadmill you don’t feel yourself run,” Crawley said.

These measure speed, distance, calories burned, pulse and time. They help athletes improve speed.

Wattbikes (10): These flywheel stationary bikes can measure the output individually for each leg, as well as RPM, energy output (in watts) and average energy output. “If somebody is a great stick handler, has beautiful accuracy on their shot, but they don’t have a great amount of top-end speed, we put them on these bikes and I can tell diagnostically whether or not they have an equal amount of strength on each leg,” Jason Jerome said. “And I can tell if their strength is coming from their quads or from their hamstrings. I then know if I have to do more work in the weight room on the hamstrings, if I have to isolate the hamstrings, if I have to create a muscular balance in the lower extremities.”

Woodway Force and 4Front (12): These treadmills can be put on a high calculated load; designed to take load off joints.

Power Plate (1): This vibrating piece of equipment has a range from 1 to 10 and can shake the floor of Impact Sports. “The shaking stimulates muscle activation in certain areas that might not be activated normally,” Crawley said. “It helps in recovery, waking any nerves that may not be firing properly. I like it for stretching, recovery, cool down.”

SM Sports Versa Climber (4): For Spider-Man wannabes, this mimics climbing a landmark. “It’s similar to a rower, except you’re standing upright,” Crawley said. “You get full-body movement.”

Cold tub: Generally set at 50 degrees – with an ice machine beside it, in case that isn’t cold enough – this tub helps cool inflammation that can come with an intense workout.

“Our staff burns a lot of calories,” Heins said, “just by demonstrating things.”

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