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New Lancaster gym owners take a swing at overall wellness

Michele Schraven is a commercial real estate manager; her husband, Mark, an engineer who works for a company that builds roads and bridges. They spend most of their nonworking hours at their new business, Advantage Fitness, about 3½ miles east of the village of Lancaster at 6161 Broadway.

The Cheektowaga couple, both in their 50s, have always been drawn to fitness. Both have worked out at home and in local gyms. He started power lifting in his teens.

“I found out when I was young that with fast-twitch muscles I could hit a softball very far and a golf ball very far,” Mark Schraven said.

He played for the Plant 6 slow-pitch softball team, a collection of top players from the region that competed nationally. In 1990, he was named one of 11 slow-pitch All-Americans. He can drive a golf ball roughly 300 yards and has become a Level 3 Titleist Performance professional.

Advantage Fitness opened in May on a 5-acre patch that slopes behind the 3,000-square-foot steel building, perfect terrain for Mark Schraven, who come spring aims to teach his students to hit shots from a tee box-in-the-making just outside the rear garage door. Meanwhile, he’ll work indoors along with several other personal trainers, a yoga instructor, two massage therapists and a pair of weight-loss specialists who rent time in the fitness center and work with a growing number of clients.

Q. This is a competitive region when it comes to fitness. Why this part of Lancaster?

Mark Schraven: I did a lot of market research as far as the growing areas in suburban Buffalo. Within a half air mile radius of this building, there are 900 houses that have gone up in the last year, are going up now or have lots for houses. Despite the competition in Western New York, it’s not in this immediate area.

Michele Schraven: We’re not a pay a membership and you come to work out by yourself. You come in for one-on-one training or with a group. We have four cardio-type classes a week. People who come in are looking for that smaller group, one-on-one, somebody paying attention when they’re working out.

Q. Talk about your golf training.

Mark Schraven: We teach everybody to move properly from the ground up. We make the ground our stable base and we learn to rotate and turn everything using energy from the ground and building it up. The body moves properly and then we go to the golf swing. … I don’t go out there and play the scoring game: the short irons, the work around the greens and the finesse stuff. I’m here to teach people through exercise how to swing a golf club, teach them the mechanics of the swing. That’s where people want to start. The golf professionals are the ones that teach you the game of golf.

Q. Why yoga, massage therapy, weight loss and the search for a chiropractor?

Mark Schraven: We’re interested in the entire person. We’re interested through a journey in helping to make a well-rounded, functionable person. If I’m working with a client and see a dysfunction in a particular body part, I have my massage therapist here that I can talk to about it. Our trainers are experienced enough where we’re going to see the dysfunction in the body. We’re not going to try to work through the dysfunction. That’s where injury comes from.

At some point, I want to develop a plan where business people hold their meetings here and afterward can work on some exercise stuff. We can throw the garage door up and we can hit golf balls.

Q. Do you have a golf ball retreiver?

Mark Schraven: She doesn’t want to hear this but we’re going to need one. We have the big tractor but the attachment, the ball-picker-upper, we’re going to need that. It’s been kind of tedious going out and picking up balls right now.

Q. Talk about your workout philosophy.

Michele Schraven: We don’t believe in machines. That’s not functional training. You won’t see a treadmill here or stepmaster, all that stuff I used to do. You don’t need all that stuff.

Mark Schraven: The first thing you do is you sit on a machine and get into a bad posture. Everything we do out here is from a functional, standing position. We’re throwing fitness balls and swinging kettle bells and we’re rotating against the big bounce wall. We often get our cardio with body weight (resistance) movements. When our clients finish, they’re full of sweat and their heart is pounding and they’ve accomplished something. Our trainers are constantly reinforcing the mind and the muscles during this.

Q. Talk about your first Workout, Whine and Wine Party from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Dec. 9.

Michele Schraven: Mary Cone is 65 and has taught aerobics everywhere. She’s absolutely amazing. I met her at Lawley Insurance when she came in to do a weight-loss class. She also teaches four aerobics classes here a week. She asked, “Why don’t we have this little event where everybody brings a bottle of wine, we’ll have cheese, and we’ll have classes out here and can show people what we’re doing. We’ll have massages. It’s sort of like an open house.

Q. How do you work 40 to 50 hours a week and then come out here?

Michele Schraven: We’re helping people, so it’s fun. It’s fun to talk to people.

Mark Schraven: Say if in two weeks, you’ve got tickets to a Sabres game at center ice and you’re looking forward to that event and that evening you go out to the game and out to eat and have a great time. That’s how I feel every day when I walk into this building. I have that excitement and passion. It doesn’t matter if I’m cutting grass or working on the golf green or training clients, it’s not like going to work. This is my special event every single day.

Q. What are the three most important things people can do this holiday season to stay fit, healthy and happy?

Michele Schraven: You’ve got to work out regularly, the entire time. Go to your Christmas parties, but moderation is key. If you could keep to a holiday schedule where you say, “I’m not going to pig out but I’m going to have a little bit of this and a little bit of that, and I’m going to be here in the gym Monday, Wednesday, Friday working out,” that’s important.

Mark Schraven: Make an effort with your New Year’s resolution not just to talk about it but to follow through. And why wait? The best day to start is today. It’s like anything, once you start doing it and it becomes a routine, it becomes part of your life. Everybody wants instant gratification these days and it doesn’t work that way. To me, the T-I-M-E in the word time means “Things I Must Earn.” With fitness and a healthy lifestyle, if you continue it, it will progress on its own.

Michele Schraven: Besides, the gyms will be packed come January and February.


Learn more about Advantage Fitness at or by calling 864-8343.