One-time Olympic decathlon hopeful Jeff Bathiany is driving around town these days in a converted bread truck, delivering physical fitness for $30 an hour.
The eight-month-old mobile gymnasium venture hardly measures up to the intensity of the three years of exhaustive training Bathiany underwent in the hope of earning a medal in the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, but it’s a living.
“When I hurt my back throwing the javelin two months before the Olympics, I didn’t know what to do,” recalled the 30-year-old University of Kentucky graduate who now lives in Corona del Mar. “I had to give it up. I felt I had let my parents and my hometown down.”
It was his parents and the 17,000 people in Fort Thomas, Ky., who had helped finance Bathiany during three years of daily training, much of it at UC Irvine where he was able to prepare year-round in the California climate for the Olympics.
“It was the major decision of my life when I decided I couldn’t go on,” said Bathiany, who showed promise in 1980 as a decathlon candidate when he placed sixth in the Southeastern Conference after only one year as a college decathlete.
But life continues.
Armed with a degree in kinesiology and physical education, plus a $6,000 loan from his home town bank, Bathiany bought the old bakery van, outfitted it into a muscle truck with the same type of physical fitness equipment he uses to shape his own 6-foot-tall, muscular frame, and late last year began a career in the field he knows best--physical fitness.
His business, called Body Sculpting, is still in its infancy, but Bathiany claims 20 regular customers, each of whom pays him an average of $60 a week for two hour-long sessions.
With cancellations and seasonal variations taken into account (Southern Californians are more body conscious as the bathing suit season nears), Bathiany figures that his monthly gross now runs between $3,500 and $4,500.
“I knew there are people in Orange County who don’t have the time to go to a gym,” Bathiany said, “so it only seemed natural to go to them either before or after work or at lunch time. I think there’s a market out there for a program like this and none is currently available” in Orange County, said the budding entrepreneur, who has hopes of selling Body Sculpting franchises to others interested in operating mobile gyms.
“When you figure I bring all the equipment right to someone’s house or office,” said Bathiany, "$30 is not all that expensive, especially when you compare it with the $100 an hour being charged for the same instruction in places like Beverly Hills. I actually save my clients money by bringing the gym with me,” he added.
While the affluent in Orange County make up the bulk of his business, Bathiany says he also has several waitresses, a secretary and a short-order cook as customers.
Along with the convenience of on-site exercise, Bathiany develops individual programs, sometimes consulting the customer’s doctor to prepare a workout regimen tailored to his or her physical capabilities.
“I first sit down with the client and go over a check list of questions, including their medical history, eating habits, life style, past injuries and medicine they use,” he said. “Then we develop a two- or three-times-a-week workout program, along with a new set of eating guides.”
Physical fitness, he said, is “only 20% of the program. Good nutrition counts for the other 80%.”
Professional race car driver Kenny Bernstein, 40, of Newport Beach said he has lost 40 pounds and gained strength in the six months he has been following Bathiany’s nutrition program, which includes eating more grains, fish and chicken. He now weighs 150 pounds.
“I bought the same kind of workout machine he has in his truck and I take it along with my race cars when I’m competing,” said the 1979 International Hot Rod Assn. champion and current point leader in funny car standings in the National Hot Rod Assn.
Bathiany keeps a busy schedule with his business and also travels widely as a speaker for Tourette Syndrome, a neurological disorder which causes him to have occasional uncontrollable twitching of the eyes and head.
“Jeff is a good role model for so many children who have the same disease as he,” said Muriel Seligman of Los Angeles, a director for the National Tourette syndrome Assn. “Children can be cruel with teasing of their peers, and Jeff is very helpful just by talking to the youngsters who have the same problem.”