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July 14, 2016

At new Italian Market gym, drawing from survival instincts a key to wellness

Lifestyle Wellness
Charge Performance & Wellness Brandon Baker/PhillyVoice

Charles Scogna, owner of Charge Performance and Wellness, rests atop a plyo box, used for jumping.

For Charles Scogna, so much of life is about getting back to his roots.

It certainly applies to his choice of location for his new gym, Charge Performance & Wellness, tucked away in an alley at 928 Christian St. Twenty-nine-year-old Scogna's great-grandfather moved to the United States from Italy in 1917, enlisting in the war and relocating back to Italy before, eventually, permanently setting up camp here. That Italian heritage is partly why he planted his own roots in the Italian Market when time came to open his facility.

Fittingly, though, that same concept also applies to his wellness approach — one that takes notes from our most primal instincts.

“[This isn't] just a trainer being like a drill instructor — ‘Make those calories pay! You’re going to look good in that bathing suit!’ There’s a more altruistic level to fitness," Scogna told PhillyVoice. "It's more ‘Hey, as a society we’re sitting still most of the time, but we're made to move and be capable survivalists' — we run, jump, throw, climb and sometimes even have to fight, unfortunately, really in historical context." 

Scogna is a certified trainer by the National Academy of Sports Medicine who studied as an intern in Drexel University's strength & conditioning department. He opened the gym in June after years of working as an accountant, quipping that after creating a makeshift standing desk and using a stability ball in his office, he was "progressively making [his] way out of the cubicle."  

Brandon Baker/PhillyVoice

The Charge name is meant to be an 'expression of energy,' Scogna said, noting the lightning bolt as the gym's logo. 'The lightning bolt was something I would use in text messages, and I enjoyed the idea of that as an expression or image.'

Much of the 2,000-square-foot gym — previously an apartment building and once a school – is stocked with workout equipment that hits notes compatible with his survival spiel. You won't find a sea of machines (though you will find some, like a Keiser a non-mechanical treadmill), but you will find a swinging rope, gymnastics rings, pulley cables, pull-up bars, plyo boxes and parallettes. In classes, you'll do exercises that consider body weight and take individual capability — your body's "mileage," he explained — into account.

Starting with some of the most basic exercises you could imagine.

“One is the bear claw, which is almost like you’re in a plank, but your knees are bent at a right angle. It uses the core and, again, crawling is the first thing we did," Scogna said. "That’s how we developed our coordination, our core function and the ability to have upper body strength — and before that on our stomach.

"Simple moves that go to primal aspects of how humans move and what your biomechanics are.”

Handout Art/Charles Scogna

Charge clients use the gym's workout space, which includes a stretch of turf.

Which isn't to say you won't find classes suited to most training levels — the most eye-catching being a "Charge Your Run" course that focuses on physics concepts, diversity of movement and squat technique for runners, as well as an upcoming, one-time-only "Rocky 50K" group workout in partnership with Open Streets PHL and Back on My Feet. In general, group classes cost about $20 to $25 per session, with three tiers of membership packages available

Long-term, Scogna wants the gym to grow as a place of education — a gym that not only empowers people to meet their wellness goals (his so-called "three exercise pillars" of form, function and performance), but pass on their knowledge. 

“There’s a job I have as a gym owner, but also a job I have as an ambassador of the city and fitness," he said. "More people need to know there’s this less sort of archaic ‘Only the really strong people go to the gym,' [idea] — so many people are afraid of that judgment ..."

“I want this to be a place of thinking. It used to be a school; in a way, I want to keep that concept.”