LGBT-focused gym to expand, renovate

The owners of an LGBT-focused gym last month announced the facility’s expansion and renovations.

Optimal Sport 1315 is introducing an additional 800 square feet of space. The new space will accommodate new classes, equipment and personal trainers. The gym already has 11,000 square feet of space. Due to an influx in business, Optimal is focusing on its growth, according to co-owner Jeff Shablin.

“As the only LGBT-owned gym in the area, we are focused on giving everyone, straight and gay, a friendly space where they can accomplish their fitness goals and feel part of a great gym culture,” Shablin said.

He and his partner, Yul Giraldo, own Optimal. They have been together 15 years and married since 2004.

“Our growth has been slow and steady for more than 12 years,” Giraldo said. “Our commitment to being both a warm and welcoming ‘boutique’ gym and a full-service comprehensive fitness facility means we need more space to offer more workout options.”

Shablin said Optimal has 11 additional personal trainers, gear and a new collaboration with The Running Center. Other renovations and upgrades include lockers, bumper plates, weights, climbing rope, rings and spin bikes.

“We’ve grown very steadily at our Juniper Street location and in our Newtown Club,” Shablin said. “My amazing husband and business partner, Yul, really encouraged a slow, thoughtful approach to our business over the last 15 years.”

“Now we’re adding some quality equipment, 800 square feet of new training space and some outstanding instructors and trainers in Center City, not to mention fluffier towels,” Shablin added.

Optimal has two locations, Midtown Philadelphia and Newtown. The facilities take pride in being an LGBT-friendly space, according to the co-owner.

“We’ve been asked a lot lately if we’re going to be ‘the gay gym’ — we sure hope so. Our attitude is that everyone, and we mean that, is welcome here, but nobody needs to come through our door that isn’t ready for a space that cares deeply about diversity, kindness and zero judgment,” Shablin said.

Optimal Sport 1315 is located at 1315 Walnut St.

The Gayborhood’s 12th Street Gym, another LGBT-focused facility, closed Jan. 31 after 30 years. In a statement announcing Optimal Sport’s expansion, Shablin said he had “great respect for the legacy that 12th Street Gym created over 30 years. We hope to inherit some of that legacy through our close connections to the diverse communities we proudly serve.”

“I want to tip my hat to [12th Street Gym co-owner] Frank Baer, who did such an amazing job running 12th Street Gym for many years,” Shablin told PGN. “He is a genuine professional and well-respected by many of us in Philadelphia’s fitness and LGBT communities.”