Photo Guthy Renker
Fitness trainer Rob Forcelli’s mantra, “Bring your best and nothing less,” is music to the ears of hundreds of Westchester gym rats. The 40-year-old Yonkers native has inspired such a loyal following that people line up a half-hour in advance to squeeze themselves into his weekly classes at the Equinox Fitness Club in Scarsdale and The Gym in Armonk.
“Westchester has a lot of die-hard, pretty, in-shape women, and a lot of them find their way to Rob,” says Denise Groothuis of West Harrison. The self-described exercise fanatic worked with seven trainers at three Westchester gyms before becoming a Forcelli follower two years ago. “Now he’s responsible for a large part of my training. He motivates, pushes, challenges, and keeps you focused.”
So do all good fitness coaches. What’s Forcelli’s special appeal? A combination of caring, charisma, and consistency. “You could put a hundred people in the room and he’d be able to personalize the workout for each one,” says Equinox General Manager Anthony Cicchesi. “There’s an aura about Rob. You feel something when you’re with him.” Jamie Nicastri, general manager and legal counsel for The Gym, says, “Rob knows his stuff, and if you do what he asks, you’ll get what you want.”
In Armonk, weekend sessions sometimes take place on the basketball court rather than in the regular studio, to accommodate upwards of 75 people, and, in Scarsdale, the club has had to cap class capacity at 60 because of fire department regulations. “In my experience managing three locations, including one in Midtown Manhattan, I’ve never seen a line like that,” Cicchesi says.
In addition to group fitness classes based on his Speedbody workout video, Forcelli’s weekly schedule includes private personal-training sessions, Contenders Basketball, a year-round league for men over age 35, and Contenders Club workouts, which he describes as private fitness training in a group setting. Contenders Club classes, limited to fewer than 20 people, are “much harder and more personalized than the bigger class,” Groothuis says. She finds them a good substitute for personal training. “It’s smart and cost-effective. You can cut back financially without cutting back on fun and fitness.”
For some clients, Forcelli functions as a life coach as well as a fitness coach, spending more than 40 hours a month on the phone or by email dispensing diet tips, training suggestions, and advice on dealing with problems. “I get a great reward when people can gain something from my twenty-one years of experience,” he says. “Getting them in shape forms a connection that’s priceless.”
In his spare time, Forcelli is working on a treatment for a television show he calls The Trainer, loosely based on what he’s seen in the fitness industry, plus “stuff I added to spice it up for the drama of TV.”
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Forcelli’s life would provide plenty of fodder for a TV series. Nicknamed “Fastlane” by a coach for his ability to accomplish the maximum on a minimum of sleep, Forcelli has tried his hand (and feet) at kickboxing, Golden Gloves boxing, bodybuilding, and baseball. He has been a security guard for rock stars and a bouncer at exclusive Manhattan nightclubs. He was also the co-owner, with his father, of Potato King, a small business selling baked potatoes off a lunch cart. “The first day, there were thirty-five people on line for three straight hours. That’s what I’ve been doing my whole life—making people line up.”
A photographer “discovered” Forcelli working at a Potato King cart and asked him to pose for Playgirl magazine. “I was in great shape. I was doing a lot of modeling at the time, including underwear modeling—it was just a few inches less clothing.” His photos in the February 1995 and April 1996 issues of Playgirl led to appearances on talk shows including Ricki Lake and the Gordon Elliot Show, where he was dubbed “the Spud Stud.” The attention resulted in an offer to play the role of Frankie the Handyman on Another World and small parts on other soap operas. However, Forcelli found acting boring. “First and foremost,” he realized, “my passion is fitness.” Each week, hundreds of people around Westchester are happy that Forcelli came to that realization.