Pumping iron — with the help of silicon

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Jeff and Amy Pressman, who opened Koko Fit Club at 447 Monroe Tpke., next to Linda’s Story Time, knew when they set out to find a business to run that they wanted to do some good. (Jake Kara photos)

A new kind of computerized gym aims to eliminate the confusion and lack of precision that can discourage people from keeping up with their health goals.

Koko Fit Club does away with the do-it-yourself imprecision of unsupervised workouts and the sometimes costly prospect of personal trainers, instead employing computers, attached to each machine, to guide people through exercise routines.

It even sends its members meal plans, recipes and grocery lists, and gives them an online profile to monitor their progress. There are also online nutrition courses called “fuel school.”

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Hannah, 7, and Jacob, 4, children of Koko Fit Club owners Jeff and Amy Pressman, are honorary employees with their own uniforms — complete with name tags.

But there’s no pressure to transform your diet — it’s up to the member how closely, if at all, to heed the dietary program, Pressman said.

“It spoke to me because, if there was one in my town I would have joined,” said owner Jeff Pressman of Fairfield, who runs Koko Fit Club with his wife Amy.

Pressman, who grew up in Trumbull, wasn’t a body builder. What drove him to Koko was a business model he liked and felt proud to be part of.

Pressman was working at his family’s business, Kellog Marine Supply when his father sold the business. When it got folded into a large corporation — and the corporate bureaucracy that goes with that — he realized he wanted to be involved in a small business.

“I liked the small business feel… I was looking for a small business to buy, whether it was a franchise or not.”

Pressman said looking for a business, some were not things he would necessarily be proud of — selling fast food or drinking game equipment.

“I wanted to do something good,” he said.

Fitness was something he could get behind — helping people improve their health — and the Koko model made sense to him.

The approach uses a computer system to keep people on track, in individual exercises, and as they chart out their workout routine. Users have accounts and “Koko keys” they stick into the machines to personalize their workouts — based on goals they’ve set and health metrics they recorded when they joined.

The decor is meant to be more “spa-like” than gym-like. The small space next to Linda’s Story Time is minimally appointed with weight machines, treadmills and elipticals.

When a user does an exercise such as an incline bench press, the computer describes the proper technique — where to position his chest, elbows, how to hold and move the weights.

When the set begins, the screen shows a square move up and down at the ideal pace. A line, which represents how the user is actually moving the weight, moves up and down as well. The goal is to keep the line within the square.

The goal is precision — and efficiency. The cardio programs are only 15 minutes, but Pressman said they’re equivalent to a less efficient 30-minute routine.

Users can avoid wasting time, or even hurting themselves, by doing exercises incorrectly, without having to pay a trainer, Pressman said.

He said his experience with trainers is, “You join a gym… they give you a free personal training session” then “you write down the five exercises they taught you how to do correctly… then you have this crumpled piece of paper. … then a Chinese restaurant opens next door” and “you realize you’d rather go there than work out.”

He acknowledges not everyone will like the Koko model, and some people will like working with trainers or be proficient on their own. That’s why the gym offers a free trial session and there is a money-back guarantee.

There are staff members and staff hours, but members are given key cards to enter the gym earlier and stay later than those hours.

Koko Fit Club, located at 447 Monroe Tpke., had a “soft” opening this week and plans to have a grand opening in the fall. For more information, call 203-445-6110 or visit monroectfitnessclub.com.

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