The CATCH Fitness Center might be the best-kept secret in Philadelphia’s behavioral health community. The narrative on health is moving toward a goal that can only be achieved through a healthy body and mind. Since opening in 1996, CATCH’s  Fitness Center, located at 2401 Penrose Avenue, has promoted physical fitness as part of the consumer’s path to health and wellness.

Leading this initiative is Anthony Guarino, the fitness center’s program coordinator. A 21 year veteran of CATCH, Anthony’s personality is matched only by his physical stature. “Big Ant” as he is affectionately known, is the heart and soul of the Fitness Center. He believes that his role as a support person outweighs his role as a physical trainer. He and his staff of certified personal trainers make it a priority for consumers to feel welcome. “We want this to be a positive experience for them.” says Guarino. “We want to be a support that consumers feel they can lean on.”

One consumer credits the Fitness Center with helping him to regulate his daily routine. “It is a critical part of my day and it is crucial to my recovery.” Anthony says that the physical fitness is almost secondary. It’s a natural result of consumers trusting the trainers and feeling they are part of a community. The Fitness Center staff accepts the consumers for who they are. Consumers have the opportunity to work through their struggles in a non-verbal way. Exercise helps them to relieve some of their life stressors. “[The consumers] work hard.” says Patricia Rechner, a certified personal trainer. “When they come in here, they’re ready to get after it.”

It’s not all serious. The Fitness Center also gives consumers a place to let loose and laugh. Anthony Narda, a certified personal trainer, sums it up in another way. “We give folks a healthy dose of comedy with a side of physical fitness.” Laughter may still be the best medicine. And there is plenty of laughter. The staff and the consumers enjoy each other’s company. The personal interactions are evidence as to how important this time is to the consumers. There is a personal investment by the staff to help the individuals reach their goals – and not just in the gym.

The Fitness Center isn’t just a valuable resource for consumers. It is also a unique resource for employees. All employees and their legally married spouses are eligible to use the Fitness Center at no cost. There are designated employee hours throughout the day and there are also evening hours three days a week. The trainers give employees the same personal attention that they give to consumers. “They dedicated themselves to helping me lose the weight I needed to lose before my surgery.” says Lee Ruggio of Riversbend. “After my surgery, they helped me in reaching my weight loss goals.”

The Fitness Center has had a profound impact on consumers and employees alike and “Big Ant” would like it to benefit more individuals. The Fitness Center is not a secret that he wants to keep.