What The Mecca Gym Can Teach Hospitals About Scaling Health
After Gina Cordero tore both ACLs in just two years, she stopped working out for the first time in her life. She had always kept fit through soccer, swimming, and lacrosse. Then, as an athletic trainer, she turned that passion into a career. But recovering from back-to-back ACL tears was just too brutal.
“I no longer wanted to focus on fitness,” the 26-year-old says. “I felt like I lost my identity.”
Everything changed last year, when Gina joined The Mecca Gym, a 1,000-member organization in Idaho with a commitment to personalized health. Under the guidance of a personal trainer, she began lifting weights, doing cardio, and optimizing her diet. From the owners and trainers to the bodybuilders and weekday warriors, The Mecca Gym was all about setting and reaching goals. Gina latched on.
But the journey was harder than it had to be.
All of that workout planning, fitness and nutrition tracking, and coaching required disparate technology and tedious tracking. Then, this past fall, The Mecca Gym partnered with Carium, and her digital health data merged into a single app. Although Gina had already made impressive progress, she lost another 7 pounds, increased her number of steps, and started sleeping better in her first month using Carium.
“I feel like a part of me that I lost is coming back,” she says.
Filling Preventive Healthcare Gaps
Founded by a bodybuilder who studied exercise physiology, The Mecca Gym isn’t a typical weight room. It’s all about fostering personalized experiences, building accountability, and scaling resources to promote health among members like Gina.
That means the gym’s personal trainers—with advanced degrees and clinical credentials—regularly track member behavior and progress. The job depends on technology, which enables The Mecca Gym to bridge the gap between the doctor’s office and members’ daily lives.
As healthcare organizations further prioritize wellness and preventive health, they can all learn something from The Mecca Gym’s story. Whether it’s a gym focusing on whole-body health, a clinic deploying remote patient monitoring to personalize care, or a health system using an app to improve patient communications and accountability, technology can forge the connections and unlock the resources that create a healthier world.
From Clinic to Gym
Laura Pulkinen, a part-time personal trainer at The Mecca Gym, grew up racing canoes, cross-country skiing, and eating straight from the garden. After she earned a master’s degree in kinesiology and exercise science, she never saw herself working in a clinical role—until she found one at a health system in Idaho that was making a big move to lifestyle medicine. She signed on.
That initiative included using Carium for cardiopulmonary rehab. Patients of all ages, including many whose rural postal addresses limited their travel, tracked data on their steps and diet, and digitally engaged with health coaches. And Laura saw results like lower blood pressure and weight loss.
“I realized this had to go to the public,” she says. “Fitness and health should be working toward the same cause: to make everyone healthier and more aware.”
She thought about The Mecca Gym and how her clients, like Gina, struggled to get the personal insights they needed while juggling too many generic apps and spreadsheets.
A light bulb flickered.
No More ‘Lifeless Algorithms’
When he opened The Mecca Gym five years ago, Eric Cafferty saw some members jump down digital rabbit holes. Technology was a gift in that it afforded fitness professionals a window into how their bodies functioned, but the wrong app or misinformation could lead to bad habits. He had yet to determine how his team could provide personalized wellness programs and accurate data, drawn from scientific journals, to clients without overwhelming them.
“We wanted to make it efficient for one trainer to monitor a lot of people and still give them the same custom information that we would give on a one-to-one basis,” Cafferty says.
When Laura brought up Carium, Eric saw an opportunity to free up his trainers from tedious paper-based plans and better engage his members, battle-hardened powerlifters and busy parents alike. But he also wanted to mold The Mecca Gym into something beyond a physical gym.
“You go to the doctor’s office and see your doctor for two minutes, but you spend a half-hour or an hour each week with your personal trainer,” he says. “As opposed to treating the sick, we want to preemptively influence the population to take better care of themselves, to prevent diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.”
Now, Eric thought, he had a better shot to reach that goal.
The Future of Personalized Health
Since The Mecca Gym soft-launched Carium this past fall, 90 members have begun using the app. They track nutrition and core body metrics, access exercise plans and articles, and write in digital journals. Personal trainers leverage the technology to personalize fitness regimens, communicate with clients, and check their health data.
Early numbers suggest everyone has the information they need to succeed: The Mecca Gym has a 97% engagement rate across all users. And 90% use Carium at least twice a day, tracking their nutrition, steps, weight, and other health metrics. Nearly every single one keeps tabs on their blood pressure, blood glucose, body mass, and steps.
Achieving greater personalization, accountability, and resource allocation is only the first step in The Mecca Gym’s move to influence health in Idaho and beyond, but it’s a foundational step. Eric and his trainers may accept virtual clients who live too far to come in person. The dream is to someday hire physicians and nurses, to turn The Mecca Gym into a full-fledged gym-clinic hybrid.
Why? It’s because of members like Gina, who recognizes the benefits of having a partner in her health journey.
“I feel held to a higher standard,” she says. “My confidence is increasing, and it makes me pretty emotional to know that I can lose weight. I can be strong again.”
Are you a health system or healthcare provider? Chat with us to learn how Carium can support your digital transformation.
Trainer or someone who’s ready to take your fitness to the next level? Reach out to The Mecca Gym at firstname.lastname@example.org to start your personal transformation today.