He had dreams, just as we all do.
For Laurence Kaplan, the dream was to go to the Police Academy after college and, eventually, become a policeman. But his dreams were shattered after suffering a serious spinal cord injury in 1992.
The young man broke 10 vertebrae, a couple of ribs, his ankle and suffered serious burns, as well as a head injury.
"I was only in my 20s, and doctors told me I'd never run or play sports again," Kaplan remembers. "And, certainly, becoming a policeman was out of the question. But I was too stubborn to listen or believe them. So I dedicated myself, not only to proving them wrong, but to healing myself as best I could."
Through intensive research and hard work, Kaplan developed his own training regimen, which not only allowed him to run and play sports again, but also led him to develop close associations with many of the leading fitness experts in the country.
And later, when he proved all the doctors wrong, Kaplan went on to graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania, earning his master's degree in elementary education.
Later, having enjoyed a distinguished career as an educator and youth director — most notably at Har Zion Temple — he moved on to yet another area, turning what he knew about fitness into creating a new sports training facility called Varsity Fitness.
Located at 913 Montgomery Avenue on the Main Line, his facility, he says, is designed not only for athletes, but for all would-be athletes, offering training similar to that provided for professionals to people of all ages.
Field of Dreams
Kaplan says, "At some point in our lives, we have all dreamed of what it would be like to be a professional athlete. Varsity Fitness turns that dream into reality by training everyone just like a pro athlete.
"At my fitness center, no two workouts are alike because we do not feature the typical weight machines found at other fitness centers. Our equipment has been specially designed for athletes and is used by top pro athletes in the world. There are no boring or repetitive workouts, and you don't need to be an athlete, simply [have] the desire to do something different.
"Our goal is to help our clients exceed their fitness goals and enrich their quality of life while having fun in the process."
With the equipment at Varsity Fitness specially designed and used by the top pro-athletes in the world, Kaplan continues, it also includes safety features specifically geared towards various age groups, from pre-schoolers to senior citizens.
"Instead of using traditional weights, our machines use air resistance, which is both more effective and safer to use. And our special floor contains millions of micro-bubbles that are anti-bacterial, greatly reducing the spread of germs," explains Kaplan.
In addition to helping people get fit, the entrepreneur also helps out in other ways. For example, in addition to doing charity work for various organizations and as the youth director at Har Zion, serving for the third year, he emphasizes that his chapter has been named Chapter of the Year. He adds that he teaches sixth grade and coordinates youth events for those in grades K through 12.
Additionally, Kaplan teaches Bar and Bat Mitzvah lessons to children at the gym — before, after and sometimes during their workouts.
With all that Kaplan does, he says the best thing is knowing that he is making a difference in people's lives, not only through education but by helping to make them healthy so that they can lead a better, longer life.
"My own goal is not to look like a body builder," he adds, "but just to be healthy enough to play with my kids and grandkids one day."