'Full circle': Westmoreland gym owners make a difference in their hometowns – TribLIVE

TribLIVE’s Daily and Weekly email newsletters deliver the news you want and information you need, right to your inbox.
Zach Snyder has been an athlete all of his life.
From wrestling at Connellsville Area High School to pursuing NCAA competition at Penn State University, Snyder, of Bullskin, always has valued athletics.
But it was not until he was working for a physical therapy clinic and taking over a gym’s branch location that he sensed his own potential for running a workout center.
April Miller intended to pursue physical therapy when she started college until hesitation in applying for graduate school caused her to contemplate her true interests.
Aaron Panigall and Nicole Bohince sought to fill a perceived gap in the local fitness industry, and Tyler Zimmer was inspired to make a difference in the lives of young athletes.
Now, Snyder, Miller, Panigall, Bohince and Zimmer each own gyms — right in their hometowns.
While their paths to independent business operation vary, five regional fitness instructors share the approach of function over form.
Snyder, 35, graduated from Penn State with a degree in exercise science in 2009 and quickly sought his personal training certificate through California University of Pennsylvania. After several years as operations manager for the Mt. Pleasant branch of Innate Fitness — originally based in Latrobe — the gym closed and Snyder was at a crossroads.
Acknowledging his passion for training athletes, Snyder started his gym just down the street from the former Innate Fitness location.
“I kind of just took the leap,” Snyder said. “I was at a point where if I didn’t take the leap and take over the business, I was just going to have to go get a job. And I liked what I was doing, so I stuck with it.”
Open since May 2018, Snyder Strength & Conditioning in Mt. Pleasant specializes in practical training for lifelong movement and supplementary training for athletes of all ages.
Snyder said his focus is on helping people reach functional goals over exclusively aesthetic ones.
“One guy fell the other day and said he caught himself with his arms. He said ‘I caught myself, and I didn’t even hit the ground.’ That’s kind of it in a nutshell,” Snyder said.
Miller, 24, of Level Green, had a similar approach.
Having been exposed to subjects such as kinesiology and biomechanics through her rehabilitation science studies at the University of Pittsburgh, she said she has learned to sift through the misconstrued messages regarding fitness portrayed on social media.
“It’s hard to filter through all of that. You don’t know. You just follow content,” Miller said. “But do people really know what the content means?”
Miller added that she refrains from using phrases such as “fitness” and “exercise” to describe her business because these terms hold different — sometimes negative — meanings for different people.
“People say the practice of law, the practice of everything, but they don’t say the practice of this,” she said. “It feels good to practice and get it right.”
This is the philosophy Miller holds when working with clients at Adroit Athletics, a gym she opened in Trafford in November 2021.
Coming home
Upon completing her undergraduate education at Pitt in 2019, Miller decided to take a year to work as a critical researcher in ophthalmology before applying for medical school. This change, however, still left her feeling unfulfilled.
“I did a lot of self-reflection and internalization and thought ‘What is it that I really want to do?’ ” she said.
It did not take long for her to realize that helping people train was her greater passion. With certificates in personal training and run coaching, Miller sought to open her own gym in the building that formerly housed her father’s business, Miller Tool Co.
The 2016 Penn-Trafford graduate said it is “very full circle” to start her own business in place of her father’s, as well as the place she grew up.
“It’s very fulfilling that my dad had a business here and was successful and able to make a full career here,” she said.
Panigall and Bohince grew up in Latrobe and Greensburg, respectively, both surrounded by athletics. Panigall competed in track and field at Greater Latrobe Senior High School and Duquesne University, and Bohince played softball for Greensburg Salem High School and Seton Hill University.
When the two athletes noticed the lack of comprehensive health support in the local gym scene, they sought to provide it and give back to the communities where they were raised.
Through Virtus Barbell, located in Greensburg since 2012, Panigall and Bohince, of Greensburg, offer a variety of wellness services. Beyond the typical gym equipment, Virtus provides physical therapy, massage therapy, supplements and more.
Panigall, 40, said this approach to fitness has not yet become popular in Western Pennsylvania, but it is one that he and Bohince, 35, find worthwhile.
According to Panigall, the gym — which has grown from its original 30 members to around 350 — “evolved out of necessity.”
“We saw a need here, and we like to help the place that we’re from,” he said.
For Zimmer, 30, having a gym in his hometown — Alphalete Performance & Fitness in Export — is about providing young athletes with the tools he lacked in his football career through high school and college.
“I did my footwork and stuff for football in a church, like at a church basketball court. I didn’t have this,” he said.
Inspiring the next generation
Zimmer, a Greensburg resident and 2010 Penn-Trafford graduate, played football at Duquesne for two years before transferring to Seton Hill to finish his college career.
But it wasn’t until a positive experience with Tim Cortazzo Sr. — owner of FSQ Sports Training in Trafford — that Zimmer was inspired to offer the same kind of support for athletes of all ages.
“Just the way (Cortazzo) taught me — taught me how to move better and educated me during the process — my body felt amazing,” he said. “There’s a right way to do this, and I want to contribute to that side of the fence.”
Seeking to follow Cortazzo’s example, Zimmer has specialized in training sports teams since opening Alphalete in 2016, also serving as the strength coach for the Seton Hill men’s lacrosse team and the linebacker coach for Hempfield Area High School.
Zimmer said he enjoys working with young athletes and inspiring them to “dream big” regardless of what the pursuit is.
“Too many people are negative. Just because you’re from Harrison City and Penn-­Trafford doesn’t mean you can’t go be in the NFL,” Zimmer said. “It’s a small window, but why not set yourself up for positivity and success and optimize those steps to try to get you there?”
Similarly, Snyder is going into his fourth year as head coach of the Mt. Pleasant Area High School wrestling team. He said the job is about more than just teaching the sport to his kids.
“Just influencing kids — I’m in charge of trying to be a positive role model in these kids’ lives,” he said. “I just try to be helpful, because not everybody’s going to wrestle in college. I understand that, but if you can take some life lessons away from it. That’s all it’s about.”
Although not coaching a sports team, Miller said Adroit Athletics is expanding its services into the community through a partnership with PTARC, the Penn-Trafford Area Recreation Commission. Miller said this includes spin, cardio-kickboxing and aerobic walking classes for a variety of age ranges.
Although they have gone about it in different ways, each owner emphasized a similar ongoing goal for their gym: maintaining a comprehensive approach to health in the fitness industry.
“For me, it truly is mind, body and spirit,” Zimmer said. “That is fitness and health to me. If you’re healthy in your mind, you’re going to be healthy in your body, and if you’re healthy in your mind and your body, you’re going to be healthy in your spirit, and they literally just back each other.”
Quincey Reese is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Quincey by email at qreese@triblive.com or via Twitter .
Support Local Journalism and help us continue covering the stories that matter to you and your community.
Support Journalism Now >
TribLIVE’s Daily and Weekly email newsletters deliver the news you want and information you need, right to your inbox.
Fax (724) 779-8743
210 Wood Street
Tarentum, PA 15084
© 2022 Trib Total Media | All Rights Reserved
About Us
Career Opportunities
Contact Advertising
Contact Newsroom
Contact Us
Request Correction
Resource Center
Scholarship Opportunities
Send Letter to the Editor
Send News Tip
Subscriber Services
Email Newsletters
Home Delivery
Marketing Minute
Store Locations
TribLIVE App – App Store
TribLIVE App – Google Play
Arts & Entertainment
Best of the Best
Business Directory
Our Publications
Real Estate
Cookie Settings
Privacy Policy
Terms of Service


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *