Welcome to the Last Real Gym!

"They don't make gyms like this anymore. It’s owner-built, owner-serviced and we bill ourselves as the Last Real Gym in America.....and that is what gyms used to be. They used to be clubs, where people came and saw their friends and had fun, not a churn and burn operation like a big box gym that's out there today, where you don't even know the person next to you, there's no relationship, there's no help. That is the complete opposite here, its all about the relationship and its all about the help."
Frank Kole, Last Real Gym Founder

The Making of the Last Real Gym

Some things are in the making without it even being known.  The making of the Last Real Gym started many years ago when as a young boy, a neighborhood gym happened to open down the street from my house.  It all started with a part-time cleaning position in that neighborhood gym at age 15.

The year was 1982, still the “Arnold” era.  Imagine yourself being a 15-year old teenager, who had started lifting weights at age 12 and just got his first gym job.  I remember the day I got the job.  I was a gym member for one month and my membership had expired. The owner of the gym offered me a job making enough money to cover my monthly gym membership.  Little did I know that job would turn into more responsibilities like watching the gym when the owner would leave, then slowly turning into watching my own shifts at the desk, and then to my discovering personal training.

I discovered personal training from a gym member who needed help.  I was mopping the gym and she was sitting on the leg extension, not sure how to adjust the machine.  She knew me by my name because I grew up with her kids so she asked me for help. She said “Frank, can you help me to fix this machine so I can use it?”  I adjusted the seat, I adjusted the bolster and I asked her how much weight she usually uses. She stepped into the machine and she did her exercise.

But I did not leave. I stayed there with her and helped her with the rest of her set.  I spotted her to get her an extra few reps and advised her on her breathing, not knowing that what I was doing was called “personal training”.  Because in 1982 not many people knew what a personal trainer was.

After the set was over, she made a comment – “Wow, you are a good personal trainer”.  My response back was “What is a personal trainer?”  She replied, “Oh you are not a personal trainer?” and my reply back to her was again “What is a personal trainer?”  She said “A personal trainer is exactly what you just did.  They help a person do their exercises and get the extra reps so they get results”.   I said “I was just giving you a spot, like I do with my friends.”  She said, “Well, I pay a guy in Manhattan $25 an hour to do what you just did.” I said “$25 an hour??” She said yes and asked me if I would help her for the next few Saturdays.  She would pay me $20 an hour.  My reply was, “I need to ask the owner of the gym”.

So I asked the owner of the gym and he laughed at me.  I said “Why are you laughing?”  He responded “If they can’t pick it up and put it down themselves, I can’t help them!”  I said “It is just like spotting someone, except they pay you”.  He said it wasn’t for him, but if I wanted to that would be fine.

I trained that gym member for four Saturdays in a row and got paid $20 a session, but that is not all that happened.  All of the other gym members saw me helping a gym member and they started to ask me to help them and what I charged for my personal training services.  Now I had my own service.

At 15, I learned the value of help and the value of starting my own service.  I watched many entrepreneurs at a young age in my hometown run businesses and help other people.  But at 15, I did not know this was my calling, I just did it.

Now I can say I have 35 years in the gym business, owning and managing gyms from San Francisco, Oakland, and Honolulu to New York.  Working with many clients, managing many staff, creating UrbanBody, Inc. in 1999, brings me now to 15 years into creating and owning the Last Real Gym.

The Last Real Gym was in the making without it even being known.  It was pieced together over the years from my experiences without my even knowing it was being groomed.  Every day, the Last Real Gym brings me back to that young boy - to when times were simpler, to when the gym life was a place where you came and you saw your friends and had fun and as soon as you walked out of the doors that day, you wanted to come back. You couldn’t wait to go back the next day. That feeling of being in a true neighborhood gym, where people know your name, people respect your workout and your time, people know it is the best hour of their day. I still hold onto that feeling as if it was just yesterday.  That feeling is what I use to build and run the Last Real Gym and that is the same feeling I will use to help you build and run your Last Real Gym.

A well known quote in the fitness industry is “The future of fitness will find itself in its past.”  The neighborhood gym I experienced in 1982 was the gym of the future. In 1982, we were lucky enough to have almost a half-dozen gyms like this.  They were filled with all types of equipment that no one had ever seen and some were individually made.  Our gym had the same functional equipment we use today -  rings, ropes, kettlebells, plyo boxes. In the free-weight area, we were lucky enough to have the original fitness equipment lines that had everything – leg curls, leg extensions, pec deck, cable crossovers and Olympic weight benches.  The Olympic area had the original bumper plates that we have in our gym today.  At an early age, I was exposed to such an array of equipment and knowledge and authentic gym culture.

And then I saw it all go away because of the era of fitness that began in the mid- 80’s and 90’s with the hard-selling of the big-box gyms.  Big-box gyms packed their places full of machines.  They left all of the functional equipment out because big fancy machines would sell more memberships that a rope, ring, kettlebell setup at the time.  They scared people away from the gym with their churn-and-burn mentality and they discouraged working out with their dirty gyms.

We are now at a time where the future of fitness is finding itself in its past.  The gym of the future was built many years ago without anyone knowing.  But there is one person who remembers – and that is me.  I want to take back what the big-box fitness centers stole from the gym.  I am just showing you what I saw and did 35 years ago, not knowing over these 35 years that today I would now be creating and helping you open your Last Real Gym. 

Frank Kole
Founder of the Last Real Gym

The Last Real Gym Experience

The Last Real Gym experience begins the moment before you walk through the front door.  High-energy music pours from the speakers and the eye is drawn right away to the metal front desk with our signature metal dog logo in the middle.   The person at the front desk greets you right away with a welcoming sincere “Welcome!” which immediately strips away all of your daily stresses and by now you know that you are in a Last Real Gym.

Stepping into the Last Real Gym brings you back to a time in your life where your workout is important to you.  Your workout is a major part of your day and you look forward to going to the gym.  You see your friends and your family at the gym and you leave feeling energized and strong, already thinking about your next workout. You are part of a traditional culture of what gyms used to be.  They used to be clubs, where people came and saw their friends and had fun.

The metal theme runs throughout the gym and the colors are deep and vibrant.  The décor speaks to the image and culture of the gym, strong and confident.  The place is clean and you can tell right away that the gym is well taken care of. There are no dust bunnies over the TVs, the locker rooms are clean and the staff is actively wiping down the equipment.  Last Real Gym has all of the right equipment. The selection of equipment that has been around since the 1950’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and today is what makes a Last Real Gym.

Expect words of encouragement like "Good job", "Welcome" and "Thank you" from a well-trained staff.  It's all about the help here  -  help and coaching are part of our culture.  Last Real Gym Personal Trainers are here as your personal coaches working with you towards your unique goals.

We are a community of gym people who enjoy gym culture and our passion is helping others to change their lives through the gym. Together, we will set and reach your goals!​

Features of a Last Real Gym

  • Friendly, well-rounded neighborhood gym.
  • Personal Training and Team Training.
  • All the great equipment from the 60's 70's, 80's, 90's and today.
  • A functional training area with all the right functional equipment.
  • Multiple indoor training areas with free weights and machines.
  • Olympic lifting and deadlifting areas.
  • Cardio area with treadmills, elliptical riders, rowing machines, stepmills and bikes.
  • Strongman/Strongwoman training equipment.
  • Coffee shop/cafe for pre-workout and post-workout protein shakes and smoothies.
  • Ladies' and Men's Locker rooms with showers and day lockers.
  • A well-maintained and clean facility.
  • An 8,000 to 10,000 square foot facility in a high-traffic area in an urban or suburban neighborhood.
  • A strong community who actively supports community events,  neighborhood involvement and giving back.

Our Message

Being relaxed and comfortable
with everyone and everything
open easy acceptance
a unifying way of life

Each day is a special event –
treat the world with
the attention and respect
you want for yourself

Be happy, peaceful
and very comfortable

Meet Your Support Team

We are a team of gym professionals who are passionate about helping others to improve their lives.  We are the business partner that every gym owner wishes they had -  the partner who has all of the battle scars gained through building a business through good times and bad times and who can provide simple lessons to you as you go.

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Frank Kole

Founder and CEO

Frank is the Co-Founder and CEO of Last Real Gym. Frank has owned and operated the original Last Real Gym in the community of North Park, San Diego since 2003. Frank oversees all strategy, training, marketing, sales, customer service implementation, public relations and daily operations at Last Real Gym.

Frank brings 35 years of experience as an owner or manager in the fitness industry and a demonstrated ability to lead an organization from inception to profitability. He has management experience in both start-up and established environments and has managed the construction of gyms as owner/builder. Frank's passion is helping people change their life through fitness and the community aspect of gym life.

Frank's passion for helping extends to being the Founder and President of Pitbulls and Friends Dog Rescue, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to Adoption, Education and Training for dogs and their humans. www.pitbullsandfriends.org.

Robin 1

Robin Kole

Co-Founder and CFO

Robin is the Co-Founder and CFO of Last Real Gym. Robin has owned and operated the original Last Real Gym in the community of North Park, San Diego since 2003. Robin oversees finance, human resources, purchasing, billing and collections, financial reporting and controls, government compliance, website, social media and database management.

Robin has a Masters in Business Administration from Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration and a Bachelor of Science in Economics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Prior to starting Last Real Gym, Robin was an investment banker on Wall Street.

Robin is the Co-Founder and Treasurer of Pitbulls and Friends Dog Rescue, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to Adoption, Education and Training for dogs and their humans. www.pitbullsandfriends.org.

Stick to Your Task

Stick to your task till it sticks to you;
Beginners are many; but enders are few.
Honor, power, place and praise
Will come, in time, to the one who stays

Stick to your task till it sticks to you;
Bend at it, sweat at it, smile at it too;
For out of the bend and the sweat and the smile
Will come life’s victories, after awhile.

Author Unknown

Live Life on Your Terms

If you would like to take the first step, please submit our Franchise Information Request Form. We contact you by phone or email to introduce ourselves and have an initial conversation regarding your plans for your Last Real Gym.