Former NFL lineman builds fitness business.
by Rick A. Richards
Jared Tomich is a pretty imposing guy. He stands 6 feet, 3 inches tall and his weight isn’t far off from the 283 pounds he carried when he played in defensive lineman in the National Football League.
In the five years since he left the game, he’s proud of the fact that he’s still fit. “It’s what I’ve done since high school,” he says.
Tomich is the owner of Fuel Fitness, which has six locations – five in Lake County and one in Crete, Ill. He was a football standout at Lake Central High School, was a member of the University of Nebraska football team where he was a member of its national championship team.
By the time he graduated from Nebraska, he was a two-time All-American and became a second-round draft pick of the New Orleans Saints, where he played for four years under legendary coach Mike Ditka. Tomich also played two seasons with the Green Bay Packers.
When Tomich, 37, walked away from football in 2003, the advice of one of his coaches was ringing in his ears. “He sat down with me when I got there and told me to get a job every off season. He told me to do something because a football career is short and I needed to have different experiences. It was the greatest advice I ever got,” says Tomich.
And while his six-year NFL career appears at first glance to be short, it’s far longer than the season and a half average of most defensive linemen.
He took his coach’s advice to heart. When he lived in New Orleans, he spent his summers as a Harley-Davidson motorcycle mechanic. When he was with Green Bay, he was a strength coach for a high school.
And that, as it turns out, is where Tomich found his calling. He knew that once players left the NFL, too many of them became sedentary and overweight and had health problems. He didn’t want to be one of them.
That led him to start Fuel Fitness five years ago. His first location was a 16,000-square-foot building in Cedar Lake. His newest location covers 40,000 square feet in Crown Point and includes an indoor soccer field. His other Lake County locations are in Schererville, Highland and Winfield.
Each location is filled with the most up-to-date exercise equipment, has a staff of personal trainers and offers more than 500 classes from martial arts to nutrition.
That’s also spawned Ignite Sports Performance, a youth and personal training business that operates as a part of Fuel Fitness. It’s a program where high school and college-bound athletes from Northwest Indiana can go to get specialized training and to get in peak condition for the upcoming season.
“When you look at the obesity in the country today – 15 to 16 percent of our children are obese – it makes you want to do something,” says Tomich. “We’re doing a lot more sitting in front of the TV and computer. You just don’t see kids outdoors like you used to.”
Tomich has built up a client list of schools from across the region. He says it energizes him when he interacts with youngsters at schools.
“I can go to a school which is a ton of fun. It helps that I played professional football,” he says. “That gets their attention. If I didn’t have that, it would be hard to get my foot in the door. That’s why it’s so important to be a good role model.”
Tomich says that’s why it’s important for him to set an example when it comes to fitness. “I enjoy it, but it’s harder on your own. When I played football, everything was regimented and you knew where you had to be at what time and what you were going to be doing. Now, I have to be self motivated.”
And that’s part of the message he brings to children and to his growing list of business clients. Fuel Fitness also works with companies across the region to set up fitness and wellness programs. Besides his degree in business and communications, Tomich also is a certified child nutritionist.
His work with children has taken on a whole new meaning now that he and his wife, Michaeline, have a 20-month-old son, Jackson.
Among the dozens of business clients Tomich has are Schilling & Co., Strack & Van Til, ArcelorMittal and UPS. “I don’t do this on my own,” says Tomich, giving credit to the 175 employees he says play a big role in helping keep his clients fit.
“Businesses have more of a sense of the importance of wellness today,” says Tomich. “The health of employees can affect the bottom line, and employers know it. It affects insurance costs and companies are seeing an improvement in reduced costs with fit employees.”
Tomich says Fuel Fitness not only visits companies to work with employees on site, but many clients set up membership programs so employees can visit the fitness center when it’s convenient for them.
He says he expects the company to continue to grow as more companies embrace fitness and wellness. “One of the things we tell people is to figure out what your goals are. Is it fitness, wellness, or do you want to lose weight? If you know your diet isn’t in line with what it should be, we can help you with a dietician.
“The more educated a person is about wellness and fitness, the better they will be,” says Tomich.
“We’ve all got excuses on why we’re not in shape. What we try to do is make things as convenient as possible and take those excuses away,” says Tomich.
He’s applied that to his own training routine. “I work out with a trainer because I have a hard time holding myself accountable.”