Mark Harigian

Take a world-class fitness trainer with a passion for art and design, add a background in mechanical engineering, coupled with a keen understanding of anatomy, and what you get is Mark Harigian internationally renowned designer of “Workout Environments.” Appropriately, Mark’s expertise has earned him the title – Architect of Anatomy.

Mark’s career as a celebrity trainer started in the mid 80’s, and his first burst of inspiration came during a visit to Tom Hank’s home gym. “It was little more than a bedroom,” says Mark, “and the equipment was an afterthought.” Right on the heels of this visit, he made a trip to Tom Selleck’s so-called home gym. “There was no ambience, no continuation of the taste of style of the home. Nothing flowed. It was full of mismatched equipment – one brand in gray, another in white. No one would want to spend time there.”

You could call this Mark’s eureka moment. His clients could comfortably afford renowned designers and decorators for their homes, so why were these personal gyms less than welcoming?

“I kept going to homes where every room was Architectural Digest quality, except the gym. That was the one room you didn’t want to be in. “Most people think a home gym must look industrial and be strictly functional. But if that’s not your style and it isn’t a pleasurable space to spend time in, you’ll never use it.”

What had started as a private training business in 1984 soon led Mark into designing custom gyms, or in his preferred terminology: workout environments. Today, with his staff, he does everything from designing space to coordinate with clients’ homes, to guiding them to the best equipment for their lifestyles and ultimately, designing the equipment itself.

Although Mark works comfortably with high profile architects –including Frank Gehry – his masterpieces are in a category of their own. Consider his swim-in-place pool large enough to accommodate a kayak, or the interior mountain climbing wall with a video screen to simulate an Everest climb, or a mounted, flat screen TV with the perfect jogging path. On the more traditional front there are laser cut stainless steel dumbbells and hand fabricated weight pulleys – Mark is a true master of attention to detail, including carefully selected leather for hand crafted upholstery and cutting-edge finishes.

Equipment “fit” is another area of his expertise and often critical for professional athletes. “When I went to Shaquille O’Neal’s house, I saw that nothing fit him biomechanically. So, I designed and custom built everything oversize to fit him. The bench is wider, bigger and taller and the dumbbells are proportioned to fit his hands.
“I measure my clients’ arms, legs and torsos. Everything is sized to fit their bodies
biomechanically – to conform exactly to their own specifications, just like a custom-made suit.”

But it’s not just on the equipment front that Mark is a pro. “Many people think that everything in their local gym will translate to the home. If you put thick rubber mats in your home gym, the rubber smell will never go away. There’s an issue with construction, too. If your gym is beside the family TV room, there must be enough soundproofing so no one can hear you pounding on the treadmill. People don’t realize they need a lot of electrical outlets so they aren’t tripping over cords. And air circulation is important. You may not want cold air-conditioning blowing on you, but you’ll want some kind of air recirculation.

“When you work out at home, you don’t have the distractions that you do at the health club, so everything is magnified. You notice everything more.

Always at the top of his profession, Mark says that lately, the line between gyms and spas has become blurred. “I’ve been customizing a lot of mineral soaking tubs. If you have one with hot water and one with cold, and then alternate soaking in each – this helps with circulation and burning body fat. We also do tubs designed for mud baths and fill them with volcanic mud – this is great for your skin. The tubs are designed to maintain the mud a designated temperature and prevent it from drying out.

“When you have your ideal workout environment, everything to your taste and tailored to your body, you spend more time there. It makes fitness fun, instead of work. If it’s quality of life you’re after – and isn’t everyone – make exercise the most challenging and exciting part of your day.”