Adrian Peterson's growing gym could give him viable post-NFL career

HOUSTON -- The gym Adrian Peterson and James Cooper opened in Houston this spring was initially envisioned as a solution for one of Peterson's logistical issues: How could the Minnesota Vikings running back string together workout disciplines both time-tested and exotic -- from sprinting, hill running and lifting to boxing and pool workouts -- without also having to navigate Houston's snarled traffic as he moved to different spots?

When Peterson and his longtime trainer opened O Athletik, they quickly found a cohort of young professionals who were looking for the same thing.

The 35,000-square-foot gym, which opened its doors in March, already had 1,475 members as of last month, and there were signs it could become a lasting business venture for Peterson and his five partners. Cooper and O Athletik general manager Brian Kawano said the gym is already looking at expansion to the West Coast, with hopes of opening locations in San Diego, the Bay Area and Scottsdale, Arizona, by the end of 2017. As the business grows, Peterson plans to continue investing in it.

"We wanted to have that layout so we could take it to different states -- out to the West Coast, out to the East Coast, kind of that franchise-type idea," Peterson said. "I didn’t come into this thinking that it’s just this one location. I’ll invest more when those opportunities present themselves."

This time of year, Cooper trains a group of NFL players alongside Peterson. San Diego Chargers running back Melvin Gordon, who grew up a fan of Peterson, reached out to Peterson in early May about working with him. Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter, who grew up in the Houston area, is also working out at O Athletik, as are Buffalo Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes, Tennessee Titans safety Da'Norris Searcy and free-agent receiver Andre Johnson, among others. Cooper expected the group to number between 20 and 30 in July.

Training pro athletes and marketing Peterson, though, weren't central to the business plan.

"Our first 1,000 members didn't even know he was a part of the place," Cooper said. "We don't push it. We don't cater to athletes, even though you see a lot of athletes. That's more so me; this just happens to be what I would do in 24-Hour Fitness or any other club out there. But we don't have a lot of kids coming to us for sports performance and all that stuff. Our market is millennials, Generation X and then baby boomers."

The gym centers around classes, from CrossFit and yoga to mixed martial arts, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, kickboxing and forms of Israeli self-defense like Krav Maga. There's even a basic ballet class. And as Cooper developed a business plan, he knew there was a group of people looking for a passel of boutique workout options in one spot, much like Peterson was.

"These are all the things he's done and does in his workouts," Cooper said. "For us as a business, I knew the market was there for people that wanted to be, not necessarily like him, but could really use this. We're in the age of CrossFit; people are being more dynamic. A lot of them are signature workouts that he would do."

(The "O" in the gym's name, Peterson said, represents a 360-degree concept, and the "K" is a stylistic twist. It isn't the Oklahoma product's way of tweaking patrons in Longhorns country.)

As the gym expands, Peterson said, there are small tweaks that could come to future sites, but the first location has just about all of what the group will look to replicate in future spots. Peterson is moving to a house closer to the gym, and however long his training helps him extend his career, the gym could give him a viable post-football business.

"Every time you go into a business, you're looking to profit and you're looking for your business to expand," he said. "That's the vision all my partners had going into this."