All Aboard the CoreTrain


John Rik­er Thomas stands in the park­ing lot of an Altade­na strip mall that until three weeks ago housed a laun­dro­mat, a check cash­ing facil­i­ty and sev­er­al fast food restau­rants. That was before Thomas and his cor­po­ra­tion, Core­Train, bought the strip mall and quick­ly trans­formed it into the 100th Core­Train Fit­ness Cen­ter with an adja­cent Core­Train Mar­ket. In three hours, the doors will open and eager fit­ness junkies will flood the gym, just as they have since 2006. “This is the dream,” says Thomas, “help­ing peo­ple to get in shape. We are sav­ing lives.”

Lit­tle is known about John Rik­er Thomas, and he likes to keep it that way. He believes the mys­tery sur­round­ing him and the ori­gins of Core­Train help to ele­vate the brand. It was­n’t until 1993 that Thomas’ name pops up in pub­lic records after join­ing up with the mil­i­tary. Accord­ing to the free pub­lic records check­er, he was deployed to Soma­lia and took part in the Bat­tle of Mogadishu. Short­ly there­after he left the armed forces and it was­n’t until 1999 that the paper trail picks up again with Thomas work­ing in Kenai, Alas­ka on a fish­ing line. Thomas claims that the miss­ing years “were my grad school of life. No books required.” In 2002, he was arrest­ed in Alber­ta for incit­ing a bar fight and extra­dit­ed back to Amer­i­ca. With his mil­i­tary expe­ri­ence he was able to land a job work­ing secu­ri­ty at the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal firm hPharma.

In 2006, Thomas moved to Seat­tle and began work­ing as a per­son­al train­er. After years of sav­ing and a loan from an unknown source, he opened up Rik­er Gym. It start­ed as a typ­i­cal fit­ness cen­ter, but soon Thomas began to craft what would soon become known as Core­Train. Aside from the typ­i­cal work­outs, there are spe­cif­ic train­ing pro­grams and diets made to “pro­mote well­ness in the body and mind. We get all cylin­ders work­ing.” In 2007, Thomas reopened his gym as the first Core­Train Fit­ness Cen­ter and soon had a few dozen cus­tomers who were on dif­fer­ent Core­Train exer­cise tracks. The most com­mit­ted cus­tomers on the Plat­inum Trail track, spent at least five days every week at the fit­ness cen­ter and were amongst the first employ­ees that Thomas hired.

In 2008, Thomas opened up four more loca­tions around Seat­tle, and began to sell pow­ders and food as part of Core­Train’s diet pro­gram. The build­ing next to the orig­i­nal Core­Train loca­tion was bought and turned into the first Core­Train Mar­ket to sell the pow­ders and food. In 2009, as imi­ta­tion Core­Train cen­ters began to pop up all over the coun­try, Thomas cre­at­ed a fran­chise pro­gram to best the com­pe­ti­tion. The first fran­chisees were Kay and Mark Polan­ian in Phoenix.

The Pola­ni­ans were ser­i­al busi­ness own­ers, hav­ing oper­at­ed and shut­tered over a dozen stores in the past two decades, includ­ing paint your own ceram­ics, an eBay shop, juice bars, and three web cafes. The four Core­Train loca­tions in Phoenix con­tin­ue to be the only suc­cess­ful ven­ture they’ve ever entered into. “We sold our con­do for the down pay­ment on the first loca­tion, and lived above it for the first two years.” says Mark as he and Kay dri­ve me around Phoenix in their Core­Train-brand­ed Nis­san Cube. “We love Core­Train,” says Kay, “Before, we were like lost souls. Wan­der­ing around a desert. We need­ed to get all cylin­ders working.”

It was Mark who first had the idea after watch­ing a stun­ning pre­sen­ta­tion at the South­west Fran­chise Expo that includ­ed John Rik­er Thomas. “From the first moment I saw him on stage, I knew this was the busi­ness for us,” says Mark. In a YouTube video of the pre­sen­ta­tion, we see Rik­er emerge in a warm-up suit with three women in black leather Cas­tro hats. He runs through the Core­Train fit­ness pro­gram and busi­ness, entic­ing those in the audi­ence to “come into the fold and learn to soar on all cylin­ders.” The video ends with stream­ers, lights and smoke. “After­wards, when I spoke with JRT, I knew that it was my dream not only to get peo­ple in shape, but to save lives,” says Mark. The Pola­ni­ans spent 6 months learn­ing the Core­Train reg­i­men and busi­ness before open­ing up their first fit­ness center.

While not held secret, the busi­ness strate­gies are rarely overt­ly stat­ed. Fit­ness Cen­ter employ­ees are encour­aged to get cus­tomers to join groups that will not only train togeth­er, but meet out­side of the gym for social activ­i­ties like a meal. Soon, cus­tomers are urged to attend the dai­ly class­es, are embar­rassed to miss ses­sions, and even shamed for drop­ping out. Some­times harass­ment fol­lows those who leave Core­Train, such as in the 2009 Flagstaff tri­al Don­alouge vs. Wintin, where Pro­fes­sor Matthew Wintin was being pub­licly bul­lied and ter­ror­ized. “That was an issue with a fran­chise mem­ber when were just start­ing that pro­gram,” says Thomas. “We have a much bet­ter back­ground check pol­i­cy and a more strin­gent sys­tem of checks and bal­ances now. Core­Train is deeply sad­dened when­ev­er we lose a mem­ber, but we would nev­er want to inflict any type of fear that the pub­lic could learn about.” How­ev­er, those cus­tomers that stick it out and show promise are moved up to be train­ers them­selves. Those who become Core­Train employ­ees are made promis­es such as being your own boss, grow­ing rich, and get­ting to vis­it the cor­po­rate home of Freewind, Utah.

In 2010, the Core­Train cor­po­ra­tion bought a small town in Utah right near the Ida­ho bor­der and renamed it Freewind. Thomas soon took up res­i­den­cy, and today vis­it­ing Freewind is an excit­ing and entic­ing car­rot for Core­Train mem­bers. The offi­cial state­ment from Core­Train is that Thomas lives in seclu­sion in the heav­i­ly for­ti­fied and pri­vate town because he needs com­plete con­trol to con­tin­ue his “rev­o­lu­tion­ary work in the world of phys­i­cal fit­ness and cylin­der work­ing.” Whether this is true or not is unknown. It is vir­tu­al­ly impos­si­ble to sneak into Freewind, and those who vis­it don’t speak a word. “It’s a spe­cial place,” says Kay Polan­ian. “Shar­ing the beau­ty of Freewind with out­siders or those not ready would­n’t serve any­one any good.”

Freewind is now a town of 1,200, and home to all of the Core­Train sub­sidiaries: Core­Train Mar­ket, the gro­cery store; Core­Train Con­struc­tion, the pri­vate con­trac­tor used to build the Fit­ness Cen­ters and all of Freewind; Core­Train Sav­ings & Loan, the com­bi­na­tion bank/relator com­pa­ny that helps with relo­ca­tion to Freewind; Core­Train Panop­ti­con­ics; a media com­pa­ny that pro­duces and dis­trib­utes videos and films.

It is pos­si­ble, how­ev­er, to glean some infor­ma­tion about the town based on state doc­u­ments. Thomas most like­ly lives on a vast 147 acre estate in the north­east cor­ner. The rest of the res­i­dents live either in small bun­ga­lows on the estate, or in dor­mi­to­ries. There is a ship­ping facil­i­ty, a Core­Train Mar­ket, a world class Core­Train Fit­ness Cen­ter, a movie the­ater and a secu­ri­ty office. Addi­tion­al­ly, there are CCTV cam­eras on each street cor­ner and a refuse incin­er­a­tor. A FOIA request revealed that while the town gen­er­ates 30 megawatts annu­al­ly, the build­ings that can be seen from satel­lite pho­tos would hard­ly use that entire amount.

The evening before Thomas flew to Altade­na, he held a pre­mière event in Freewind for Core­Train Panop­ti­con­ics’ first fea­ture-length film Save The Nation. Pre­vi­ous CTP pro­duc­tions were sold as DVDs to con­tin­ue the train­ing at home, but Save The Nation is a hard­core near-future action thriller. Thomas him­self stars as Rax Pull­safe, a small town busi­ness own­er who bands togeth­er with oth­ers to take back the Unit­ed States (using lessons learned from the Core­Train fit­ness reg­i­men) from a dic­ta­to­r­i­al Pres­i­dent in the year 2024. Thomas wrote the excit­ing, pulse-pound­ing 82-minute long movie him­self. CTP is plan­ning for a spring release to coin­cide with new spe­cial Save The Nation work­outs to be taught in all Core­Train Fit­ness Centers.

Last year, Core­Train raked in just shy of $2 bil­lion and is on track to break $5 bil­lion in 2013. How did this com­pa­ny explode so quick­ly? How did Thomas raise the ini­tial cap­i­tal? Per­haps there’s mis­chief at work?

In March of 2012, a joint inves­ti­ga­tion between the FDA, HHS and the Com­merce Depart­ment was set up to find out if there was ille­gal dop­ing going on with­in Core­Train. The inves­ti­ga­tion was shut down by high­er-ups, sup­pos­ed­ly because of bud­gets dis­putes, before any­thing con­clu­sive was found. There is one piece of evi­dence: a sin­gle vial of an unknown drug found in the dump­ster of a Reno Core­Train Fit­ness Cen­ter that the FDA test­ed on a pig. The pig got super buff, became sub­mis­sive, and died eigh­teen hours lat­er. The FDA is not sure how wide­spread the use of this drug may be, if at all, and there are no known tests to detect it in the bloodstream.

When I ask Thomas about this, he says “if it killed a pig in eigh­teen hours, how could I still be here? Would I be talk­ing with you if I sup­pos­ed­ly had been tak­ing it for the bet­ter part of a decade?” Thomas con­tends that the inves­ti­ga­tion was sim­ply launched out of jeal­ousy that the FDA did not think of the patent­ed Core­Train fit­ness régime first.

All of these ques­tions answer them­selves when you actu­al­ly meet and sit down with Thomas, as Kay and Mark Pola­ni­ans did, and as I did. Thomas gave me a tour of the new Altade­na Core­Train loca­tion before it opened to the pub­lic, offer­ing to give me a free train­ing ses­sion him­self. He takes me through the basics of Core­Train, out­lin­ing the phys­i­cal, men­tal and pro­fes­sion­al advan­tages. It was­n’t until Thomas point­ed out how my cylin­ders had not been ful­ly work­ing before that I real­ized how addict­ing Core­Train can be. I had­n’t ever felt my cylin­ders so much.

When Thomas speaks, his pierc­ing light blue eyes take hold of you as he goes on about the ben­e­fits of Core­Train. This real­ly is a sophis­ti­cat­ed dai­ly reg­i­men that works your cylin­ders. With­out pass­ing the dai­ly tasks, you can­not move on. And there is such pres­sure to move on and not be left behind, that you work hard. And there are the results which speak for them­selves in 37 gold medals, 6 body build­ing world records and Peki­ti-Tir­sia Kali world cham­pi­on Dekru Gube. All win­ners thanks to Core­Train’s mag­nif­i­cent cylin­der work­ing practices.

Back in Altade­na, only 45 min­utes after the rib­bon cut­ting, the 100th Fit­ness Cen­ter is packed. Thomas is not sur­prised. “What peo­ple want are all their cylin­ders work­ing. Cus­tomers come to a Core­Train Fit­ness Cen­ter, and before they know it, their body is feel­ing bet­ter, and soon their mind is too.” Thomas spends the day shak­ing hands and pos­ing for pho­tos before leav­ing in a heli­copter parked on the roof.

As we sit in the heli­copter bound for Freewind, I let Thomas in on my wor­ry that my cylin­ders will short­ly start to unwork them­selves. “Don’t wor­ry,” he says, “There are 4 major cylin­ders in each of us: Mind, body, spirt, hope. Each of those major cylin­ders can fur­ther be divid­ed into eight cham­bers. Here, take this.” And Thomas slides me a brand new copy of the won­der­ful Core­Train Hand­book as we hum away from the sunset. ♦