Jim Inman heads up Elite Athletic Development, an Arlington Heights-based training facility he describes as his "dream turned into reality."
Part of its success lies in a simple premise: to offer every day athletes the same strength and conditioning training used by top-caliber collegiate and professional athletes.
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Inman, an endurance athlete who has completed marathons and Ironman triathlons, says the idea occurred to him while taking a marketing class at Harper College. He took an idea he had read about in a sports magazine and developed it into a business model for a class assignment.
The business now is thriving, with approximately 250 athletes a month coming to the training facility for workouts and coaching, or more than 50,000 athletic training hours.
Earlier this year, the facility and its eight trainers were named "Best Alternative Exercise Studio" by Daily Herald readers for the second time in three years.
Now, Inman will get an award all his own: He will be honored Monday as one of Harper College's Distinguished Alumni.
It is a distinction given to former students who have logged outstanding career and community achievements, Harper officials say. In all, six recipients will be recognized during an evening event on campus.
They include Don Plass, the director of code enforcement for the village of Hoffman Estates; Angela Manhart Guyette Lemay of Barrington Hills, CFO at Refurbished Office Environments in Chicago; Tom Kehoe of Chicago, president of Kehoe Designs; Charles Cann of New York, a writer, producer and director now dedicated to helping children in Ghana; and John Blim of Louisville, an Emmy Award winning television writer, producer and director.
Inman represents many of the nontraditional, adult returning students that Harper serves.
Growing up near Flint, Mich., he enrolled at Central Michigan University as a traditional student, but dropped out after two years. He went to work in the corporate restaurant industry.
It wasn't until he had married, moved to the Chicago suburbs and had his first child that he began to think about doing something else.
"In the restaurant business, it's a lot of late nights and weekend work," Inman says. "I was getting burned out."
He turned to Harper and initially enrolled with the idea of earning an associate of arts degree in business administration. But after overcoming his jitters, when he first walked on campus as a student, he knew he was hooked.
"It was amazing. I knew immediately that I had made the right decision," he says. "I really enjoyed my professors and the school. It got me fired up."
He eventually earned his associate degree and transferred to the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he earned his bachelor's degree with a double major in marketing and management and a certificate of entrepreneurship.
The combination of degrees convinced him that he could build and market his own business, and that's when he remembered his class project at Harper.
"That was the seed," Inman says.
He started working as a personal trainer at what is now the Mid-Town Athletic Club in Palatine, while coaching endurance athletes on the side. He also worked as a trainer for various club volleyball and soccer teams, when he realized the parents were as interested in working out and staying fit as their children were.
Adults now make up 90 percent of the business, Inman says. They include weekend warriors and those looking to compete in races, as well as middle school and high school athletes seeking private training.
But the majority, Inman says, are looking to achieve overall fitness and a healthy lifestyle.
"It's amazing to see how many people make dramatic improvements," he says. "Every day I see people who no longer need to be on their blood pressure or diabetes medications. That's what I find so rewarding and makes this the best job I've ever had."