Newly Opened BodyGames Center Weathers Pandemic to Become a Community Favorite

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A father and son combine their skills to open fitness facility The BodyGames Center last summer

DJ Coe and Dr. Derick Coe
DJ Coe and Dr. Derick Coe

By Morgan Cartier Weston | Photography by John Michael Simpson

DJ Coe, a personal trainer, and his father, Dr. Derick Coe, a physical therapist, began brainstorming ways to combine their passions of helping others pursue their wellness goals through a shared fitness and physical therapy facility in fall 2019. “DJ was brought up around fitness and rehabilitation, watching me work on people, and had always been an athlete,” Derick says. “So we just put our heads together.” 

“We had also recently learned that we have ancestors who were part of the Black Wall Street movement in Durham in the early 1900s,” DJ says. “It gave me an even greater sense of purpose, that we should be here continuing to serve our people.” 

The father-son duo planned to open The BodyGames Center in early 2020. “We weren’t expecting the pandemic, but we found pivot points, [like] livestreaming free classes on Facebook to get the word out,” says Dominique Coe, DJ’s wife and a trainer at BodyGames. “Virtual coaching was something I had never done before, and I love one-on-one and group interactions in person,” DJ adds. “It definitely took us out of our comfort zone, but it was for the better.” 

The BodyGames Center fitness center
DJ encourages Seth Friskney as he trains on the battle ropes.
The BodyGames Center fitness center

“Like most therapists, we also did telehealth with patients,” Derick says. “The key to our collaboration between fitness and physical therapy is beginning recovery as soon as possible after an injury occurs.” Derick describes himself as a body mechanic, analyzing position, gait and mobility to improve posture and identify muscular imbalances. “Showing people things that they could do from home was a great tool in getting them on a safe road to recovery,” he says. 

Mobility is also a focus for every workout. “We always warmup, stretch and do flexibility exercises to ensure recovery time is faster,” DJ explains. “The average person comes about four days a week, which is great for monitoring progress. And for those who are injured, we can customize a training plan for them that coordinates with their physical therapy plan.” 

This intentional partnership also cultivated a family atmosphere in the gym itself, which opened for in-person training once restrictions were lifted in July 2020. “In the pandemic, so many things have been uncertain, so the community response we have received has meant everything,” Dominique says. “We’re helping people improve their lives in and out of the gym. We also offer kids’ classes, and our kids, [Caden, 12, and Amarah, 2], are there helping us and even greet people by name. We are grateful every day to wake up and go to work.” 

The BodyGames Center fitness center

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Morgan Weston

Durham Magazine freelancer Morgan Weston is a North Carolina native who loves exploring the Triangle's diverse food, arts and craft beer offerings.

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