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9/5/2004

Local gym owner invents ab machine

By Tony Kindelspire
The Daily Times-Call

LONGMONT — His work as a personal trainer has introduced him to the world of NASCAR, Hollywood and the studios of ABC-TV’s “The View.”

It’s also added another descriptive to his business card: inventor.

Rob Fulcomer, owner of Longmont’s No Cheat Fitness, saw a hole in the multi-billion dollar health and fitness market he thought he could fill with his invention, called “No Cheat Abs.”

“There’s so much stuff out on the market — infomercials and all that,” Fulcomer said recently at his gym on South Sunset. “There’s a lot of promises out there in the fitness industry, but that’s really what they’re selling — promises.”

Fulcomer’s invention, a workout machine devoted to strengthening the abdominal muscles, provides the user verification that those actual muscles are being used correctly.

His contention is “it’s really truly not our abs we’re using,” for example, if someone is doing sit-ups by putting their feet under something.

Three years after he first designed the product, it’s now selling nationally — albeit modestly so far.

“I designed this on a napkin and took it to the world’s largest home shopping network,” he said. “And we’re going to continue to grow with it.”

No Cheat Abs lays flat on the floor, with users placing their feet, knees bent, into two platforms at the end of the device.

When four sensors, located where the heels go, are properly activated, four battery-operated lights tell the user if they are using the device correctly. If one or both legs or feet are out of position, the light or lights won’t light up.

Fulcomer said it often takes users several tries to get all four lights to stay lit. As the name implies, there are no shortcuts to doing the exercise correctly.

“When you isolate the muscle truly you can’t do as many,” he said.

Fulcomer’s contacts in the entertainment world helped him get his foot in the door at QVC. He was once the former head trainer at EAS, a sports science and nutrition company. Fulcomer also lived in New York, where he said he served as a personal trainer to several actresses and as one-time instructor to NASCAR driver Jeff Burton. His contacts in the fitness world led to “The View” hiring him to give executive producer Bill Getty a three-month workout program. A weekly appearance on the show came with that job.

“It was a great experience,” he said of his TV appearances. “The first couple of times it was a little nerve-wracking.”

Fulcomer moved to Longmont when he bought the former Bodyworks Gym nearly two years ago. Meanwhile, this was the summer his invention really took off, led by his first appearance on QVC in June. He said he and his business partners are in the process of putting together an infomercial to pitch No Cheat Abs, joining the likes of others on late-night and off-hour television.

But his two appearances on QVC have helped him sell hundreds of the machines, he said.

The network’s vendor relations department, “gets 16,000 inquiries per year,” said its director Marilyn Montross.

“Probably, I would say, it narrows down to about 2,000 of those that turn into product submissions,” she said.

Persuading QVC to carry a product is a lengthy process, but if the network does, at least a few are likely to sell.

Montross said the network’s initial purchase is $20,000 to $25,000 worth of product — at wholesale cost — for anything they sell on the air.

“That’s the minimum we would purchase,” Montross said. “That’s sort of a test amount for us.

“Our expectation is that if it’s successful it’s going to sell out.”

Fulcomer obviously passed expectations. In fact, No Cheat Fitness members who have used the machine at the gym and want to buy it for themselves have to buy it from QVC — Fulcomer said he can’t make them fast enough to keep in stock locally.

A search on the QVC Web site for “abs” brings up 104 QVC products, but Fulcomer’s is second on the list — retailing for $77.

“Fitness is a good category (for us),” said Montross. “It’s not as big as heath and beauty, or makeup or cosmetics ...”

No Cheat Abs fit the criteria for QVC, she said, in that it “solves problems, appeals to a broad audience and has unique features and benefits.

“And definitely products that are demonstrable, because we are a visual medium,” Montross said.

Back in Longmont, Fulcomer is considering expanding his gym, and will debut fitness classes this month and next. But that doesn’t keep him from sketching out other ideas on napkins.

“Yeah, none that we can talk about right now,” he said, “but most definitely.”

Tony Kindelspire can be reached at 303-776-2244, Ext. 291, or by e-mail at tkindelspire@times-call.com.