Power up: Strength trainer works with professional, amateur athletes at Westfield gym


Vern Smith is a strength trainer in Westfield. He owns The Freak Performance, a gym where he trains professional and amateur athletes in a range of sports.

The Freak Performance, at 16708 S. Park Dr. in Westfield, opened in September of 2022. It is dedicated to helping athletes and fitness devotees build strength through training regimes Smith puts together. Open seven days a week, the gym offers group and 1-on-1 strength training sessions.

Smith, who puts together the workout plans, spent 13 years as the director of strength and conditioning at Marian University. A former college football player, he pretty much operates The Freak Performance by himself.

“I’m working by myself,” said Smith, 33. “I do sometimes have some interns come in and help me. I normally have two of those and I also have an assistant.”

A Westfield resident, Smith typically begins each day at 5 a.m. and works until 10:30 p.m. For him, operating the gym is a labor of love. And he embraces the opportunity to challenge athletes to bring out their best through hard work and dedication.

“It’s a different philosophy, different mentality,” Smith said. “It’s not only hard, it’s mind-breaking in a sense of doing things. It’s a steady grind and a grind to hustle for the next wave.”

As a strength trainer, Smith aspires to bring out the inner strength of athletes and show them how to be tough and elevate themselves to higher levels through hard work.

“I’m a strength coach. I’m performance based. I’m in the business of getting people to that next step. That’s what I’m built to do. When they step on the field or the court, I want them to know they freak trained,” Smith said.

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Nyah Namisnak is a former gymnastics and cheer coach who Vern Smith has trained. She recently competed in the Arnold Classic in 2019. (Photos courtesy of Vern Smith)

Annika Creek, a professional soccer player for Houston Dash, has been training with Smith since 2018, when she was a junior at Butler University. Between her junior and senior year, she wanted to push herself to the next level. She said her senior season was her best collegiate season. She immediately noticed the difference in the Bulldogs’ season-opener.

“We were playing Wisconsin. I jumped about a foot or two taller than the people around me,” Creel said. “It was the start of our senior season. I just started working with Vern that offseason. By being a coach who puts human before athlete, he can get so much more out of you.”

Smith said human connection is part of the process. He said he inspires clients to excel athletically and in life.

“It’s bigger than the (statistical) numbers,” Smith said. “It’s about being a human, a good person. That’s more important than anything. You can take away your athletic ability, but you can’t take away the person. The biggest thing for me is making these individuals my family.”

Smith has also trained pitcher Carson Coleman, a minor league player in the New York Yankees organization. He regards Smith as a terrific trainer and close friend.

“The first thing I’d say about Vern is that instead of also making me a great athlete, he’s built me into a great human being,” Coleman said. “It’s great to have a guy that’s knowledgeable about the business but also being able to be that guy that you can have an honest conversation with and have a good feel with everything.”

Smith has more than 500 clients. He trains people of all ages and skill level. His average class size is between 10 and 15 kids. He personalizes his programs to fit individuals and offers in-person and online instruction.

The Freak Performance has a variety of state-of-the-art equipment that aren’t commonly found in most gyms, Smith said. The gym includes power racks, S-Force and D-Drive performance trainers, Olympic standard barbells, plates and more. In addition, Smith tailor’s workout regimens to bring out the best in each client.

“When I was working with Annika, we trained at her house in her backyard,” Smith said. “We built the weightroom in her barn. All (during the 2020 pandemic lockdown) year, that’s where we trained. I don’t need much. The only thing I need is the mind and body and we can get the work done.”

Smith plans to keep growing his business and establish The Freak Performance as a go-to facility for high-achieving athletes.

“I want to be the best,” he said. “I know there’s a lot of best out there and I want to be one of them.”

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The Freak Performance offers various weightlifting equipment and an indoor sports field that athletes are trained on.


Address: 16708 S. Park Dr. Westfield

Phone number: 317-997-7100

Website: tfperformance23.com/

Operating Hours: Monday through Thursday 6 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. and Fridays through Sunday from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Costs: Pricing varies. A coach will meet with individuals to discuss their needs and goals to determine a price