FitLife Staff Biographies

Joseph Zeleznock

MSPT, Owner/Operator
Joe is owner and operator of FitLife, as well as a Licensed Physical Therapist. Joe received his Bachelor's Degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in Exercise Physiology. After graduation, he gained experience as an exercise physiologist in numerous outpatient physical therapy settings. From these experiences, his passion grew to open his own center that would provide comprehensive care for the patient and fitness member alike. He later moved to Pennsylvania and completed his Master's Degree in Physical Therapy from Neumann College. Throughout graduate school, Joe managed a wellness center which afforded him the opportunity to gain experience operating a full wellness center including fitness, aquatics and rehabilitation. Joe remains passionate about opening many FitLife facilities which include both fitness and rehabilitation under one roof, guided by highly trained staff while providing the best in customer service. 

Erin Pizzeck

Fitness Operations Manager
Erin joined the FitLife team in May 2010, and has served as the Fitness Operations Manager since 2013. Prior to starting at FitLife, Erin worked in the fashion retail industry as store manager and visual merchandising manager to various flagship women's fashion retailers in the area. During that time, Erin also completed her Bachelor's Degree in Graphic Design Communication at Philadelphia University in 2005, graduating at the top of her class in the School of Design. She is currently pursuing her Executive MBA through the Villanova University School of Business. Erin is originally from Virginia, and relocated to Philadelphia for college in 2001. She has since made the Philadelphia area her home with her two children. Having previously lived in both Mt. Airy and Chestnut Hill, she appreciates the unique nature of the community, and enjoys being a part of it daily by working at FitLife. She is infinitely inspired by the patrons of FitLife, and embraces the mindset that to live an active and healthy lifestyle sets the groundwork for life-long good health and happiness.

Cheryl Nowlan

PT, DPT, Clinic Supervisor
Cheryl earned her Bachelor's Degree from Sacred Heart University in 2009 and her Doctorate in 2012. While at Sacred Heart, Cheryl was the captain of her dance team which finished fourth in the nation in Collegiate Division 1 Dance. In graduate school, Cheryl traveled to Guatemala with a group of physical therapy students to provide physical therapy services at various locations throughout the country. After graduation, Cheryl worked at a private outpatient clinic in Fairfield County, Connecticut, and then at the Yale University Health Center in New Haven, Connecticut. Originally from Havertown, Cheryl is very excited to be back in the Philadelphia area, and looks forward to treating patients at FitLife. Outside of physical therapy, Cheryl enjoys running, dancing, playing soccer and traveling.

Nikita Bilgi

Nikita has traveled through several cities and countries throughout her life assimilating and growing with various cultures around her. She grew up in the Middle East, completed her high school and earned her Bachelor’s in Physical Therapy from India and then moved to Canada. She has been a physical therapist on the move for 7 years, having worked in India, Canada, Virginia and now, Philadelphia. Further, she completed her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from University of Michigan-Flint, and continues to build her competency in Vestibular Rehabilitation, Temporo-Mandibular Joint Rehabilitation, Orthopedics and Sports Rehabilitation. Through her experience, she passionately strives to guide her patients towards an active lifestyle, promoting wellness and independence in fitness. In her free time, she loves kickboxing, bootcamp classes and indulges in restaurant hopping.

Joseph Rinaldi

Joe began his collegiate career at Bucknell University where he studied Molecular Biology and walked on to the football team. Following his sophomore year, he transferred to Rutgers University where he earned his Bachelor's Degree in Exercise Science (2016). He then moved to Philadelphia where he went on to earn his Doctorate Degree in Physical Therapy from Drexel University (2019) and had the honor of delivering the graduation speech. While at Drexel, Joe completed internships at various orthopedic clinics across New Jersey and sought out experience working in both pediatric and sports settings. Joe has an extensive background in athletics and working as a performance coach with athletes of all ages. Additionally, he traveled to Guatemala where he helped provide physical therapy services to underserved communities. Joe is originally from Westfield, NJ and is excited to move to the Philadelphia area to be a part of the FitLife community. Outside of work, Joe enjoys exercising, hiking, photography and creating content for his Instagram account and blog, which has been published by the APTA.

Samantha Birmingham

Samantha (Sammi) completed her undergraduate degree in Kinesiology from Temple University earning the honor of Cum Laude, and later returned to Temple to complete her Doctorate in Physical Therapy. While at Temple for her Doctorate, Sammi was very active in the North Broad Street Probono Center, a facility that provides low- or no-income individuals free physical therapy treatment, and she was later inducted in to the Probono National Honor Society. Sammi also traveled to Guatemala while in school on a medical service trip where she treated a wide variety of neuromuscular and orthopedic conditions at various locations throughout the country. Sammi is highly dedicated to treating the underserved both locally and abroad. She prides herself in providing evidence-based treatment that is functional and effective to improve the lives of those that cross her path. Sammi enjoys singing and running in her free time and hopes to someday treat with FIMRC, an international organization that provides medical services to children and communities in developing countries.

Marissa Alpaugh

Exercise Physiologist
Marissa earned her Bachelor's Degree in Exercise Science from Cabrini University in December 2018. During her time at Cabrini, she studied both Sports Science and Health Promotion. Marissa completed her internship in Strength and Conditioning working with a variety of Cabrini varsity athletes across numerous sports, such as baseball, soccer, volleyball, basketball and lacrosse. She also played softball at Cabrini earning two first-team conference accolades, one second-team conference accolade, and one first-team All Eastern College Athletic Conference accolade. Marissa's involvement in sports growing up is what encouraged her to study Exercise Science, and experiencing numerous sports injuries led her to pursue the rehab field. She would like to ultimately pursue a Master's Degree in Clinical Exercise Physiology to advance into cardiac rehabilitation. In her free time, Marissa enjoys doing CrossFit, traveling, going to the beach, and trying different restaurants. She also adores her one-eyed cat, Winky.

Tara McGowan Canally

Personal Trainer
Tara received her Personal Training Certification, as well as a Certificate for Nutrition from the Personal Training Institute. She is a lifelong fitness fan, and as a dedicated personal trainer she helps her clients achieve their health and fitness goals with steadfast commitment. Tara has worked with a broad spectrum of individuals, from the novice to the seasoned athlete, and she is experienced in personalizing protocols to address her clients' specific wellness needs and objectives. Growing up in Chestnut Hill, and currently residing with her husband and son in Wyndmoor, Tara is very excited to be working back in her neighborhood!

Fran Kelly

Personal Trainer
Fran has been a fitness professional and group exercise instructor for the past 25 years. This work has been a passion as well as a rewarding profession. Fran started as an aerobics instructor in the area and continued certifications in personal training, step aerobics, Spin, Slide, TRX, Zumba and water aerobics. She has also worked with children's fitness programs. Fran is a Philadelphia native and is married with three children.

Doris Swarn

Personal Trainer
Doris graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Business, and later acquired her Personal Trainer Certification from the American Council on Exercise. Doris has always been fitness oriented, but it was her work with CAMcare and Cooper Hospital as a health coach that inspired her to pursue personal training. Her goal is to educate people of all ages about the benefits of living a healthy lifestyle and to create fitness programs that help fulfill each person's goals. Doris has an extensive background in aquatics with certifications for USA Swimming and she has experience coaching both adult and youth swim teams. She also teaches water aerobics and Zumba courses around the city. In the spring and summer months, Doris participates on a competitive Dragon Boat Team and in fitness competitions. Doris is not a Philadelphia native, but it is a place she has come to call home.

Janet Varley

Personal Trainer
Janet received her personal training certification from The National Personal Training Institute (NPTI) in 2009 and has been working with a diverse clientele ever since.  She graduated from Villanova University with a B.S. in Mathematics in 1987 and worked as an actuarial assistant and statistical analyst before leaving her career to raise her two children.  Her passion for fitness and nutrition is what led her to NPTI.   Janet takes a comprehensive approach to fitness by encouraging gains in not only strength but also power, flexibility, mobility and agility.  No matter what your fitness level or age is, she will help you train like an athlete – to find your weaknesses and eliminate them!  Janet focuses on improving muscle balance by using proper technique and movement patterns.  She also offers nutritional consulting to help you achieve your fitness goals and improve your quality of life.

Brandon Rucker

Personal Trainer
Brandon's path to health and fitness has been quite the journey. Playing sports his whole life, he was always active and very athletic; it's all he knew. After his college football/pro football aspirations withered, he found another outlet to feed his hunger for self-fulfillment physically and mentally; fitness. The day Brandon got bit by the fitness bug, his whole life changed for the better. He studied exercise and sports science at Temple University. While doing so, he continued to research and learn as much as he could about the fitness industry. But, he knew not only did he see joy in making changes in his own life, but he wanted to help others see the same success and the fun in fitness as he did. Brandon enjoys helping people push past their limits and reach levels they only dreamed of. Whether it be bodybuilding, sports performance training, fat loss or just overall health and wellness, he wants to help you succeed!

Jim Rice

Personal Trainer
Fitness has always been a big part of Jim's life. He played one year of college football and after some nagging injuries he became more interested in the personal training field. Jim received his personal training certification from American Council of Exercise, also recently becoming a certified Health Coach and Fitness Nutrition Specialist. Jim's goal as a personal trainer is to offer clients a program that is safe, effective and enjoyable. In addition to achieving individual client goals, he likes to help clients attain greater movement functionality as well as an understanding and respect for their bodies' own unique capabilities.