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This article by Kathleen McGinn Spring was prepared for the June 18, 2003 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
New Face of Fitness: Family Friendly, High Tech
According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, nearly
two-thirds of all adults, and half of all children, are totally inactive
or are underactive. For the physical fitness industry, though, that’s
a target market.
And — thanks to persistent publicity about the health benefits
of a regular exercise program, gentle prodding from friends and family,
and stern warnings from physicians who uncover conditions such as
high blood pressure and clogged arteries — that target market
is in a buying mood.
No wonder that this spring two new fitness centers appeared on the
Princeton scene and one existing center completed a major expansion.
These facilities are unlike any gym that baby boomers might remember
from their high school sports days.
On Route 1 north the expanded Gold’s Gym combines serious conditioning
with personal attention, and has designed its new gym to include areas
for relaxing — or working one-on-one with a trainer — outdoors.
On the Forrestal Campus the Milestone Club offers individualized instruction
on computerized equipment, and is drawing elite athletes of all ages
as well as what its owners politely term "deconditioned" middle-age
On Route 206 just north of Research Park the Medical Center at Princeton,
which recently changed its name to Princeton HealthCare System, has
teamed with a private fitness center developer to create a full-service
fitness center, aquatic center, spa, and rehabilitation facility catering
to area residents in every stage of fitness — or lack of same.
It’s the battle of the bulge, and men of women of all ages have enlisted,
as our recent tour demonstrates.
Within minutes of my arrival at the new Gold’s Gym facility
on Route 1 North to look it over and interview its owners, a friend,
Karen Cox, runs over. We exclaim at the coincidence of running into
one another so far from our home turf, the Island All Girls Book Club
in Trenton. She then launches into an enthusiastic review of the revamped
"I love the new gym!" she exclaims. "It’s big, airy, spacious.
I like it a lot more. There’s no wait for machines." She adds
that Darius, her trainer, is "very nice," and that the new
facility is "very hotel-like," high praise from a woman who
can’t go a season without traveling. She confesses that she has not
yet gotten up the nerve to try out a class and says she is especially
taken with the private women’s workout area. "I’m intimidated
by the guys lifting hundreds of pounds," she says.
Running back to her exercise bike, Karen says she is sure she is beginning
to see the results of her workout routine.
It may be news that Gold’s, with a logo depicting an impossibly muscled
fellow lifting gargantuan weights, has something for the Karens of
the exercise world.
Bonnie and Randy Vey, who have owned this Gold’s gym — one of
650 around the world — for some 15 years, verbalize their frustration
that the gym’s demographics, comprising all types of people at all
fitness levels, are not more widely known. "We don’t have one
body builder here. Not one," says Randy. "What we have are
doctors and lawyers and businessmen. This is a very corporate crowd."
The crowd is also loyal. Randy calls out to two passing members. "John,
Mark, how long have you been here?" he asks. "January, 1991,"
says John, who at 66 does not fit the Gold stereotype any more than
Karen does. "April, 1991," says Mark, who is fit, but hardly
muscle-bound. "We were held hostage," jokes Mark.
After 14 years across the highway, the Veys have just orchestrated
the move from Route 1 South to Route 1 North. The new facility was
designed by Rudy Fabiano of Montclair, who Randy says is "the
number one architect in the gym business." He asserts that he
and his wife, in a way, gave Fabiano his start.
Fabiano was a young assistant architect when the couple opened their
first Gold’s Gym, and he helped out with its design. Unusual elements,
including high ceilings, attracted so much attention that Fabiano
was asked to design other gyms, and he was on his way.
Bonnie Vey, who worked closely with Fabiano, emphasizes
that her gym is meant to be far more than a fitness facility. In her
view, it is a destination, a place to relax, a "third place"
that is as comfortable as home and a great escape from work or other
daily commitments. The gym incorporates areas for lounging and relaxing,
a putting green, and a patio with wrought iron furniture topped by
deep green umbrellas. Large windows afford an attractive view out
onto these areas, bringing the outside in.
Bonnie and Randy, the parents of seven-and-a-half-year-old Carson,
are especially proud of the new children’s play area. Equipped with
computer games, arts and crafts materials, and toys galore, it also
opens onto a large outdoor play area. The Veys say this means that
parents don’t have to feel guilty leaving their children — when
the sun makes an appearance, the kids can enjoy it.
Although the construction of the swimming pool was held up by the
foul weather of April and May, the Veys say it is nearly ready. It
too will connect to the outdoors, where big glass doors will lead
to a lounging area.
Back inside, the new Gold’s amenities include a long, curving juice
bar with lots of orange-topped stools and an indoor sitting area with
striking, oversized bright blue chairs with stretchy backs.
Now, on to the serious business.
Even in an off hour — in the early afternoon, after
lunchtime and way before the end of the work day — there are a
number of serious fitness buffs working out. The gym includes a dozen
or more separate areas — some set off by walls and others by more
subtle design elements, including raised platforms, curved walls,
and changes in color, lighting, and sound. In the weight-training
section, with its high-energy red walls and pulsing music, several
young men discuss lifting techniques. On a cardio deck — a platform
behind the free weights, a small handful of people ride exercise bikes
or run on treadmills. Just across the way, a compact woman, perhaps
30 years of age, works on strength training machines with a personal
trainer. To her left is another raised cardio deck, and it too is
seeing some activity.
Behind the main work-out areas, a lone woman, sequestered in the women-only
exercise room, pedals a bike while watching the news on the television
suspended from the wall in front of her. Meanwhile, outside, on a
stretch of concrete near the putting green, a personal trainer leads
a profusely sweating middle-aged man through what looks like a killer
There are no classes going on at this time of the day, but Bonnie
shows off the studio where they are held, pointing out that colors,
wall coverings, and flooring — even the doors — were each
chosen with a specific type of activity in mind. The Pilates room,
for example, is decorated in grass cloth and soothing shades of green.
There are no mirrors in this room, the music New-Agey, the mood Oriental.
In the spinning room, by contrast, the walls are electric-red, and
music is more Asbury Park than stroll-in-the-park.
Pulling the new location together has been a huge undertaking for
the Veys, who actually met at a gym. The year was 1979 and the place
was the Edison Racquetball Club. Bonnie, who grew up in East Brunswick
and graduated from the University of Vermont, was a flight attendant
for Eastern Airlines, and Randy, an Edison native and graduate of
Virginia Tech, was teaching and coaching football and track in Highland
As the two began dating, Bonnie continued to fly, while Randy left
teaching and started his life as an entrepreneur. "I opened an
inn and restaurant in Vermont," he says. His motivation? "I
love to ski. I had to live in Vermont. I would have done anything
to get there." While he was running the inn, Bonnie was flying
around the country collecting menus and analyzing restaurant trends
to help him out with his business.
Before the 1980s were over, Randy was ready to come back to New Jersey.
He had found that running an inn in Vermont is a tough business. "It’s
very seasonal," he says. "Either it’s crazy or there’s no
business." He returned to teaching.
"I drove into the parking lot in the same car I left in,"
he laughs. "I didn’t make a whole lot of money." At the same
time, Eastern Airlines was facing bankruptcy, and Bonnie was casting
around for something else to do. "It was always Randy’s dream
to have a gym," she says.
"Ever since I was 14, I wanted to open a gym," he confirms.
The two married in 1989, and, quips Randy, "instead of going on
a honeymoon, we went to Gold’s Gym in L.A. to find out about licenses."
Actually, they did make it to Hawaii for a honeymoon, but the Gold’s
stop was an important detour.
They chose to go with Gold’s because of its name recognition and its
reach. The country’s first substantial fitness franchise, Gold’s instantly
conjures up images of exceptionally fit people. Randy had learned
the value of hooking up with a recognized name in his first business
venture — running the inn. There were several big-name restaurants
nearby. He says that while his food and ambiance were better, the
places with name recognition drew more customers. Even so, he says,
"we could have opened Bonnie and Randy’s Gym then." But not
now. Now, he says, the affiliation is crucial.
Still, he insists that their Gold’s is truly a mom and pop business.
"Two owners in one location. Where are you going to get that today?"
he demands. "I go into the suggestion box and answer every single
suggestion myself." He and his wife appear to know every member,
greeting many by name as they walk by. Their son sometimes checks
members in and has just been given new marching orders. "He has
to work for 20 minutes every day before heading for the playroom,"
says his dad. His first assignment is to clean the mirrors.
Kids cleaning mirrors, executives working on their putting skills
on their lunch hour, seniors kibbitzing, new exercisers watching soap
operas; none of this fits the traditional Gold’s image, but the Vey’s
operation is Gold’s through and through. "When you exercise,"
says Randy, "you want the person next to you to look good. It
gives you motivation."
North, Monmouth Junction. 732-329-8300. Www.goldsgym.com
Gold’s grand opening weekend, June 19-23, includes an adult party
(age 21 and over) on Saturday, June 21, from 7 to 11 p.m. and a Family
Fitness Fun Day with games and prizes on Sunday, June 22. Call the
gym for details.
Technology meets a passion for sports at the Milestone
Guggenheim Club, a new fitness boutique in a circa-1912 building with
24-foot ceilings on the Forrestal campus. "Early plasma research
was done here between the two world wars," says Ann Erdman Fries.
She and her husband, Russell Fries, co-owners of Milestone, are spending
long days getting the new club up and running.
Milestone’s setting, under the trees and just past the guardhouse
on the Forrestal campus, is quiet. A flower-lined path leads up to
its entrance, which does evoke the ghosts of researchers past more
than the pulsing, bright-light, high-energy scene of fitness present.
Inside, the feel is more academic than manic, too. Tall and thin,
gracious and welcoming, Russell Fries leads the way to Milestone’s
conference room. Ann Fries, petite and lively, with a nearly-constant
smile, soon arrives, as does Tony Alexander, the gym’s general manager,
and Pat Kenney, one of its trainers.
The group takes turns explaining how Milestone works, and for whom
it is designed. The gym operates on an appointment-only basis, and
not more than 14 people can be accommodated at one time. After an
extensive fitness evaluation, members can exercise on their own, following
a plan set up by their trainers, or they can choose to work out one-on-one
with a personal trainer. In either case, supervision is never far
away. But Milestone can also tailor a program for those who, by temperament
or geography, are better off exercising on their own, off site.
"Members don’t even have to live nearby," says Russell Fries.
He gives an example, explaining that a marathoner or bicycle racer
from Bucks County could come in, have a trainer design a program,
and then follow it on his own, perhaps checking in every few months
or so. The Fries do expect that most members will live nearby, but
emphasize flexibility in their programs. There are no extended contracts
here. Members preparing for an ascent of Everest or a season of crew
might want an 8-week or a 10-week program, while an overworked, out-of-shape
executive might want an ongoing, three-times-a-week standing appointment.
Sports-specific training is a Milestone niche. Early members include
a marathoner, a mountain climber, and a rower. Their ages run the
gamut: The rower is 16, and the mountain climber is 63.
Collectively, the owners and trainers have extensive personal experience
in golf, bicycling, wrestling, baseball, distance running, basketball,
and tennis. They are prepared to help enhance the performance and
endurance of athletes in any sport. They are also prepared to get
the sedentary jumpstarted on a fitness program and perhaps involved
in a sport. They also stand at the ready to help weekend warriors
excel on the links and tennis courts well into their golden years.
Ann Fries has conferred extensively with physicians and believes that
there are many fitness-challenged folks in the area who would exercise
if the conditions were right. She thinks her facility provides the
right atmosphere, especially for the less-muscular sex.
"For a woman who wants to start an active life," she says,
"it’s private, it’s quiet. You get a lot of attention. It’s non-threatening."
Russell Fries leads a tour of the gym. Its long, fairly narrow, high-ceilinged
room houses two rows of wonderfully robotic-looking machines. Strength
training equipment runs along one wall, while equipment for aerobic
workouts lines the other. The state-of-the-art machines, made by Technogym
(www.technogym.com), an Italian company with a U.S. subsidiary in
Seattle, is totally computerized. While free weights are available,
Technogym’s high-end equipment is about as far away from barbells
as you can get.
Alexander, the manager — a superbly-muscled fellow
who grew up in Princeton, served in the Navy, and has substantial
fitness industry experience — directs me to a chest press machine.
There are no weights in sight. When I sit down on its sleek, ergonomic
seat, it rises up into the air a bit. Alexander elicits my vital statistics
— age, weight, and height — and makes some manual adjustments
to the settings. (Members insert a computerized key containing their
entire fitness history as well as the day’s workout, programmed by
the member’s trainer. But the exchange is two-way. If the number or
intensity of repetitions is causing fatigue, the machine notes it,
adjusts on the spot, and "reports" it to the trainer. If the
exercise level has become too easy, it notes that too.) When I reach
back to take hold of the hand grips, which rest in circles in the
machine’s beautiful steel arms, it knows exactly how many reps to
give me, and at what weight. Very cool.
I start out too fast, a common exercise error, and Alexander directs
me to look at a digital gauge to my right. "Follow the orange
dot," he says. The orange dot moves at just the right speed along
an arc of green lights. I try to match my out-and-back arm movements
to it, and when I do, explains Alexander, I am exerting just the right
amount of effort to get the most out of the exercise.
Milestone members spend a good part of their work-out sessions moving
among Technogym machines. When a set of reps at, say, the chest press
machine, is over, the machine directs its human with a digital read-out
to move along to the next station in his routine.
Russell Fries leads me to a kiosk containing work-out stats for all
of Milestone’s members. He inserts his key and pulls up his own work-out
history. "I’ve lifted 350,520 pounds in the past six weeks,"
he says, reading from a chart on the kiosk’s screen. Bar charts measure
his output against expectations set at the beginning of his exercise
sessions. He points with pride at weeks where he has surpassed his
goals. "I’m lifting an average of 20,000 pounds a workout,"
he says. Of course, he adds, his trainers average twice that amount.
For anyone as besotted with technology as with fitness, as Fries obviously
is, the key system is great fun. For any exerciser who gets easily
discouraged, it is also a fine way to see, week-by-week, just how
much progress one has made.
For Milestone patrons who crave even more technology, the gym happily
obliges. At the end of the row of strength-training machines, cameras
can videotape a member’s running stride, golf swing, rowing form,
and more. Alexander hops on a bicycle hooked up to a computer as Fries
takes to the keyboard. As Alexander pedals, Fries types. The result
— a graph showing at which point Alexander is exerting just the
right pressure at each phase of each pedal stroke. Such information
is vital for athletes who must use their energy wisely to power them
through to the finish line in the best possible time.
The idea for the new business — and its technology tilt —
comes from the Fries’ past experiences, which involve everything from
grandparenting to designing software for the Institute of Defense
Analyses. Each has had several prior careers, and, as so often happens,
these work experiences became the building blocks of their current
Ann Fries, a Princeton native and graduate of Miss Fine’s School,
studied accounting at Smith. Marriage and children interrupted her
education, and she finished her degree in bits and pieces at Rider,
the College of New Jersey, and Mercer County Community College. After
a five-year stint as a CFO, a chance meeting turned up an opportunity
to help launch the Liberty Science Center. While there she noticed
that "the health floor attracted the most people. They would stand
in a line for an hour." This got her to thinking about just how
interested people are in their bodies and in how they work.
As much as she enjoyed working at the new science center, the commute
began to get her down. At the same time, one of her two daughters,
Lea Marshall, who completed her first marathon last year, gave birth
to Fries’ first grandchild. Opting for more flexibility, the new grandmother
decided to switch to consulting. She built a specialty in adaptive
reuse of older buildings, reuse that often involved building a home
fitness center into a distinguished building.
In her imagination, Fries married the passion for personalized fitness
she observed among the wealthy with the overall fascination with human
health she observed at the science center. Then she began to visualize
Fries, a committed runner, thanks her other daughter, Lynne O’Donnell,
for inspiring the in-depth sports training aspect of Milestone. O’Donnell
runs on a Nike running team, and her husband, who recently finished
the Boston Marathon in 2:40, works at Nike headquarters in Portland,
Oregon. Through the young couple, Fries saw the sophisticated evaluation
and training regime available to just a few athletes — at Nike
and similarly sports-focused corporations and at a handful of destination
training programs. She began to think that bringing such training
down to the local level might have real appeal in the Princeton area.
Russell Fries, a bicyclist, provided the technology input. Though
not a Princeton native like his wife, Fries is the nephew of a Princeton
professor and grew up not far away, in Montclair, and spent a great
deal of time in Princeton. He followed in his grandfather’s footsteps
to Lawrenceville Prep and his father’s to Yale, where he studied history.
After serving in Vietnam, he earned a graduate degree in the history
of economics and went on to teach the history of science and technology
at Johns Hopkins and the University of Maine. By then, he had a wife
and children — Tom, a crew coach, and Gwyneth, who is finishing
up at Brown. Deciding that his increased responsibilities called for
a larger salary, he joined the Institute for Defense Analyses in Washington,
D.C, where he created software.
His marriage to Ann is the second for both of them. And while both
have substantial ties to Princeton, they met in Nova Scotia after
being introduced by relatives. They married in 1992 and began a commuter
marriage. "I became awfully familiar with the Princeton Junction
train station," he laughs.
Now retired from the Institute for Defense Analyses, Russell is free
to devote "120 percent" of his time to Milestone, matching
his wife’s time contribution. They obtained financing for the launch
from a small group of friends and private investors. And who is in
charge? "I take my orders from Ann," admits Russell with a
laugh. "No, no," she demurs. Her title is president, while
his, he says with the air of someone making it up as he speaks, is
executive vice president and chief of technology.
Milestone, arising from the marriage of two Boomers, presages any
number of likely Boomer trends. First, the heady allure of technology,
while just another tool to Gen Xers, is eminently fascinating to their
elders. Then there is the obsession with youth among a group that
finds assurance — as well as joy — in a cross-court smash,
a five-minute mile, and a century bike ride.
Lastly, there is the brand new concept of retirement, which can perhaps
be summed up as: Why go to Florida for three decades of golf when
you can stay close to home and build a new business around training
old and young to enjoy that sport, among others, for a lifetime.
Road, Suite 218, Princeton. 609-520-1155. Www.milestoneclub.com
& Wellness Center
As a 25-year-old who had never spent much time away
from his home near Buffalo, Gary Reidy accepted a new job assignment.
He was to travel to Utah to manage a health club for his then-employer,
European Health Spas. "I moved across the country with my high
school sweetheart," he recounts. "The place went bankrupt
the day we arrived." Instead of honeymooning, he sold everything
he had and he and his bride "worked from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m."
to turn the sinking health club around.
Now, some 20 years later, he is part owner of the new Princeton Fitness
and Wellness Center on Route 206, an affiliate of Princeton HealthCare
System. Standing in the pool area of his newest venture, clad in black
spandex shorts and a black Polo sweatshirt, Reidy talks about growing
up in the fitness industry and about the niche he is carving in the
hot new marriage of hospital and health club.
Reidy started in fitness at age 15 as a lifeguard, soon became a trainer,
and has never worked outside of the industry. His interest, he says,
comes from a love of sports. "I played hockey, football; I boxed,"
he says. He laughs as he talks about excelling despite the fact that
"I was the small one." In a family of seven children, Reidy
was dwarfed by his brothers, among them Sean and Marty, both of whom
are six-foot-four, and both of whom now work for him.
After pulling European Spa’s Utah facility back into the black, an
18-month project, Reidy formed his own company, Reidy Management,
and built a 150,000-square-foot tennis and racquet club, Ridge Athletics,
in Provo, Utah. Investors included members of the musical Osmond families.
From there, it was on to Washington State, where he opened a series
of 50,000 to 70,000-square-foot fitness centers.
In his next venture, Reidy partnered with Craig Ehleider, who now
owns the Planet Fitness chain in South Jersey, to do grand openings,
pre-grand openings, and turnarounds in the fitness industry. "We
went all across the country," Reidy recalls. "Florida, Nebraska,
Kansas City, Virginia, everywhere."
Then Reidy’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, and the traveling
stopped. "We were very close," he says. "She was given
one year to live." Flying home to see her, Reidy went through
Newark Airport. "I thought `I’m not going to be here long!’"
he remembers. After this initial reaction, which is typical enough,
the businessman in him kicked in. "New Jersey has great demographics,"
he says. Looking past its Turnpike-and-oil-tank-farm gateway, and
banking on the state’s population density and affluence, Reidy decided
to set up shop in New Jersey.
Settling into Montgomery with Judy Reidy, the bride
who had accompanied him to Utah, Reidy began to build health clubs,
under the name Lifestyle Fitness Center, in New Jersey. His new base
was close enough to Orchard Park that he was able to drive up on weekends
to visit his mother, who beat her diagnosis and lived for nine more
In the late 1990s, Reidy sold Lifestyle Fitness to New York Sports
Clubs, and in 1999 he formed his present company, Fitness and Wellness
Professional Services, which has its headquarters in Hazlet. Fitness
and Wellness is a partnership consisting of four general managers.
In addition to Reidy, they are Leslie Adelman, an attorney he met
while he was building Lifestyles; Steve Kay, formerly chief operating
officer of Bayshore Medical Center; and Kathy Mann, formerly chief
financial officer of Bayshore Medical Center.
Reidy met Kay and Mann while he was building a health club for Bayshore.
That club played a major role in convincing Princeton HealthCare System,
until recently known as the Medical Center at Princeton, to build
a health club of its own.
Bruce Traub, vice president of finance at Princeton HealthCare, says
"I saw what Bayshore achieved. I saw people exercising with oxygen;
I saw people who came in wheelchairs swimming." He also saw that
Bayshore’s new health club was pulling in paying customers. "When
Bayshore opened the new facility," he says, "it had an existing
facility within five miles." The new facility prospered and so
did the older one. So positive was Bayshore’s entry into the fitness
business that it has retained Reidy to open another center, in Old
Bridge, for which he is breaking ground in two weeks.
Traub says Princeton Fitness serves the medical center in a number
of ways. It gives its patients who suffer from diabetes, high blood
pressure, obesity, and any number of other lifestyle-related diseases
a place to exercise and obtain fitness education. These are people
who are not necessarily in need of medical rehabilitation, but who
can expect health benefits from working out.
For medical center patients in rehabilitation programs, the center
provides an opportunity to build up strength in company with healthy
people. Rehabilitation rooms in Princeton Fitness are integrated into
the flow of exercisers, and have large windows overlooking the main
floor. Rehab patients, some using walkers or canes, and some in ankle-to-hip
braces, walk into the club along with weight lifters and sets of moms
and toddlers heading for parent-child fitness classes. The whole atmosphere
says "wellness" rather than "illness," a positive
for anyone recovering from an illness or injury.
Then there are the marketing advantages. Competing for patients from
any number of hospitals, both in central New Jersey and in New York
and Philadelphia, Princeton HealthCare gains exposure through its
new fitness center. Its nurses conduct health evaluations of new members.
Dozens of its doctors are expected to give talks on healthcare topics
in the fitness center’s lecture rooms. And its nutritionists will
give cooking demonstrations in the center’s kitchen.
Finally Princeton HealthCare expects to generate cash from its new
venture. Hospitals in the state generate a profit in the range of
1.5 percent — a slim cushion indeed. Traub says that the hospital,
which owns half of the center and holds two seats on its board, expects
that the facility, which is a for-profit venture, will be in the black
fairly soon. He attributes this accelerated timetable, at least in
part, to the fact that the center is housed in an existing building
— a former Grand Union — and did not require new construction.
Reidy had approached Dennis Doody, former CEO of the Medical Center
at Princeton, with a proposal for a health club, and the hospital
had been giving the idea serious consideration for some time. The
project moved to the top of the pile when the Grand Union site became
"We had to act quickly," says Reidy. "We needed about
50,000 square feet with ample parking. There aren’t too many sites
like that, unless you go cutting down trees." The tree-chopping
route is significantly more expensive, and given the need for multiple
permits and assessments, he points out, takes a lot longer. Still,
the new fitness center, which opened ahead of schedule, betrays absolutely
no signs of cost cutting. The price tag for turning the Grand Union
into a fitness center was $6 million, and it appears that no expense
Early reaction indicates that Princeton Fitness is a hit. Four thousand
memberships have been sold, and on a recent Tuesday morning there
were precious few empty parking spaces anywhere near its entrance.
At 10:30 a.m. — a non-peak hour — there was a non-stop parade
of exercisers. A pair of mothers, each swinging a baby carrier, walked
to their cars. A wet-headed mom held her toddler’s hand, while another
mom, also with wet hair, admired her preschooler’s art project as
they walked through the parking lot. A 30ish woman strode in, moving
well despite the cast on her leg. Another woman, of about the same
age, made her way through the parking lot with the help of a walker.
A gray-haired man rode up on a bike, and a woman who could well have
been 70 swung a navy blue gym bag on her way in the door.
Inside, exercisers flow to the right and left of a curved reception
desk. As their key tags are swiped, each member’s photo and vital
statistics pops up on a computer terminal. A new member, asked to
pose in front of a web cam for her photo, protests vigorously. "Oh
no!" she cries. "I haven’t even combed my hair!"
Off to the left a stylistic rocket ship entrance leads to a child
care room just adjacent to the main exercise floor. Overhead television
sets throughout the gym record activity in the room, feeding reassurance
to parents on yoga mats and treadmills.
On that Tuesday morning, right up until just past the lunch hour,
there are few exercisers on the strength-training and cardio machines
on the main floor. One member, a woman who could well be 90, calls
upon a trainer for help in getting set up on a leg press machine,
while another woman, perhaps 20 years her junior, wearing headphones,
struggles to figure out the settings on a recumbent bicycle and then
on a treadmill.
The action is all in the studios. An aerobic group, made up largely
of women in the 30-to-40 age bracket, works at mastering balance balls,
while in another studio another group of women, all of whom probably
qualify for Social Security, are arrayed on red and purple mats, lying
perfectly still, possibly in preparation for more demanding yoga positions.
Reidy appears just as the women are getting set to tackle their next
position and takes over the tour. First he shows off the spinning
room, which is chock full of red-handled Schwinn spinning bikes lined
up against a floor-to-ceiling mural of what looks like the Tour de
France. He then shows off the Pilates studio, complete with four Reformer
machines, upholstered in red leather and looking like torture racks,
before pausing in the stretching room, which features two large stretching
cages and a number of pieces of stretching equipment.
Then it’s off to the pool complex.
"This floor you’re walking on, did you notice it’s perfectly flat?"
he asks as we head toward the swimming pools. "Did you notice
there are no ramps anywhere?" The idea, he says, is that everyone,
no matter how fit or in what stage of rehabilitation, feels comfortable
here. That point made, he leaps on to another. "Do you smell chlorine?"
he asks as we near the pool doors. After waiting for a negative nod,
he explains that an advanced system pumps oxygen into the water, making
large quantities of chlorine unnecessary. Asked about the family changing
rooms along the way — commodious spaces complete with shower and
locker, he explains that some women are uncomfortable with moms bringing
their sons into locker rooms, so the center provides separate spaces
for mixed-gender family groups.
The pool complex must have been specifically designed to elicit "wows."
It is spectacular. There is a junior Olympic pool for lap swimming.
It has starting blocks for competitions and big wall clocks with huge
numbers for timing laps. There is also a large, square, raised pool,
tiles all in blue, which is kept at a warmer temperature. "Perfect
for aqua classes and for rehabilitation," comments Reidy. Racks
of foam rubber bar bells, weighted belts, children’s life preservers,
and foam noodles sit nearby. Farther down is an enormous spa.
There are only two people in the main pool at noon; the square pool
is empty, and there are two women in the spa. One waves to Reidy.
He goes over to say hello, explaining that she recognizes him from
church. "I feel like I’m on vacation!" the woman exclaims.
After exchanging a few words, he points the way to the women’s locker
room. Behind a curving, tiled wall, there are rows of individual changing
rooms, each with an opaque glass door, a molded blue plastic seat,
and a large shower. Next door is a carpeted room where rows of lockers
are separated into aisles that end in mirror-topped vanities complete
with hair dryers. A small sitting area — a couch and several chairs
— fills an alcove.
There is also a scale.
A member is talking into a cell phone nearby. "I am still not
losing any weight," she wails. "I have ripples on my stomach;
it must be fat turning to muscle, and they say muscle weighs more
than fat, but still…" Obviously getting encouragement from the
other end of the line, she soon admits, "Yes, I am getting definition."
Before she hangs up, she has brightened. "You should come down
here!" she says.
Outside of the locker room, Reidy leads the way to the day spa. Open
doors reveal massage tables draped in rich-looking fabrics. The air
smells of blossoms. David Bittner, manager of the spa, says he is
set up for both therapeutic and relaxation massages. His menu of services
includes Swedish massage, pre-natal massage, sports massage, myofascial
massage, and hot stone therapy.
Back on the main exercise floor, Reidy, a man who would not be out
of place on any muscle beach, shows off the strength training equipment.
"Feel how smooth that is, no jerking at all," he says of a
chest press machine that glides on hydraulic arms. Even more impressive
are the machines that operate via computer touch pads, switching resistance
with the touch of a finger.
In the center of the room is the trainer’s section. This is the members’
conscience station. Arrayed in a circular file are red and blue folders.
Each holds a record of a member’s workout history. Trainer Rhonda
Molesphini and assistant trainer Mike Stanton explain that the system
acts as a check. Members are re-evaluated every month or two. The
reason for progress, or lack of same, is contained in the folders.
Work out regularly, and fitness will improve. Drop in only once-in-a-while,
and it very well may not.
Trainers are always available to help with the process, but unlike
many gyms, Princeton Fitness does not sell private sessions with trainers.
Each member receives a free one-hour orientation, and Molesphini and
Stanton say there are always two trainers on the floor, and that they
are always willing to help out.
Reidy, eager to move on with his day, gets ready to leave for his
next appointment. Before taking off, he talks a little about his company’s
upcoming projects. In addition to the new Bayshore fitness center,
he is working on plans for a 90,000 square foot center for Robert
Wood Johnson University Hospital in Hamilton.
Up to his impressive biceps in fitness center work, Reidy says his
wife is no longer an active part of his business. "She worked
70-hour weeks for years," he says of her contribution. Now she
is working at raising their two daughters, 11-year-old Sara and 8-year-old
Rebecca, both of whom attend Stuart, and both of whom enjoy visiting
dad at work.
Princeton is a long way from Utah. But while Reidy’s career has had
its share of geographical jogs, it has never left a fitness track.
Road, Princeton North Shopping Center, Princeton; 609-683-7888. Www.princetonhcs.org.
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