Health clubs experiencing surge in new memberships

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 4, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

Is Christmas truly &uot;the most wonderful time of the year&uot;? Not if you’re an employee in one of Suffolk’s many fitness facilities and programs. To them, the days and weeks just after Jan. 1 bring in a huge amount of new business and participation.

&uot;January is definitely our biggest sales month of the year,&uot; said Jeff Ward, vice president of the Suffolk YMCA (934-9622). On Jan. 2 alone, the facility (which will get a partner when a new YMCA opens in North Suffolk in mid-2005) sold 37 family and 25 single memberships.

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They’re just getting started. &uot;We are anticipating around 400 sales during this month,&uot; said Ward, who estimates that 25 percent of the facility’s sales for the year are made in the first month. &uot;It seems like this is the most popular time of the year to get started if people want to lose weight.&uot;

Sharen Melton got started a bit early; she joined Weight Loss for Life (925-2777) in March 2003. &uot;I’ve lost over 30 pounds and 44.5 inches,&uot; she proudly proclaimed. Not all the inches have come off her waist; the program measures participants from neck to ankle, stopping at hip, waist, thigh, calf, and other areas.

&uot;I had tried other diet plants, but I was not happy with the way I looked,&uot; Melton said. &uot;The winter is when I put on weight. I like to be outside, but during the cold months I stay inside and hibernate.&uot;

When she journeyed to North Carolina for the holidays, Melton’s relatives were surprised to see so much less of her. &uot;They said, ‘Wow, you look younger!’&uot; she said. &uot;I’m going to continue losing weight.&uot;

She’s not the only one. The walls of the business, which opened at 1244 Holland Road in April 2002, is decorated with names of participants who have lost five, 10, 20, and even 40 pounds.

&uot;We push protein over anything,&uot; said counselor Stacy Costello, whose mother Jane manages the establishment. &uot;Your body needs at least two four-ounce servings of protein a day. It helps the body lose weight and build muscle mass.&uot; Using two protein supplements a day increases the body’s metabolism by 30 percent.

The program begins with a two-day &uot;Prep Phase,&uot; to cleanse it of any present toxins from eating unhealthy foods. While drinking only water, participants consume at least 10 ounces of protein and a list of vegetables.

After that, members visit three times a week. On Mondays, they weigh in and take a slight laxative to cleanse their systems. On Wednesday, they’re weighed and measured, and on Fridays, they’re weighed once again, and given an energy pill to help them through the weekend. During the week, they’re asked to keep a food diary and drink at least half their body weight in ounces of water every day.

Of course, they also need to exercise. That’s where people like Ella Benson and Jody Gray come in. Benson teaches the full-body musical workout program Jazzercise four times a week, while Gray owns Suffolk’s only ‘Curve for Women’ franchise, one of nearly 20 across Hampton Roads.

&uot;Classes usually get quite large in January,&uot; said Benson. &uot;The focus is on overall fitness. Jazzercise is designed to help people perform activities they do every day, like mowing the lawn or carrying groceries.&uot; Workouts start with a light-intensity warm-up, usually done to slower music. Eventually the tempo and heart rate increase, usually to the strands of quick tunes like &uot;Get Out of London.&uot;

&uot;It really improves cardiovascular health and muscle tone,&uot; Benson said. &uot;It’s high intensity without high impact.&uot; The program is held at 5:30 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays at King’s Fork Recreation Center, and 6 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays at Wilroy Baptist Church at 306 Williams Road. Open Houses will be held from Jan. 12-15, in which new pupils can learn more about the fitness opportunities. For more information, call 450-3628.

Curves (925-2878) combines a 24-station workout into 30 minutes. &uot;(Participants) spend 30 seconds overloading every muscle group, then spend time cooling off,&uot; Gray said. &uot;They burn between 500 and 600 calories every workout. It only takes half an hour, three days a week, so it fits into pretty much everybody’s schedule.&uot;

&uot;January through March are our biggest months,&uot; she said. &uot;Originally, people come because of their New Year’s resolutions, but people stick to it once they get in.&uot;