When a local women’s fitness centre closed its doors in January of 2012, many of the members wanted to keep it going.
After holding a meeting, a ‘random self-selected group’ of six women stepped forward to work towards that goal. In June of that same year Summerland Women’s Fitness opened up at the Summerfair Shopping Centre.
“We decided that we wanted to be a co-operative, so we registered as a non-profit society and went through all the hoops in order to do so,” explained Betty- Ann Xenis.
Exercise equipment was purchased at an auction and donated to the group and once they found a location to rent they went to work on fixing it up.
“The place was a disaster,” said Pat Mayne.
“Our husbands did all the work, dry walling, painting, cleaning, putting up baseboards and renovating the bathrooms.”
Soon they were done and the place was furnished with donated furniture and equipment. Once everything was set up, the six women got the word out and started to sell memberships.
“We started with 18 members, which was very scary for us,” explained Mayne.
“It didn’t cover our rent and insurance or our lights and heat.”
Today they have over 50 active members, ranging in age from late 20s to mid-80s, with the average being that of middle age. Membership fees now cover all the expenses.
From among the membership comes a pool of 15 dedicated regular volunteers along with 12 who are willing to act as spares.
Mayne, who acts as the volunteer coordinator, schedules the volunteers so as to have someone on duty during the hours of operation. They greet the members, man the desk and answer the phone.
The fitness centre has 12 hydraulic resistance machines as well as two treadmills, exercise bikes, an elliptical and whole body vibration machine.
The machines are designed to work on the principle of resistance, so the faster one goes or the harder one pushes the more resistance there is.
This allows women to work at their own pace with little risk of doing any harm to themselves. Most members complete the circuit in under an hour.
“We emphasize that it is flexible and for women of all ages and fitness levels,” said Xenis. “You don’t have to be fit to start. You can come in at whatever level you are at.”
Interested women are offered a free trial before signing up as a member.
Katherine Beattie services all the machines regularly and orientates each new member on the proper use of the machines.
Cleanliness is also a priority.
“We have had many comments on how clean we keep this place,” said Beattie. “We are probably obsessive. Everyone is so conscientious about keeping things clean.”
One of the goals of the society was to provide a place for women to come together and be comfortable and have fun while getting fit. They have accomplished that.
“It reminds me of ‘Cheers, where everyone knows each other’s name’, said Xenis. “I really like that it is all women.”
“I like it because I don’t have to buy workout clothing,” explained Mayne. “I just come in my comfortable clothes and my inside shoes and I don’t worry about how I look.”
“I hate exercising,” said Debbie Farrow. “If someone else is exercising I am more apt to do it.”
As the society’s bookkeeper, Farrow pointed out that the group is very community minded and supportive of Summerland.
A food bank drive is held once or twice a year and they offer a $300 bursary to a high school student who plans on a career in health care.
The success of this society has been because of their ability to come together as a group to work towards a common goal.
At their annual meeting members are able to have input and to vote, thus making everyone feel as if they belong.
“It really is amazing how the group came together,” said Mayne. “We all use our expertise at different things.
Farrow summed things up by saying, “It’s been an interesting journey.”
If you would like to find out more information visit www.summerlandwomensfitness.ca or call 778-516-2001
If you know a positive story about someone in our community, contact Carla McLeod at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact the Summerland Review newsroom at 250-494-5406.