By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — Fitness, like nature, apparently abhors a vacuum, for since the abrupt closure of the Laconia Athletic and Swim Club in November alumni of the club have opened three new workout venues in the city, while Riverbank House, the recovery retreat, will open its gym to the public this summer.
Janine Page of the Downtown Gym, which operates from three units either side of the marquee of the Colonial Theatre on Main Street, said "when the club closed it was tough," explaining that not only were trainers out of work but also members had nowhere to work out. In particular, she stressed that "there was a large demand for cycling from among the many competitive triathletes and cyclists in the Lakes Region.
Although the Downtown Gym offers a range of classes in different forms of exercise, Page said that 17 stationary cycles, all facing a screen on which landscapes are thrown to provide virtual rides, represent the gym's niche in the fitness marketplace. Page said she works closely with Miles Chase of MC Cycle and Sport across the street. "Our goal is to offer the best cycling program," she said, "and we're shooting for New Hampshire." The gym counts 83 members, she said, and has 100 for its goal.
Page said that the relationship between those who once worked together but now operated independently is more complementary than competitive. A nurse at Lakes Region General Hospital, she worked at the club for 15 years and said "It is like a family." There is even talk among the different facilities, she remarked, about an arrangement that would entitle patrons to two visits at each of the facilities.
Four other employees of the Laconia Athletic and Swin Club — Tommy Richard, the fitness director; Amy Jones;; Tammy Levesque; and Jen Mailloux — partnered to operate Studio 151 on the first two floors of the red frame building at the corner of Elm Street and Bayside in Lakeport. Together, the four have more than a half-century of experience in the fitness business, including Levesque's role as the founder and former owner of Fitness Edge in Meredith.
The weight room is on the ground floor, where the low ceiling, posts and beams and view of the water above the Lakeport Dam lend the space a unique character. Group classes are held on the floor above. In addition, to one-on--one personal training, Studio 151 has a full schedule of classes, which includes Pilates, Tabata, Barre and Zumba. "We're growing, and growing fast," Richard said. He explained that to make fitness "accessible to all" there is no monthly fee, but instead a "donation," generally between $5 and $10, for a class.
Zach Bartholomew and Lyndsey Cook said that before the club closed they began developing the business plan for what became Raw Fitness, which opened on Pleasant Street side of 600 Main St. earlier this month. "We wanted to create a boutique, studio atmosphere that is relaxing and welcoming," Bartholomew said, sitting in one of two chairs across from a settee.
Bartholomew said that the fitness regimens emphasize improved mobility, greater range of motion and functional movement that enhance quality of life and minimize risks of injury, "This is a place to help those who want to get in shape," Bartholomew said, adding that some may be recovering from an injury while others may be training for a competition and most will be somewhere in between.
Raw Fitness operates on two floors, with an open space for group classes on the ground floor and weight room in the basement one-on-one sessions by appointment. Batholomew said he begins by assessing the condition of each client then taking a measure of their goals and designing a program to pursue them. He noted that with an aging demographic low impact fitness programs can contribute significantly to longevity while enjoying a high quality of life.
Meanwhile, Randy Barlo of Riverbank House has converted the building on Messer Street that most recently was home to Winnisquam Printing to a gym, Pump Neighborhood and a yoga studio. Both facilities will serve the residents of Riverbank House, but at the same time be open to the public. The gym is expected to be equipped and opened shortly, but Tyler Blanchard of Nibbuti Yoga said he is welcoming patrons and hopes "people can find where we are."
Tommy Rickard of Studio 151 introduces a woman to weight training by ensuring she follows the proper form to gain the maximum benefit with the minimum risk. (Michael Kitch photo/Laconia Daily Sun)
Zach Bartholomew and Lyndsey Cook aimed to offer a warm welcome to patrons of Raw Fitness on Pleasant Street and enlisted pets Tallulah, right, and Mika to help. (Michael Kitch photo/Laconia Daily Sun)
With an array of stationary cycles, the Downtown Gym is home to many of the competitive cyclists and triathletes in the Lakes Region. (Michael Kitch photo/Laconia Daily Sun)
Tyler Blanchard stands before the waterfall at Nubbuti Yoga on Church Street, which with the gym Pump Neighborhood is part of the campus of Riverbank House but also is open to the public. (Michael Kitch photo/Laconia Daily Sun)