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Parks, health clubs and the beach offer physical, mental and spiritual renewal

Workout options abound on the Coast

One of the most popular ways to relieve stress is also one of the healthiest: exercise. For busy working adults, there is no shortage of options for exercise on the Coast. There are a number of health clubs, all with a variety of equipment, classes and facilities. Most offer corporate discounts and generous accessibility to workers with odd hours.

The Body Shop, in Biloxi, is accessible to members 24 hours a day. However, most facilities open early – say about 5 a.m. and close around 10 p.m.

Choosing a facility is dependent upon the type of exercise you want, the distance you’re willing to drive and the amenities that you prefer. Weight rooms and aerobic classes abound and are among the most popular exercise options. For instance, at Nautilus Plus of Diamondhead, Bryan Deem, physical trainer said that the most popular machines with working folks are the treadmills, stair steppers and cycles.

“They all like those because they can come in, do about 20 minutes on them, because that gets everything going for them. We have a Nautilus room. They use those too, for upper body,” he said.

At Pro Gym, adults find that walking on the treadmill and aerobic classes are big stress relievers. Jennifer Higgins, general manager, said that the aerobic classes are scheduled around working hours.

Although many aerobics classes are still filled with women, men are starting to join in bigger numbers, Higgins said.

And at the Mississippi Gulf Coast YMCA, CEO David Harris said that the male-female ratio is changing in other classes as well.

“I can remember, a few years ago that high-intensity aerobics was about the max that you did for women; now it’s maybe three or four to on,e women versus men, in our more strenuous exercises like Tae Bo. They’re definitely seeking different challenges. They’re seeking resistance training and the more physical aspect of the aerobics training.”

That includes weight-lifting. “It used to be just men and boys primarily in the weight rooms. In the last few years, the medical research has come out with a lot of information that lifting weights, at any age is extremely good for you,” Harris said.

Weight lifting can mean free weights or weight machines, which can be ‘selectorized.’ “Selectorized machines mean BodyMaster, Nautilus, Cybex,” said Randy Rutherford, manager/owner of Body Quest in Gautier. “They’re machines where you pull the pin. You’ve got a weight stack that goes from 10 to 200 pounds, you pull the pin and put it on whatever weight you do, that’s selectorized. All you do is perform the actual muscle movement, the machine provides the stability, whereas with free weights, your body provides the stability and the muscles push the weight.”

At some facilities, like The Body Shop, personal training is free. And personal training can be a valuable feature. “We offer training when people join because seven out of 10 times a person’s never been in a weight room. When a person walks through the door, you know whether or not they’ve worked out or trained or they’re going to need help. We pretty much teach everybody how to use everything,” explained Rutherford. How familiar you are with the equipment will effect how comfortable you are in coming back and that will determine your success at using the facility. And of course, will keep you using the equipment safely.

Health clubs are keenly aware of the intimidation factor. Torrey Johnson, personal trainer at The Body Shop, described that facility as having a “Good, comfortable atmosphere. That’s a lot of the things that make up the gym, it’s the atmosphere, the people, the attitude. Everybody that comes in is friendly with everybody and there are no hotheads or meatheads, it’s not like a Hollywood atmosphere. It’s a good atmosphere.”

In addition to weights, aerobics and exercise machines, there are other options to keep exercise interesting. Nautilus Plus of Diamondhead also has karate, kickboxing, yoga, aerobics and water aerobics. And, noted Bryan Deem, “We just started offering Synergie, the ultimate cellulite solution that kneads the cellulite. People have been taking advantage of that.”

The YMCA has both racquetball courts and swimming pools. At Pro Gym, you can choose kick boxing and jazz-funk aerobics.

At The Body Shop, said Torrey Johnson, “We can help design you a cardiovascular program and nutritional counseling, cardiovascular counseling, weight training, everything.”

Tanning beds are available at many health clubs. “They’re starting to get popular again, now that the weather’s changing,” reported Deem.

Although exercise relieves stress, when to exercise is apparently a matter of schedule and preference. “It’s all by personal schedule and how their job is. People who have the more strenuous jobs tend to like to come in the morning. We open at five. So I have a good morning crowd. Usually women do it more in the morning,” at The Body Quest, Rutherford said. Bryan Deem said that most people work out after work at Nautilus Plus of Diamondhead, as did Jennifer Higgins of Pro Gym.

At the YMCA, morning is popular, especially with swimmers, Harris said. “A lot of adults that lap swim get here at five and six in the morning and that gets their day off. An eye surgeon told me that it makes an incredible difference for him in the operating room when he comes in and swims a few laps, say an hour’s worth of swimming before he goes in to operate. It relaxes him, makes him feel better about what he’s doing, steadies his hand and everything like that.”

The social aspect of exercise and stress relief cannot be discounted. “Some people socialize while they work out, some don’t. Others, if they are socializing in the gym, mostly it’s about the gym atmosphere, mostly it’s about exercising. How this person’s routine varies from that person’s, what things they have done as far as nutrition and dieting and exercising that has helped them. So when they do socialize, it is mostly about what’s going on in the gym,” said Johnson from The Body Shop.

Truthfully, though, you don’t have to join a private health club to exercise. Ironically, David Harris, CEO, Mississippi Gulf Coast YMCA, prefers not to exercise at the “Y.” For him, it’s work.

“Down at the ‘Y,’ I’m always seeing things that need to be done, or somebody’s talking to me about something, and I can’t really get into it. So I have to exercise away from the ‘Y.’ I walk East Beach every morning at daylight.” Like so many other busy adults, he finds that exercise is more than a physical renewal. “In my personal case, it’s a physical, mental and spiritual relaxation.”

There are also public facilities that are available for little cost without signing a contract for a year’s obligation. In Biloxi, for instance, you can play basketball for free in many of the facilities maintained by the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, and swimming, jazzercise and karate lessons are available for a small cost. A new facility, scheduled to be completed in January 2001, will include an indoor walking/jogging track and a gymnastics program.

Similar facilities are available in most cities along the Coast.

In Gulfport, the city maintains eight walking tracks, has tennis courts, racquetball courts and basketball courts. On a 250-acre site between Canal Road and U.S. 90 and paralleling Interstate 10, four softball fields and 12 soccer fields are nearing completion, to be joined later by two four-plex softball areas (one for boys’ softball, one for girls’) and 12 tennis courts and a clubhouse. A huge $20-million indo
or facility is also planned and will have an ind
oor swimming pool, fitness center, three basketball courts and indoor walking track.

Director of Parks and Recreation George DeCoux said that there would be “a nominal charge to offset the operational cost” of the facility.

If you have the motivation and the s


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About Lynne W. Jeter

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