Promoting better health among people of every age, gender, ethnicity, and body type has been a priority for Super Fitness owner Ron Hemelgarn since the club first opened its doors 48 years ago. Certain worrisome trends today—such as the obesity epidemic and the aging of our population—are making it more challenging than ever to achieve this goal. In fact, despite our nation boasting an unprecedented number of health clubs, a recent study led by scientists at Harvard and George Washington universities and published in the New England Journal of Medicine estimates that 50 percent of US adults will be obese by the year 2030. Nonetheless, Super Fitness is continuing to make a difference in our community’s health across all demographics and encouraging members and non-members alike to get active, take control of the foods they eat, and make other healthy lifestyle changes so they can not only get in shape, but stay in shape for a lifetime.
The 48-year success story of Super Fitness can be attributed to Hemelgarn’s long-held philosophy that “You must commit to be fit” as well as his continuing pledge to:
Make age a non-issue
Many area seniors have discovered that Super Fitness is not only a great place to go for exercise or to continue a rehab program, but also for mental stimulation and healthy socialization with their peers. In fact, many seniors have been “adding years to their life and life to their years” at Super Fitness since the club first opened.
Hemelgarn observes that coming to Super Fitness has replaced the pinochle game for many area seniors. “We’ve got some senior members who spend upwards of four hours a day here, working out; walking; enjoying the pool, sauna, and whirlpool; and just socializing with one another. It’s wonderful to see all the positive changes in their lives. After they’ve been coming here for a while, many senior members find that they’re feeling better, stronger, and more flexible, and even taking fewer medications,” he says.
In addition to creating a welcoming environment for seniors, Hemelgarn strives to make Super Fitness a kid-friendly destination. “We’re at risk of losing the younger population,” he says. “Cell phones and videogames are completely consuming their focus and attention, and as a result they’re getting out of shape and developing health problems once seen only in adults. We’re working on ways to reach kids and build better fitness programs in schools. Also, to ensure kids are able to accompany their parents when they come to work out at Super Fitness, we offer a dedicated Super Fit Kids Club with equipment customized for kids’ smaller frames.”
Innovate to meet special needs
Super Fitness even offers customized equipment so that clients with certain physical limitations can still enjoy a healthy workout. For example, recognizing that standard exercise equipment is inaccessible to people who are morbidly obese, use a wheelchair, or have flexibility issues, Hemelgarn had special machines designed that these individuals can readily access while standing or seated in a wheelchair.
Women who may feel uncomfortable or even intimidated working out alongside men appreciate the fact that Super Fitness offers a separate Ladies Only area, featuring equipment customized to their needs.
Each year, Super Fitness spends $150,000 or more to upgrade their facilities with the latest and greatest cardio and strength-training equipment.
Make fitness affordable
Hemelgarn notes that after paying all their monthly expenses, the average local family has very few dollars left over for discretionary spending. To ensure that people of virtually every income level can afford to exercise in his facilities, he is committed to keeping the price of membership extraordinarily low—just $19.95 per month. In fact, that membership cost has not changed appreciably since 1972, when it was only slightly lower at $16.50 per month. What’s more, unlike at other fitness centers, group training classes and personal training services are included in the cost of the membership.
Respect members’ time
Also, adamant that members should never have to wait in line to use equipment or have their workouts limited by arbitrary time constraints, Hemelgarn provides a vast selection of cardio and strength-training equipment, all of which is meticulously maintained and continuously updated.
See a problem, solve a problem
When Hemelgarn identifies a health challenge in the community, he makes innovative changes at Super Fitness to help address it—for example by working with community partners to ensure people who need physical rehab after surgery, injury, or illness get all the sessions they need. “What we’re seeing is that patients who have undergone a joint replacement, heart surgery, or other procedure are stopping their rehab once their insurance runs out. Then, a year or so later, they’re right back where they started. We want to help these individuals continue their rehab at an affordable price so they can build on the gains they achieved in formal rehab instead of backsliding. Here at Super Fitness, we have all the expertise and equipment they need to continue in their program, including NuStep® recumbent cross trainers, which are considered state-of-the-art in the rehab community, as well as water exercise classes, swimming pools, and relaxing whirlpools,” he says.
For Margaret and Bill Pedee, convenient access to the NuStep and other rehab equipment is among the membership benefits they appreciate most. In the past two years alone, Margaret was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, had both knees replaced, had one of her hips replaced twice, and underwent quadruple bypass surgery—so she’s had ample opportunity to put this equipment to use. She explains, “When I started rehab, the NuStep was the first machine they put me on, so we were pleased to discover that they have the same unit here at Super Fitness. Also, the stationary bikes here are just awesome and very smooth compared to others I’ve tried.”
Bill adds, “Super Fitness has a whole line of equipment specially designed for rehab purposes, and it’s so much more affordable for us to work out here than in a rehab facility.”
Both Margaret and Bill appreciate the safe and secure environment at Super Fitness, as well as the connections they make with other members at the club. “It’s not just about the workout; it’s about the social interaction,” Margaret says.
Take the fight to obesity
To help combat the epidemic of obesity in our community, Super Fitness has teamed up with Kelly Heidbreder of WTOL 11 for the Super Fitness Weight Loss Challenge—a competition offered each year from October through May, in which contestants learn to change their lives through fitness and proper diet as well as participate in fun challenges in different locales around the community. Participants are losing up to 25 to 35 percent of their body weight during this challenge.
Forget the fads
In his 48 years at the helm of Super Fitness, Hemelgarn has seen many fitness fads come and go, including the latest trend of “extreme fitness” programs that tend to push the body beyond what it can safely endure. Hemelgarn neither offers nor endorses these types of programs, noting, “Exercise is not about going to extremes; it’s about committing to regular effort and building strength and endurance gradually. Pain is your body’s way of telling you to stop what you’re doing, and getting injured is the surest route to abandoning your fitness commitment. The worst fitness advice ever dispensed is ‘No pain, no gain,’ and you’ll never hear it spoken here. We also believe you must change your strength and cardio workout monthly so results keep coming throughout your life,” he states.
Show an attitude of gratitude
Perhaps most important, each year in March, Hemelgarn and the staff at Super Fitness thank members for their continued support by hosting a free Membership Party. This year’s special event will be held on Sunday, March 29 from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the Telegraph/Alexis location. Thousands of dollars in cash and prizes will be given away, and numerous vendors will be on hand, offering Super Fitness members discounts on a wide variety of products. “This is our way of saying we’re proud of our members and that we’re grateful for their loyalty and for spreading the word about Super Fitness to their families and friends,” says Hemelgarn. ❦