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Friday, October 28, 2011

What Happened to the Spa?

Circumstances beyond our control can impact our lives in powerful ways.  This guest post by personal trainer and writer, Julie Lombardo, highlights the real passion and dedication that many fitness professionals bring to the profession...

Tonight I need to communicate important news to all of you. 

A few nights ago, the owners of The Spa Center (not the actual name) announced they would close the facility indefinitely.  At 10:30 p.m. that night, the seven of us who were still there hugged each other, promised to stay in touch, and write letters of recommendation. My boss hugged us and thanked us for the years of hard work.

The details were sketchy, at best. With 40+ employees and mounting costs to repair and maintain the facility, the financial strain on the owners was simply too great. Employee paychecks were bouncing,
and we were informed that we may not even receive our last paychecks. Fortunately, many of us have second jobs. The people who work here, however, are independent contractors and must find additional jobs immediately. The manager is trying to place her Spa employees in a local salon.

I have received numerous text messages and e-mails from you, my clients, who simply want to know what is happening. Many of you are understandably confused.  Responding to a rumor, I asked the managers on Tuesday night if the former manager would be returning to save the business. They simply did not know. He has been fighting leukemia, so no one knows if he is even well enough to take over again.

Another client said that the current owner, was letting people into the facility to work out, even though we were told that the electricity would be turned off that day.

Since there are no clear answers and new owners may or may not come in to resuscitate the facility, I will most likely focus on my second job. Since you have asked if I would train privately, the answer is yes, I do train privately. This is an area I will now be focusing on.

But our relationship need not end here. I am available to you through text, voice mail and e-mail.  I have enjoyed working with each and every one of you. Some of you just started with me this week and others have been with me for years. It is true that I have a unique relationship with every one of my clients, who bring different personalities, challenges, and life experiences to the personal training experience.  You have learned from me, and I have learned from you.

I feel sad for everyone - for the clients and members who cannot go to the other gyms because they feel judged; for my co-workers who are facing a financial crisis; for the owners who must accept the financial realities of their situation; and for you, the clients, who have placed your financial resources into a business that was heading south.

The Spa Center is undoubtedly the most unique place I have ever worked. I always felt that walking into The Spa was like walking into someone's living room. It was a very casual environment, and my co-workers were like a family unit. It reminded me of "Cheers," where everyone knew your name and you were simply "Norm!", or in my case, "Julie!"

My own family has told me that one day I should write a book on my careers and the interesting jobs I have held. If I ever do so, The Spa Center will hold a very unique place in that book, a chapter all its own. It will speak of a place where we exercised on endless late nights on an outdoor track illuminated by a full moon, on clear sunny days amidst landscaped grounds, and in the pool filled with enthusiastic women dancing to 70's music. It was a place where women came for fun, fitness, friendship and fellowship, a place where you could release the stresses of the workday to us, your trainers. It was your "me" time, away from all of the responsibilities pulling you in a million different directions, experiencing physical training as well as facials, massages, and other wonderful therapies.

Years from now when I think of The Spa, I will remember all of these things.

In the years I have hosted New Member Orientation, I have never written the numbers 36/24/36 on any form. That is because, as I often tell the women, no two bodies are alike. And in those differences, we find unique traits. As a staff, we have never judged the members, only embraced the differences and worked with them to achieve optimal health and wellness. We established ourselves as a safe haven, a truly "no judgment zone," where women could find acceptance in a world very critical of us outside our double doors.

The women sought comfort, strength and a brighter future. And they were rewarded with not only physical transformations, but a transformation of the soul as well. Their spirits were lifted and their confidence soared. 

I have seen these transformations in all of you.

And they came about because of the hard work, perseverance and motivation that have made me proud of all of you. You have come full circle, and though your journey toward health and fitness started with a single step, it was the hardest, for just making it to the starting line is half the battle.

Somewhere along the way you became more energetic, flexible and stronger. Make no mistake: It was happening all along, but now you see it and feel it. One day you noticed it: your waistline emerged, your abs were getting hard, and you could run up a flight of stairs so easily. Somewhere along the way -you got fit.

I am proud of all of you. Thank you for your hard work: for the nights you trained until 10 p.m. when you had to get up at 4:30 a.m. for work the next morning, for the nights you came when your boss tried to keep you at work; when your family didn't support your weight loss efforts; when you just didn't feel like it, but knew it was the right thing to do anyway.  Thank you for your confidence in me as your trainer, your confidante and as your friend.

We will stay in touch!  My best wishes to all of you for abundant health, happiness, personal success and all that life has to offer.

Julie Lombardo is an ACE-certified Personal Trainer & Group Fitness Instructor who specializes in working with seniors and those with chronic medical conditions.         


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