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Votes

Legislation Sponsored to Protect Exercising Consumers

Local RECenters becoming attractive options.

Delegate Kristen J. Amundson (D-44) wants to make sure that constituents like Anne-Lise Kloster don't suffer. One of the ways she can do that is by trying to ensure that they won't lose any more money.

Kloster was one of hundreds of customers from the Women's Fitness Company who lost money when the club suddenly folded last fall. The owner was required to pay a bond, but the amount of money which members will see from that bond, if any, will be negligible.

Amundson is introducing a bill which would increase the bond a health club has to purchase before accepting membership. Amundson feels that this bond would help protect consumers who have paid for access to the health club.

Kloster said that she had been a member at the local women's health club for almost 20 years. It started out as a Spa Lady, and went through a few changes before becoming the Women's Fitness Company. She lost almost $400 when the health club closed its doors.

Amundson said, "Anne-Lise is not alone. Each year in Virginia, health clubs close their doors, often with little or no warning. And the consumers who have spent their hard-earned money on prepaid contracts often find that they are simply out of luck. Many of those consumers spoke with me. Although they knew they would never recover the money they had lost, they asked me why other people should be at risk."

The legislation Amundson is introducing is not new; instead it is an amendment to the Code of Virginia, relating to the Virginia Health Spa Act.

"My legislation will increase the amount of the bond required by health spas based on the number of membership contracts held by the business. It will bring the bond amount required of Virginia health spas into line with what is expected of businesses in other states. This legislation, if passed, will provide Virginia consumers with additional protection in the event of a business closing," she said.

AFTER LOSING HER membership, Kloster started looking around for another place to exercise. She and her husband, Donald, checked out local health clubs, but they ended up joining the Mount Vernon RECenter. They found that was most convenient and also liked the fact that the center was very clear in presenting the membership options to them; this was contrary to Kloster's previous experience.

"I never got a straight answer [from the Women's Fitness Company]," said Kloster.

At Fairfax County RECenters, membership options are clearly spelled out. One can purchase a Leisure Fitness Pass for a month, six months or 12 months. The discount becomes more significant the longer the pass that is purchased. Members can also purchase a Discount Fast Pass. Buy a pass during the Healthy Heart Sale, which is on until February 14, and save significantly on three and six-month passes. There is also a significant discount for Fairfax County residents.

Unlike some clubs, the staff doesn't get a commission for selling the longer-length passes; they merely try to explain that the type of pass purchased should depend on a person's usage. Somebody who's only going to use the facilities once a week would do well to purchase a Discount Fast Pass. This allows the pass holder 25 admissions to any of the Fairfax County recreation centers.

For a Fairfax County resident, the cost is $127.90; going once a week it would last six months and cost about half of what a six-month pass would cost. If, however, the member plans to use the club several times a week, the monthly, 6-month or 12-month pass would be more economical. While refunds are not available should somebody change their mind, the management is willing to work with people to convert to another option.

Trina Taylor, who manages the Mount Vernon RECenter, said, "We are so lenient, unlike other places that are so binding. We're not just trying to get people's money. If somebody changes their mind, we'll work with them and credit money towards a Fast Pass or some other option. We want them to get the best buy for their money."

WHILE MANY PEOPLE are familiar with the ice skating rink and pool at Mount Vernon RECenter, they don't realize how much else is available at the center. There are party rooms, saunas, whirlpools and much more.

Pass holders also may not realize just how much their pass gets them. Not only does it allow members to go to any of the area recreation centers to use the swimming pool, fitness room, locker rooms and gymnasium [where available]; it also gives them one free visit with the personal trainer. The trainer will instruct the member on the use of the equipment in the fitness room and suggest a routine if desired. Another thing the trainer will do is show members how to use FitLinxx. This interactive network-based exercise system consists of an electronic workout card and a virtual training partner.

"It coaches you through your workout and tracks your progress; it augments a personal trainer," said Taylor.

Numerous classes are held in swimming, dancing, skating and more. Some classes, such as yoga, pilates, skating and swimming require an additional fee. However, any class on the Group Fitness Schedule is included in the price of admission. This schedule currently includes more than a dozen classes specializing in everything from step aerobics to cardio routines.

Taylor said that this XYO (Exercise Your Options) program gives members plenty of flexibility. And unlike the Parktakes schedule which has to be planned months in advance, the fitness schedule can be changed every few months.

"We can change according to what people want," said Taylor.

AS AN INSTRUCTOR, Dee Samson also likes the flexibility. When Women's Fitness Company closed, Samson not only lost her membership, but she lost her job as well. Samson had been teaching a couple of classes a week at the club.

When the club closed, she took a month off and then starting teaching at the rec center.

She currently teaches two sessions of Mix It Up! and two sessions of Step Combo.

"In a way, this happened for the best. It's unfortunate what happened and I feel bad for the members, but it worked out okay for me," said Samson.

Samson said that she enjoys working with the people at the rec center, especially Courtney Clance. Clance oversees all the "land" classes and meets with the fitness instructors to plan the schedule.

"Courtney is great. We [the instructors] just met with her to discuss the new schedule and she took most of our suggestions. She's trying to generate interest and see what the clientele wants," said Samson.

A few classes were added to the most recent schedule, including a 7 a.m. abs class and a noon cardio class (visit www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/rec/mvrec.htm for the most current schedule).

Christy Motley switched from teaching the 6 p.m. class to teach the cardio class; she still teaches the Saturday morning class.

Motley's been teaching fitness classes for more than 20 years, many of them at the rec center. She has also taught at Chinquapin and Karate Masters. One of her students, Rosalie Targonski, has been coming to her classes for 15 years. Targonski said that she recently retired and was able to start coming to the noon class instead of the evening class.

Sue DiGiacinto has been coming to Motley's 6 p.m. and Saturday morning classes. She also switched to the noon session, and said, "I think Christy's a terrific instructor. You work at your own pace and Christy knows what she's doing. The class is fast moving and constantly changing, she makes it fun and enjoyable."

Since the noon class is new, it hasn't been as crowded yet as some of the other classes. Motley's 8 a.m. class has a more regular following. Bonnie Brynczak and Arline Fay have been taking Motley's class for years and Brynczak said, "It's great cardio exercise."

She has found that the Fast Pass works well for her. Jeannette Suelter, on the other hand, chose to go with the monthly membership. She enjoys working out both at Mount Vernon as well as Lee District.

"I never knew about the centers until I came with a friend; I've been coming ever since. XYO is the greatest thing. I just wish Christy would teach more classes."

Suelter would like to see the center make some improvements, and Samson said that Clance already has some scheduled. Within the next six months, they are planning to install new fans as well as a new stereo and floor in the smaller exercise room.

Another one of Motley's students, Laura Davis, said, "There's a great variety. Christy calls the routines in time for you to do the steps and makes it easy to follow. This is a great facility; I enjoy Christy's class and have taken it for a number of years. There are a lot of options, they keep adding classes."

Fitness Classes at Mount Vernon

Abs, Back & Stretch w/ Dixie: Mon. & Wed., 7-7:55 a.m.

Sculpt, Strengthen & Tone w/ Brenda: Mon. & Wed., 9:15-10:15 a.m.

Mix it Up! w/ Dee: Tues. & Thurs., 9:15-10:15 a.m.

CardioNíCore Express w/ Christy: noon-12:45 a.m.

Step Combo w/Vivian: Mon., 6-6:55 p.m.

Step Combo w/Dee: Tues & Thurs., 6-6:55 p.m.

Sculpt, Strengthen & Tone w/ Anne: Tues., 7-7:55 p.m.

Sculpt, Strengthen & Tone w/ Anne: Tues., 7-7:55 p.m.

Sculpt, Strengthen & Tone w/ Tammy: Thurs., 7-7:55 p.m.

Mix it Up! w/ Christy: Saturday, 8:30-9:25 a.m.