Originally built as a corporate wellness facility, Giles County Wellness Center in Narrows, Va., is now operated by the county, and serves the greater community.
Originally built as a corporate wellness facility, Giles County Wellness Center in Narrows, Va., is now operated by the county, and serves the greater community. With only about 750 members, its small size enables staff members "to get to know our members on a personal level," says Program Manager Helen Gillespie. "This allows us to implement better programs to meet their individual needs."
As in any successful fitness facility, equipment and programs at Giles County reflect the needs of its membership. Explains Gillespie, "Often, classes are implemented just by having a conversation and seeing a need. For example, many of our older adults have trouble getting onto and off of the rowers, so we had support bars installed above the rowers to provide assistance. Another example is our popular PowerCut class (strength and conditioning). Our members wanted a shortened version, so we invented QuickCut, a 30-minute version of the original one-hour class." Programs at Giles County Wellness Center are offered for every age group, since Giles' "membership reflects the entire community. We have members ages 12 to 96, and programs for children ages birth to 12," Gillespie says. Member diversity is not only reflected in age, but in fitness level. "We have members who have lost more than 100 pounds, are cardiac rehab participants, are exercise fanatics and those who come in to socialize more so than work out," says Gillespie. Among Giles County Wellness Center's more popular programs are its children's programs. The fitness area is only open for members ages 12 and up, Gillespie explains. "However, we know that there is a great need for youth programs. By offering Kung Fu, gymnastics, kids fitness classes and Kindermusik, we are able to provide our rural community with great programs without [them having to] drive 30 minutes to the neighboring county, and [we] often enroll their parents as fitness center members," she says. Another incentive for members with children is Giles' childcare facility, which provides practical hours for working parents to exercise. Other programs include Senior Strength, health promotion programs for the community (skin cancer screenings, osteoporosis classes, heart disease seminars and more), and basketball and volleyball leagues throughout the year on the facility's indoor basketball/volleyball court. Since there is no indoor pool in Giles County, the fitness center has an agreement with a neighboring aquatic center for water aerobics classes. Once the community outdoor pool opens in warmer weather, the fitness center offers aquatics classes outside. The fitness center is staffed by a full-time program manager (Gillespie) who is a county employee. The floor staff and group exercise instructors are part-time contractors. All staff is required to have a personal training or group exercise certification, and all are CPR/First Aid certified, and take part in monthly CPR drills. Says Gillespie, "As a small fitness center, our staff performs all the administrative work, membership enrollment, personal training and group exercise instruction. Thus, we often need to outsource to provide the wide variety of classes we are able to offer. We use instructors/companies from the neighboring counties to provide classes in Kung Fu and gymnastics, and to teach our health promotion classes. Even though they may be seen as a competitor, we use them to provide programming for our community that otherwise would go without." Being small and needing to outsource some programs isn't seen as a problem for Gillespie and her staff: "Being a small facility allows us to see demands for new equipment and/or programs to enhance the quality and experience at our wellness center."