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Fit for Success

By Michelle Collins |

Janet Fehlhaber grew up with gymnastics in her heart and entreprenuership in her blood. When she wanted to find a career path that would allow her to spend more time with her children, turning her passion for gymnastics into a business was a natural choice. White Rock Gymnastics was born.

Cartwheeling past competitors
Since White Rock Gymnastics opened its doors it has enjoyed "huge success." Finding a gym that was big enough proved to be the greatest challenge. White Rock Gymnastics has quickly outgrown its original facility, only one-quarter the size of the average club. "We're actually now at the point where we're building a gym for ourselves that we're going to be in for the fall," says Fehlhaber. "We had to actually go out and have something built for us at great expense."

While Fehlhaber's gym is bursting at the seams, many kids are leaving their jump ropes behind in favour of more sedentary activities. The

"There is a huge lack of inactivity in most children, actually. We're finding that by getting them interested in sports at a very early age will keep them active for a lot longer. We want longevity for our children," says Fehlhaber. Although British Columbia, along with the Northwest Territories, is one of the most active provinces in the country, Fehlhaber says she doesn't see as many children in the pre-teen age group starting in gymnastics.

Where did play go?
Several reasons could lie behind children's lack of activity, says Fehlhaber. They might have had terrible experiences with a particular sport, or they just haven't found one they enjoyed enough to stick with it. Children also learn from example, and if parents are inactive, chances are their offspring will be as well.

"We find that 99 per cent of the kids that come in here absolutely love it once they get in the door," says Fehlhaber. "We do tons of birthday parties, and we get a lot of kids registering for classes after a birthday party because they do realize how much fun it is." In addition to birthday parties, White Rock also runs a March Break camp and summer camps for kids of all ages.

Start them young
Fehlhaber doesn't expect the health situation of today's children to affect her business negatively. "We're going to see a lot of our kids who started off with us between the ages of two and six stay in it; on average a child will spend from two to seven years in the sport, depending on which level they want to go to."

Once White Rock moves into its new facility, Fehlhaber hopes to see enrollment increase by 50 per cent. Further plans include expanding White Rock Gymnastics to include other activities such as dance, music, and crafts. "We're very active in our gym doing gymnastics, but we would like to translate that into a kids club that parents who still have to work after school can send their children where they're going to benefit all around."

Children who don't exercise become adults who don't exercise. For Beatrice Juchli, this inactivity means business. When an injury cut her own gymnastics career short, she finally had the time to achieve goals that she had put on hold. "I wanted to become an instructor myself, but I could never find the time to do all the education," says Juchli. With time finally on her side, she became a certified personal trainer. Today she operates her home business Fit With Bea, as well as outside aerobic classes in the rural community of Bridgewater, N.S.

Her ability to help and motivate clients keeps Juchli thriving. Some people who come through her door have never done an exercise in their life. "In my classes, I have people who come to me to do this preventively; or they have been sedentary for a long time and started exercising, and after three years they tell me that they feel so good."

The money issue
In addition to getting past initial resistance to physical activity, price is also an issue for many of Juchli's clients. "I don't know why it is not as accepted as, for example, if people go and get some massage therapy or reflexology. They pay $40 or $50 there as well. But personal training, I find, is still not as well accepted that people maybe have to pay $50 for a session." She attributes much of this resistance to people's lack of understanding about the personal trainer's roles and responsibilities. There is a distinction, Juchli points out, between people who help you use machines in health clubs and trainers such as herself who design a specific program for an individual client.

Despite facing obstacles, Juchli remains optimistic about her future in the fitness business. She continues her education on an annual basis, as required by Canadian Fitness Professionals with whom she is certified as a personal trainer specialist, and as a nutrition and wellness specialist. "It's something I love to do, it's something I can do best actually, and this is what people feel when they work with me," says Juchli. "That's why I feel that this is going to grow."

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