Ditch the routine and join the fun at Ramona Fitness
At the Ramona Fitness Center, it’s not just a motto or slogan, it’s a way of life: “Ditch the routine, join the fun, and make your time with us the best part of your day, every day.”
And every day, from before the crack of dawn until well after the sun has set, you can feel the energy and commitment as you walk through the door of the center at 558 Main St., where a staff of 27 dedicated professionals work constantly to expand and improve the exercise and fitness experience.
“We’ve moved into some new and exciting programs in the past year and they are getting a great response,” said center owner Peter San Nicolas, who has been a member of Ramona Fitness since he was 11 years old.
He started his career as a traditional bodybuilder and won several titles until he came to see that the issue of fitness has moved well beyond those boundaries to include the need for physical, mental and spiritual strength in everyone’s life if we are to maintain our health in today’s stress-filled world.
Like every business in today’s economy, the fitness industry has taken some economic hits. But San Nicolas is a person who sees seeds of opportunity in every adversity, and with his staff he has developed a series of new programs that not only enhance their clients’ options in their fitness program, but have produced some new and exciting serendipities as well.
One such program is sharing a personal trainer among a group of three or four people.
“The group is small enough for each person to get the benefits of a personal trainer’s attention, but the cost is significantly reduced,” said San Nicolas. “But in addition, we have found that a small amount of friendly competition develops in the group. Nobody wants to be last so each person gives it that little extra effort to keep up with the group or stay slightly ahead. It gives each person something to measure themselves against outside themselves, and a group dynamic develops that gives each person greater motivation to attend in order to keep up with the group. We’re really excited about it.”
Trainers include San Nicolas, Joey Davis-Scholl and Michael Gainey.
Another big change is the role of equipment in the center.
It’s still there—tons of it—literally, but it is no longer the centerpiece of an exercise routine.
“That heavy, weight-focused equipment was developed to separate muscle groups for people who wanted to develop bulk in those groups as a part of bodybuilding, which is still legitimate. But fitness has expanded way beyond the boundaries of bodybuilding, which can actually create health problems later in life,” said San Nicolas. “More people are coming to see that there is an acute need to focus on the core body muscles, especially in the trunk, and the need for flexibility and agility.”
That calls for an entirely different kind of exercise, even some old-fashioned stuff, San Nicolas explained.
The center has a small set of parallel bars on which a person can do as many as 30 exercises using just their own weight. Just throwing a tennis ball back and forth—now do it standing on one foot, now left-handed. There are kettle bells, similar to those used in Russia more than 100 years ago to measure grain. There is a ship’s heavy rope, which, if swung in a certain way, will quickly get your heart rate up, or an old-fashioned sled that can be piled with weights and dragged around the outside of the building, and then cheer on someone else who may try to do it faster.
Even the time-honored medicine ball is used at the center. But don’t just pick one up and start throwing it around or you may quickly find yourself making an appointment with the center’s own chiropractor, Dr. Jennifer Seltzer-Ogle.
Seltzer-Ogle brings an interesting background to the center. She graduated from the Cleveland Chiropractic College in Los Angeles in 1988 and focused on helping professional bodybuilders. In 1991 she changed careers, joining the Los Angeles Police Department, working some of the toughest neighborhoods in the city until a severe back injury forced her to quit the department. She underwent three back surgeries, which led to low back spinal fusion. In other words, if you’ve got back pain, she’s been there.
Unable to get any other help from traditional medicine, she reached back to her chiropractic training and today leads an active daily life, including long distance-cycling events.
In addition to spinal work, she offers some important and maybe startling information on the importance of calcium in fighting the growing incidence of osteoporosis.
“Milk is often thought of as the perfect provider of calcium, but because of its high protein content, it actually reduces the amount of calcium your body is able to absorb so it doesn’t provide a good source in this case. Foods like yogurt, cheese, green leafy vegetables, egg whites, salt-water fish and almonds make a great source from which to get your calcium,” said Dr. Seltzer-Ogle—and you heard it at the Ramona Fitness Center first!
It’s a matter of fitness, motivation and accountability, says San Nicolas, so for fun, why not get the office involved?
In another innovative program, the center invites the staff of any local office to work together as a part of the Corporate Fit Challenge. In this program, members of an office get together for a six-week Fitness and Nutrition Overhaul. Find out what the other members of your office staff are really made of, and maybe everyone can lose a few pounds and inches along the way.
It’s an idea that has spread across the country and it is now possible to check the progress of offices nationwide in industries both similar and different.
Many of the new ideas come from San Nicolas’ involvement in a “mastermind” group run by Todd Durkin, who, along with his personal training business, is the personal trainer for LaDainian Tomlinson, Philip Rivers and Drew Brees, among other top athletes.
“That’s just one more thing that separates us from the ‘big box’ gymnasiums,” said San Nicolas. “We are not just out there trying to get members. We share ideas and information among other professionals so that we can all build better programs for our members. It opens up our access to the entire national and even international cutting-edge thinking on health and fitness.”
Tom DiFranchesco heads up Ramona Fitness’ Boxing Club. Over the past 25 years, DiFranchesco has taken numerous fighters to National and World Title fights promoted under Don King Productions. Many of his fighters are featured on ESPN’s Friday Night Fights.
“If you are looking for a calorie toasting workout, come see Tom on Tuesday and Thursday nights right here at Ramona Fitness Center,” said San Nicolas. “The classes are part of Ramona Fitness Group Exercise and are open to all members.”
Ramona Mixed Martial Arts Academy (RMMA) is another feature Ramona Fitness Center offers. Operated by James Schrader and Antonio Apodaca Jr., the martial arts academy offers twice-a-week sessions that focus on three areas: physical, to strengthen the body you have; mental, to get the “I can’t” out of your mind; and training, to build confidence.
Schrader has studied martial arts since he was 8, when he learned what it meant to be bullied, often arriving home from school with bruises on his arms, chest and legs. His parents wanted him to learn to defend himself, and his martial arts journey began. He has earned his 3rd Degree Black Belt as well as belts and degrees in Kajukembo and San Soo.
RMMA sessions include strength training, endurance building, arts training and development, controlled sparring, aggressor/defender exercises, various simulated attack scenarios and more.
Another new idea and expansion of the fitness experience is a 30-pound log. OK, it’s a Styrofoam cylinder, but it weighs 30 pounds. You’ve just done some push-ups, now grab the log and run up and down stairs a couple of times.
It’s simple, said San Nicolas, but also keeps the mind engaged, which sometimes does not happen in a long, repetitive routine
“There is no doubt,” said San Nicolas. “In 10 years we will not be doing all the same exercises that we are doing today. We will have moved on to new and better things. Our job, and we take it very seriously, is to stay ahead of that curve, so that for every client, their time with us is, in fact, the very best part of their day.”
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