By FRED PETRUCELLI
They queue up at 5 a.m., those aficionados of physical fitness who lean on the Conway Regional Fitness Center, for an approach to well-being.
People of all stripes and ages make their way to a plethora of equipment for workouts that they feel confident will assure good health. Walking, running, swimming, lifting weights and taking part in specialized programs directed by well-prepared trainers await them at every turn.
From early hours and all day long — seven days a week — a steady stream of members (7,137 total with 3,354 male members and 3,783 females at this writing) pass through the portals of the Salem Street facility. Charter members number 247 and many are still involved in working out, some daily.
Beginning Oct. 4, many will take a short hiatus for a week-long celebration hailing the 15th anniversary of the center. A myriad of activities are planned each day of the week.
From Rance Bryant, director the fitness center, comes word that every population of members will be recognized with special events programmed.
"We serve a wide variety of ages," Bryant said. "The early a.m. brings a mix of ages, mid-morning brings in a large group of senior citizens plus many women of 30-plus years who work out after taking kids to school. Ages vary throughout the afternoon and evening hours."
Member Appreciation Day is scheduled for Oct. 4, with drawings for a bevy of gifts. Refreshments in the form of smoothies, provided by Smoothie King, will be served throughout the day.
Senior Citizens Day will be hailed Oct. 5. Lectures on balance, featuring trainer Gina Tusson; the value of exercise on land and in the water by trainers Cliff Wekkin and Chris Brynell, plus nutrition facts provided by Kellie Dye. Qi Gong and Tai Chi demonstrations will be conducted by Alicia Kow. In addition, games and refreshments are programmed.
Demonstrations of many kinds of fitness projects will occupy the week, including Zumba, kickboxing, functional movement screening, overhead squat and hurdle step testing. There are 64 group fitness classes available. In addition, the Dolphins program offers swim lessons for children at the beginning of each new month.
Drawings will earn members time with trainers, a free birthday party and gift cards from local movie houses.
The celebration will be orchestrated by key employees including, Bryant, Wendy Carpenter, membership coordinator; nutritionist Kellie Dye; Roxana Andrews, business office coordinator; Amanda Polk, marketing director; aquatics coordinator Brynell; Amy Routt, group exercise coordinator; Sherri Lachowsky, fitness floor supervisor; lead personal trainer Wekkin, and Alicia Quinn, play center supervisor.
When the center opened 15 years ago, some 1,000 individuals made their way to a trailer in the parking lot to sign on as members. Hardhat tours of the facility were held leading up to the formal opening of the center.
"Over the years, a lot has changed," Polk said, "but the cost of memberships has only increased minimally. In 199l, monthly dues for a single membership were $42; today the cost is $48."
Over the years, several programs have been inaugurated, including indoor cycling, "Moving for a Medal," the center’s national award-winning program for kids and Boot Camp, a result-driven fitness effort.
"I believe we are, as our mission statement maintains, a medically based fitness facility dedicated to improving the wellness of those within our community," Bryant said.