This amazingly cheap gym is one of the city's best-kept secrets

Lifting weights and and spirits at Northwood.

This amazingly cheap gym is one of the city's best-kept secrets
Donna Hyland (left) and Anne Hanlon enjoying a workout session at Northwood.

Downstairs in the Northwood community care center, and smack in the middle of Halifax’s north end, weights are clanking, fans are blowing and music is bumping. It’s damn good vibes for a Thursday morning scene at the gym.

But this isn’t just any gym. According to Natasha Handspiker, manager at the ReBoom Northwood initiative, “It’s Cheers without the beers.” Here, everybody knows your name.

The Pauline Potter Fitness Centre is Northwood’s full-service gym. Its services are available to residents and staff at the Northwood Terrace manor, and to the public for a monthly $20 membership. There’s enough equipment to allow tenants and community members to bust a sweat, but Handspiker points out you’re also getting access to “the amazing staff we have on hand.

“Donna”—Hyland, Northwood’s fitness consultant—“is amazing,” continues Handspiker. “She is highly skilled, highly trained and highly committed to Northwood’s mandates, and that’s not something you can ask a staff person to be.”

If you’re wondering when was the last time someone took the time to learn your name at the gym, this could be the place for you. For 20 bucks a month, one would imagine a line stretching around the corner for membership, but the fitness centre is still looking for new clients.

“We want it to be affordable,” says Hyland. “We cater to the outside community, and it is wonderful for people to come in.”

While young adults are welcomed to make use of the centre, the gym caters to people living in the community who are 50 and older and have gone through illness or surgery.

“We have specialized equipment like air compression instead of weights which is user friendly,” says Hyland. “Everyone has different needs and we try to accommodate that.”

Northwood residents have access to the in-care program through the gym. Twice a week the residents are able to come downstairs from 1-3pm for specialized classes.

“I’ve seen so many positive changes in some of the residents who come down for their exercise. They absolutely love it,” says Hyland.

Other group classes are held once a week and consist of cardio, strength and circuit training.

“I’ve been working out here for at least six years,” says Anne Hanlon, in between dumbbells reps. “I keep coming because of the staff.”

On average, Hanlon says, she works out three times a week.

“People from all walks of life, young and old come here,” she says. “It’s really diverse. So you don’t feel out of place.”

Feeling comfortable while exercising makes the difference, but the most important thing is to stay active.

“One of our tenants was 88 years old,” says Hyland. “Her goal when she came in here was to celebrate her 90th birthday on a beach in Cuba.

“She does not miss a day in here. She works out here faithfully three times a week for an hour.” The result? “She celebrated her 90th birthday on a beach in Cuba.”

Soon the gym facility at Northwood will be taking another positive stride as it undergoes renovations to double in size and better accommodate persons with early dementia.

In the meantime, the doors are open to everyone.

“The public should know we care about their wellness and we’re here to support them,” says Handspiker.

“We try to make it motivating and we try to have fun,” adds Hyland.

Going the extra mile seems to be paying off.

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