New fitness center caters to Oak Harbor women

"A fast-growing company that is one of the largest franchise operations in the nation has moved into Oak Harbor.It's not a fast food restaurant, but more like a cure for fast food. Deb Albright recently opened Curves for Women, a unique fitness center for women, next to Event Connections on NE Sixth Avenue. She and her husband came all the way from Montana to open the business after researching target population areas throughout the nation.She found out about Curves for Women - which bills itself as both a fitness and weight loss center - after she joined one in Montana. She was immediately impressed by it.Statistically, Albright says, Oak Harbor is the perfect location for a Curves for Women franchise, which tend to do best in cities under 25,000 in population. Also, she said local women interested in exercise haven't had many options in the area.The Curves craze, Albright said, has spread to all 50 states as well as a couple of foreign countries. After less than five years in business, more than 1,500 franchises have opened. On average, the company claims, a new location opens every 12 hours.The secret of the success may be in the unique approach to fitness that seems to fill a sweat-hungry niche. Curves for Women is for women only. Albright said most gyms are designed for men, so there is a need for exercise clubs created with women's bodies in mind. Also, some women are put off by all the testosterone and the judgmental eyes of male weight lifters.This gives women a place to go where they won't feel intimidated, she said.The fitness routine was developed by Curves for Women founder and Texas fitness guru Gary Heavin. The company touts it as a breakthrough in exercise and a complete workout in just half an hour.The routine itself is kind of like a game of musical chairs with exercise machines. The circuit consists of eight different hydraulic resistance machines, each of which exercises two major muscle groups. In between each machine is a pad for any type of aerobic exercises, from jumping jacks to disco dancing.After a short warm-up exercise and optional stretching, Albright said a health club member can just jump into the circle of exercise machines and aerobic sites with the other women. A tape playing peppy music alerts the women that it's time to move to the next station every 35 seconds.Around and round they go, alternating between resistance training and aerobic exercise. Albright said the women are instructed to check their pulses periodically to make sure they are getting to their target heart rate without overdoing it.In just 30 minutes, Albright said a woman can get a really good workout. But she says it comes without soreness since the women don't exercise at any one station long enough to get a build-up of lactic acid in their muscles, which causes pain. Albright said she hopes to add to the exercise craze by opening another franchise in Anacortes soon. At the Oak Harbor location, she says she plans to put in a few tanning beds and possibly teach a few exercise classes. Also, she's going to incorporate the company's weight-loss guidance program, with Curves-brand nutrition and weight-loss items, into the Oak Harbor store.Judging from the number of women at the center Thursday night, sweating to Madonna, the company seems like a good fit for Oak Harbor.I'm really impressed by it, Albright said. It allows me to do something healthy and help other people become healthy. "

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