|February 14, 2013
THHS Fitness Centers helps folks keep New Years resolutions all year long
By B.L. Azure
THHS Public Information Officer
Fitness Centers manager Margene Asay and 91-year-old Frank Huber high-five it after Huber finishes his workout. Bill Coffman, Huber’s training partner has been using the fitness center for 18 years. (B.L. Azure photo)
ST. IGNATIUS — It’s never too late or too early to get in good physical shape. The benefits are physically and metaphysically tangible — when you look good you feel good and when you feel good you look good.
Margene Asay, Tribal Health and Human Services fitness centers’ manager, said this time of year people tend to either stick to New Years resolutions related to getting into better health or let them go by the wayside. She encourages those folks who have slacked off to pick up the slack because the rewards are worth it. If they need help, encouragement and good training equipment all they have to do, she said is stop by one of the four THHS fitness centers located in Arlee, St. Ignatius, Ronan and Elmo.
There were many folks at the busy St. Ignatius fitness center recently who attested to the thought that it is never too late to begin a fitness regimen. Case in point: Frank Huber and his training partner 81-year-old Bill Coffman.
The 91-years-old Huber has been a steady Eddy user of the St. Ignatius Fitness Center for 10 years. The U.S. Navy veteran who has “been all over the world” began his service to America in 1941 and saw action in World War II, the Korea Conflict and the Viet Nam War before dropping anchor in the calm seas of retirement in the Mission Valley. However 10 years ago he had a life altering experience that caused him to focus on his health and future prospects of staying on top of terra firma with a good view instead of the alternative.
“I had a heart attack ten years ago. During recovery my neighbors told me they used the fitness center here and said I should try it out,” Huber said. “I’ve been coming here ever since. I figure every day that I do this helps keep me above ground a little longer.”
Huber works out five days a week with Coffman who has been using the fitness center for 18 years. “This is a wonderful, wonderful place,” Coffman said, adding that there is no similar facility available to the public in St. Ignatius. He and Huber spend a lot of time with the weights and the walking, stair step and bicycle machines. “We appreciate this place, the people we meet here and the helpful staff.”
The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes THHS centers are open to the public for a nominal monthly fee; there is no contract. Members of the CSKT can access the facilities free of charge because they were in part established to address diabetes among tribal members.
“The Diabetes Program purchased the equipment,” Asay said.
St. Ignatius resident Karen Teeple has been using the fitness center for two years now. Prior to that she was unaware of the fitness center existed and once she found out about it she was unaware that it was open to the non-Indian public.
“Once I found out it was open to the public I decided to come here and work out,” Teeple said between breaths while working out on the treadmill. “It is a good way to stay healthy.”
Amelia Adams, fitness center staffer, assists Karen Teeple on the treadmill at St. Ignatius fitness center. (B.L. Azure photo)
Asay said the monthly rate for the non-tribal public is $25. For people 55 years and older the rate is $20. Besides access to all the THHS facilities and equipment, folks can also receive assistance and advice from the fitness centers staff.
“We don’t require a signed contract and our fees are very reasonable,” Asay said. “We have a lot of regulars here who use this all the time. They are getting their money’s worth.”
Former Browning resident, Jeneese Hilton, a regular user, concurred that the fee is reasonable, the equipment is top flight and the staff is personable and helpful.
Amelia Adams, who along with Gigi Yazzie manages the Ronan THHS Fitness Center, a pared down version of the others in Elmo, St. Ignatius and Arlee, said the staff there and the other centers conduct events that add to the workout routine. “We try to keep people busy and focused on different things they can do to improve their health,” she said.
Arles Hendrickson, St. Ignatius Fitness Center manager, said a lot of Mission school students use the facilities in the evening until it closes.
“We don’t charge the children,” Asay said, adding that the fitness centers’ staff serve as role models for the youth and that the centers don’t have machines that dispense sugary sodas. They do have bottled water and healthy juice drinks. “We encourage the kids to indulge in healthy lifestyles and we want our staff to be role models for them.”
“This is a safe place for children,” Adams added because the youngsters are always under the watchful eyes of fitness centers staff. “It’s a good place for them to have fun while staying healthy.”
“We want to be there for the ‘babies’ in this safe environment. Kevin (Howlett, THHS director) said we need to focus on kids as an obesity prevention component,” Asay said, referring to the young children as babies. Children under the age of 12 years must be accompanied by a parent or guardian when using the fitness centers after 5 p.m. “Obesity is a big problem that our staff works on with the youth. They can use the facilities but have to be at least 15 years old to use the equipment.”
Recently hired fitness center staffer Alan Prindel works out under the supervision of Gigi Yazzie of the Ronan fitness center. (B.L. Azure photo)
Hendrickson said more than 250 people use the St. Ignatius fitness center a month, not counting the students.
“We keep on top of the numbers by having people sign in and out,” she said. “That helps us justify keeping the center open. The average daily traffic flow is around 65 to 67 people. That’s just the ones we catch.”
Hendrickson said that people don’t routinely sneak in and use the centers but sometimes they forget to sign in. She said that all the fitness centers are set up to address the diabetes issue — including blood sugar testing — that is so prevalent in Indian Country. They coordinate out reach and activities with the Diabetes Program and the Physical Therapy Program.
“Because this is set up to address diabetes there are certain expectations of us,” Asay said. “Our primary focus is on people with diabetes or those who are susceptible to diabetes. This is a part of preventive care. We encourage them to come and use the centers and we keep trying and trying to get them all in here.”
The fitness center gym is also available to rent for group activities for $50 an evening. Hendrickson said that some of the religious orders like the Amish and Mennonites often rent the gym to play volleyball and similar activities.
Hendrickson gave kudos to the volunteers who help keep the fitness center open on Saturdays. “Without them we couldn’t keep this open then,” she said.
THHS Fitness Centers’ operation hours
• St. Ignatius Fitness Center
Monday through Thursday: 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Friday: 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Saturday: Volunteer service dependent.
It has a gymnasium, well-equipped fitness room, kitchen area, showers and saunas.
The gym and kitchen are available to rent.
Wakes and funerals take precedent.
• Arlee Community Center
Monday through Friday: 5 a.m. to 9 a.m.
It has a weight and fitness room, gymnasium, kitchen area and showers.
Wakes and funerals take precedent.
• Elmo Fitness Center
Monday: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Tuesday: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Wednesday: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Thursday: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Friday: 8 a.m. to 12-noon
Saturday: 8 a.m. to 12-noon
It has a well-equipped weight and fitness room.
• Ronan Fitness Center
Monday: 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Tuesday: 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Wednesday: 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Thursday: 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Friday: 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Saturday: 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
It is somewhat small but has a well-equipped weight room.
Carlin Matt, Arlee Fitness Center manager, said the Arlee Fitness Center in the Community Center on Powwow Road is for the most part is equipped with similar equipment as the St. Ignatius Fitness Center. There is more specialized equipment St. Ignatius aimed at physical therapy and recovery, he said due to its location near the St. Ignatius THHS Clinic and its physical therapy program.
The Arlee Fitness Center also reaches out to the children in Early Childhood Services and at Nkwusm Salish Language Institute to provide physical activities. “They’ve been coming in since October,” he said.
A lot of high school age youth also use the weight equipment.
“Arlee High School basketball players have been using the center. They do exercises and use the equipment to help them prevent sports injuries,” Matt said, adding that there is also a group of 50 years or older adults that are steady users of the Arlee Fitness Center. “We get a lot of kids on Fridays because of the four-day school week in Arlee.”
Matt said he has also been working with the Arlee Community Development Corporation on constructing a skate park in Arlee. It would be a perfect fit for the fitness mission of the fitness center, he said.