Fitness is child's play

Gym owners decide to open a facility for youth after suggestion from client

A three-year-old girl was struggling to keep her balance during a fitness activity at Fitfix Junior when boys in the class quickly came to her rescue.

“She was walking on the balance stones having a really hard time and one of the little boys was holding her hand, helping her balance,” Jonathan Skelcher says from the newly opened fitness center for youth and kids on Yonge Street north of Broadway Avenue. “The mother said, ‘I don’t know where you got these kids from but this is unbelievable.’”

Although he had already been running Fitfix for adults in the suite next door since 1999, Jonathan and his wife Tania opened Fitfix Junior in September after realizing there was a lack of fitness programming for children in the area.

“One of our clients who has a young son came to us and said there’s nothing around here for kids and fitness, you guys should do something about that, so a light went off and I thought about it and thought about it and turned to my wife one day and said guess what, we’re doing it,” he says.

While he built and renovated the space, Tania wrote all the programs, which focus on different age groups, ranging from 18-month old tots to 12 year olds.

The sessions, which run for seven to eight weeks, are divided into different categories including general fitness, sports specific movements, small group personal training and specialty classes like mommy and me, which is for new moms who want to get back into shape.

“I think we did this to get kids more active and to get the right information and the right education to be active for life and that’s really what our mantra is and we promote that to every child and parent,” Jonathan says. “So if we could do one tiny thing with each child and they become a little bit more active, a little bit more aware, a little more educated about a healthy lifestyle, the right way of living, if everybody could do that then we’d wipe out all the problems we have with inactivity and childhood obesity.”

While all classes focus on developing the core, the younger classes concentrate on gross motor skills development and then as the kids get older the focus shifts to strength training. Although they don’t teach specific sports, they offer classes that are focused on sports specific movements like coordination of the lower body, which can be used across a varying number of activities, they say.

“One of the things we do is we want to allow every type of kid, every personality to know that they can be fit and active as well so for the creative kids who may prefer to read a book or stay at home and draw or not necessarily go out and do sports there’s a place for them as well in the fitness world,” Tania says. “So we created a class called art and movement so that they are still getting the same type of fitness that we would do with other classes, then they finish their art and then they stretch.”

The classes, which are all taught by certified personal trainers and early childhood educators, have the same principles as their adult programs and include a cool down period, stretching, nutritional information and more.

“We make it fun for them,” Tania says. “They love it, the kids really enjoy the structure of the class and they are pooped at the end.”

In addition to incorporating a hopscotch board and a climbing wall into some of the activities, they also run PA day and holiday camps, including over March Break, hold birthday parties and are planning to run summer camps at various locations throughout the city.

“We’re going to be doing some boot camps for kids,” Jonathan says adding they’ll run from the first week of July to the first week of September.

The couple, who are coming up on their first anniversary, say most of their wedding guests were gym members since they’ve become close friends. They often hold potluck events and go out to dinner with clients to help create a community atmosphere, which is vital to the business.

“I wanted people to help support each other unlike a gym where you go and it’s every man or woman for himself and there’s no friendships,” says Jonathan who’s been in the industry since 1985. “I wanted the exact opposite that’s how I designed the company. I designed Fitfix to be exactly the opposite of what every gym was.”

Over the last year several clients developed health difficulties, including some longtime members who were diagnosed with cancer, he says.

During the last few months he recalls working with one lady after her treatment finished with the end goal of being fit enough to go on vacation.

“In weeks we got her ready from really having almost no strength whatsoever, definitely no drive, but just enough there to listen to us telling her, ‘it’s 10 weeks all you have to do is today’ and so she came three times a week and she’s now in Costa Rica enjoying her holiday,” he says.

“She’s feeling great, no pain in her legs, her big thing was she was so weak and dehydrated like her whole system was shot and her legs and everything were just so achy and sore and she just sent a note saying her legs were great,” Tania adds.

About this article:

By: Ann Ruppenstein
Posted: Feb 13 2013 1:45 pm
Filed in: Business
Edition: Toronto