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Features Health & Wellness Venture Local looks at ways to shed holiday pounds

With Thanksgiving under our belts, and Christmas coming fast, the holidays are a great opportunity to spend time with friends and loved ones and gather round the dinner table and enjoy a hearty meal. While those meals and quality time are great for the family, they aren't ways best for the waist line. Luckily, Franklin is full of opportunities to shed the holiday weight just in time to keep your New Year's resolutions.

Body Visions Gym encourages portion control and stress relief

Body Visions Gym reminds the community to remember portion control over the holidays. “Everyone should remember portion control when they are gathered with family and friends,” said Gino Pignataro. “There is always so much good food to choose from. Also, avoid stressful situations, go for a walk, and if it is too cold for that, Body Visions Gym offers a day pass for only $5 to help you relieve some stress.”

Jody and Gino Pignataro own and operate Body Visions Gym, a 24-hours a day, seven days a week gym in Franklin. Photo by Vickie CarpenterThe gym will also be offering a 24-day challenge through Advocare, one of the supplements offered at the gym. The challenge is designed to keep everyone on track during the holidays.

Body Visions Gym is a locally owned gym that has been serving Macon, Jackson and Rabun County for more than two decades. Since March 2012, Body Visions Gym has been owned and operated by the husband and wife team, Jody and Gino Pignataro. “I am a retired engineer, but have always been interested in physical fitness,” said Gino Pignataro. “Our business is fitness, we don't have a lot of non-useful stuff like smoothies and lattes, but we do have what is needed if you are wanting to look and feel good.”

The gym, which is the only 24 hours a day, seven days a week gym in Franklin, provides personalized training and special attention to all members. Their goal is to provide a good training environment for people of all ages and fitness levels. Currently, the gym has four Certified Personal Trainers to help guide each member. “We have a constantly growing business, with a great group of certified trainers,” said Pignataro. “Our customers are like family to us. We honor the Silversneaker program, with over 100 participants. Our class schedule offers a wide range from aerobics to Zumba, with many different class times and days to choose from.”

The gym features free weights, a wide-range of fitness machines, cardio equipment, unique kickboxing and toning classes. The certified trainers can assist you in athletic training, power lifting and body building. “We have completely revamped our facility, adding almost 3,000 square feet of space and tripling the equipment,” said Pignataro. “We now have a kids room, cardio room and weight areas that will suit any need.”

“We have, in my opinion, one of the best facilities in town,” said Pignataro. “We offer different payment options, with no entry or contract fees.”

Cardio equipment is among the extensive offerings found at Body Visions. The facility offers classes all week as well as access to nautilus equipment and free weights.Initially, after taking over ownership nearly a year ago, the recession slowed down Pignataro's vision of expanding the facility right away. “The recession did hamper our expansion, but only temporarily,” he said. “I am confident that the economy will improve before too long.

“Business is steadily picking up,” he said. “Since we took over, it has grown five-fold and promises to get even better.”

Since Pignataro began running the gym, he has not yet reached out to any groups or organizations for advertising and networking opportunities, but has relied on word of mouth; a method that seems to be working thus far. “Fitness is still important to our members,” said Pignataro. “All of our changes have been for the better and have been the reason for us to grow.”

With Body Visions being a family owned and operated business, Pignataro understands the importance of supporting the local community. “Shopping locally keeps money in our town and helps our town to grow,” he said. “For we are hometown people, taking pride in our town.”

Franklin Health and Fitness Center offers tips from the American Council on Exercise

Ed Morris and Rodney MorrisIn its November newsletter, the Franklin Health and Fitness Center offered tips on ways to stay healthy during the holiday season.

“With the hectic holiday season fast approaching, it is sometimes difficult to find time to exercise. Many of us also stress out about gaining weight during this festive time. Fitness experts recognize that it is hard for people to stick to an exercise program during the holidays. To help you stay motivated, disciplined and avoid the seasonal seven-pound weight gain, here are some tips from the American Council on Exercise”:

Top 10 Tips for Surviving the Holidays

1. Take time for yourself to relax.
2. Set realistic goals: if you can only exercise for 20 minutes, go for it. But don't skip your workout.
3. Invite a buddy to exercise with you or participate in group exercise-fitness friends are great motivators.
4. Create new, more active family traditions like snowshoeing or hiking.
5. Don't try to adhere to a very restrictive diet during the holidays. Moderation will allow you to feel satisfied without being deprived.
6. Drink plenty of water.
7. Spread out your meals.
8. Don't overdo it with alcohol or caffeine.
9. Don't aim for perfection; keep the demands on yourself realistic.
10. Remember to laugh, it burns calories and reduces stress.

To encourage staying healthy over the holidays, FHFC will be kicking off another round of their 12-Week Weight Loss Challenge starting January 14. The program includes technology that counts calories, small group fitness training with one on one time with personal trainers, and nutrition help to ensure that you are eating healthy.

In addition to the weight loss program, for the month of January, a Silver Membership to the gym, which includes all of the facilities (pool, whirlpool, sauna, equipment and classes) the entry fee is only $29.

Nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Ed Morris set out with a vision to bring a fitness center with an indoor swimming facility to Franklin. After investigating many options, Dr. Ed Morris was able to form a limited partnership of local investors to build Franklin Health and Fitness Center. The Center opened its doors in August 1988. After receiving his Bachelor’s degree from Western Carolina University in Business Administration, Ed and Barbara’s middle son Rodney moved back to Franklin to work at the center full time in October 2007. Today, Rodney is the general manager of Franklin Health and Fitness Center (FHFC) and oversees the day to day operations.“I hope to keep the center open for years to come to serve the citizens of Macon and surrounding counties,” said Rodney Morris.

The goal of the center was to provide a place where individuals and families could enjoy all the benefits of regular exercise at an affordable price, which is still evident in the center's current mission statement of providing excellence in facilities, programs and services to help members achieve their maximum potential for health and fitness.

FHFC is a full service fitness center that offers an indoor pool and whirlpool and locker rooms with showers and saunas. The gym portion of the center houses extensive cardio equipment, nautilus and free weight equipment. Through the week, from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., more than 70 classes are offered, including aqua aerobics, spinning, Yoga, Tai Chi, STEP, senior fitness, boot camps, kickboxing, and Zumba for all ages.

According to Morris, the recession has not influenced the business because regardless of the state of the economy, people are striving more and more to take care of their bodies. Because of the increased interest in maintaining good physical health, FHFC has been able to expand. “Business is great,” said Morris. “People are more health conscious than ever. Since opening, we have expanded the facility, added many new classes, and new modern fitness equipment.”

Although Morris believes FHFC has not been adversely affected by the economy, the center still strives to continue offering improvements and upgrades, while maintaining affordable membership fees. “In 2010 we added new locker rooms, spinning room, aerobics room, personal training room,” said Morris. “We just recently refurbished our pool and whirlpool. Personal training has become more popular with our members to have them with their fitness goals. Our personal trainers also run our Weight Loss Program which hundreds of people have completed and lost weight.”

Small businesses that have been in operation for years have been forced to slowly come into the technological realm to reach clientele through websites and social media tools such as Facebook. While FHFC has also transformed their business plan to include these marketing strategies, technology has further shaped their business due to advancements in technological equipment. The gym has embraced new cardio equipment with TV's and virtual active bikes that combine fitness with technology.

FHFC understands that the people who allow the center to continue running are locals. With that understanding in mind, FHFC works to support the community. “We rely on locals to keep our business open, we want to help them out too,” said Morris. “We are so thankful to Macon County for your membership. We are happy to help over 2,000 members annually live a happy and healthier life. We are celebrating 25 years of service to Macon County.”

Abel Fitness encourages fluids to help fill up before a meal

To help shed those holiday pounds, Abel Fitness reminds everyone to think past the holiday treats.

Abel Fitness offers Karate classes for all ages. In addition to Karate, which is taught by studio co-owner Donnie Abel, Pilates is also a focus and is taught by Patti Abel.“One tip we would like to offer everyone is the following: Remember it is okay to eat during the holidays, but you also need to exercise,” said Donnie. “Here is a tip: Drink two glasses of water before you sit down to eat your holiday dinner. This should limit how much you eat. Bottom line: Exercise makes common sense. The more you move the more calories you burn. Take a walk with family after your meals.”

To help you lose the holiday pounds, Abel Fitness is launching new programs. “New for this year is what we call our ACT (Action-Commitment-Transformation) Now program. This will be a nine-week intensive series and will only be available to six individuals at a time,” said Patti. “The program will be planned around each individual’s specific needs. Goals that can be addressed include sculpting, increased mobility, injury prevention, injury recuperation, muscle strengthening, energy gain, stress reduction and slimming. To ring in the New Year, we are planning on giving away two spaces in the ACT now program. There will be full details on our website and an email newsletter will be sent out with details of entering to win. So if you aren’t already on our newsletter list make sure and go to our website or Facebook page (www.abelfit.com), get on the list so you will be among the first to win one of these spots.”

For Patti and Donnie Abel, the decision to open Abel Fitness was an easy one that can be summed up using a quote from Bishop TD Jakes, “If you can’t find your purpose, figure out your passion. For your passion will lead right into your purpose.”

Only in operation for a little more than two years, Abel Fitness opened in the Macon Center Shopping Plaza in February 2010. “We chose the location because of its great accessibility and we were able to have it finished out where we could set up a Pilates studio for me and a karate studio for Donnie along with an extra all purpose room which has now become our massage room,” said Patti. “Donnie has been the head instructor of the North Carolina Karate Club for over 20 years. He holds a 4th degree black belt (Yondan). Sensei Abel has been studying traditional Shotokan karate across the country for over 28 years and has won many awards. Donnie has devoted his life to promoting and teaching karate. He has worked with police departments, county workers, school systems and health departments. He constantly strives to develop not only the art of karate, but the lives of students at NC Karate Club. He looks to better his students not only in technique, but in the community they live.”

Donnie brings the experience and prestige of numerous recognitions to his karate classes. He has earned recognition in both individual and team Kata and Kumite, competing regionally and nationally numerous years, 2010 Top Competitor award SAKA regional tournament, 2010 Nationals Tournament team captain, 2005 Meritorious Award for instruction and development of the art of karate.

Shotakan Karate is one of the most widely practiced and traditional forms in the world today. In true karate, the body, mind and spirit —the whole person — must be developed simultaneously. Through intense practice, the physical and mental aspects of karate can be brought together. The result is natural, effortless action, along with confidence, humility, openness and peace.

Owners of Abel Fitness Donnie and Patti Abel with their daughter.“We offer karate classes for beginner, intermediate and advance level students Monday through Friday,” said Donnie. “We have a wide range of Pilates classes offered daily through the week including, mat, springboard, reformer, Pilates/yoga fusion, cardio reformer, smart spine reformer and various classes to accommodate limited range of movement. We recommend that anyone coming into Pilates for the first time take several private sessions to learn the fundamentals, any specific modifications they will need in class and for evaluation to help place them in the classes that will best benefit them.”

Abel Fitness caters to people of all ages and fitness goals. “We have clients ranging from five years old to people in their 80s,” said Donnie. “Women, men, and children all participate. Our karate class clients range from five to 65+. Our Pilates and movement clients range from 16 to 85+, the median age being 50-70 years old. We would like to see more athletes taking our classes to keep themselves from injury, as well as people who have been injured and want to finish after their physical therapy is completed.”

Pilates consists of exercises integrating your mind and body as one, teaching how to find release where there is tension, strengthening and moving from the core to help our upright posture, and creating flexibility and strength thru out the body

“My passion is teaching on a more rehabilitative level, though I also teach from an athletic perspective,” said Patti. I am currently working with people who have had spinal fusion, knee replacements, hip replacements, spinal scoliosis and scoliosis with rod fusion, limited range mobility, athletes, and people recovering from surgery who want their energy and mobility returned.”

Pilates is beneficial for people of all ages, abilities and fitness levels. Pilates’ great appeal is in a slower, safer, sensible approach to health and wellness. Pilates conditions the body from head to toe with a no- to low-impact approach suitable for all ages and abilities. It requires patience and practice, and results will follow.

Donnie's expertise in Karate is matched with Patti's lifelong involvement in fitness as she has been active in every type of fitness her entire life. Spending most of her early career in office management and business accounting, after she discovered Pilates and realized that was all she needed to relieve her stress level, improve her back and neck pain and get her through her pregnancy in top form, Patti completed comprehensive teacher training through Balanced Body completing more than 500 hours of study, observation and teaching before testing out for certification. She has since taken continued training in Pre-Post Pregnancy, Smart spine, Core Intelligence (learning how the body moves and techniques to find release and optimal movement), and many other various workshops and observation. At Abel Fitness, Patti teaches group mat classes, group equipment classes and private Pilates and movement sessions. She enjoys creating unique programs for different client needs and abilities. Her style incorporates the classical work with contemporary exercises from today's knowledge of the body and expansion of the work. She continues to take additional training with great movement educators to better her skills in helping people find movement, studying with master Pilates instructors and movement educators.

“We wanted to go into business together because of our mutual passion for helping people and doing something different that was needed in the Franklin area,” said Patti. “One thing we are very strict on is keeping our classes small so we can monitor each student for proper form to make certain each student gets optimal benefit from the exercise and does not injury themselves. Everything we offer at our studio is about integrating mind and body together, working the body as a whole and not individual parts. Our classes are not just about getting exercise. We teach proper body mechanics to help in everyday life, so what you learn in the studio you take into your daily activity. Our passion has always been to care for and help others and through our training and continued learning we strive to find every possible way to help others enhance their well being and to age with grace.”

By day, Donnie works as a Physical Therapy Technician at Healthworks, where he has been for over 19 years, and by night, he teaches classes at the studio. Patti works days at the studio and evenings and some weekends. Both volunteer to help out at local events where physical training is important.

Still in the early stages of business development, the Abels continuously work to improve their studio. “We are constantly expanding our business to move toward the goals we want to accomplish, through increased class offerings to accommodate a variety of physical needs, from private workout sessions, to couple's sessions, to classes,” said Patti. “We use equipment such as reformers, spring boards, smart spine therapy and other pieces to stretch and increase flexibility, as well as strengthen core muscles. We've also added massage therapy, including holistic therapy using essential oils on the spine to help with spinal scoliosis problems. Recently, we added Gracie Jiu Jitsu under the instruction of professor Douglas Moore. This class meets Mondays at 6:30 p.m. Students learn grappling techniques, as taught by the legendary Gracie family to be used in self-defense or sport Jiu Jitsu matches. Classes consist of a warm up, techniques, and grappling session. We are currently in the process of adding more classes which will be unveiled in the New Year.”

Opening on the uphill end of the recession, Abel Fitness has been able to retain and grow clients despite the economic condition. “We think the recession has affected every business in some way,” said Donnie. “Our business has been fortunate in staying steady or growing since we opened. We think that if people had more flexible income, they would probably spend more on health and wellness. Much of the time, it is one of the first things people cut when things are tight. One of the reasons we offer packages that help people save money on our products is that we feel we should help clients out. Being creative in our offerings helps everyone financially. We know how much exercise helps the individual's overall health and want to help in anyway we can to reduce stress and keep the person active and healthy.”

According to the Abels, their success is due in large part to the continued growth and service expansion in the studio. “We continue to add new services. We also promote holiday specials, invite speakers on health topics, introduce special programs, one-day workshops, and are willing to work with clients on tailoring individual packages including a number of products.”

To help grow their business and to promote Franklin as a whole, the Abels work with several organizations to increase networking opportunities. “Patti has been involved with Venture Local when her schedule allows for meetings and we have participated in a number of their networking events, street fest, cash mobs and others,” said Donnie. “While it is great networking to meet new people and businesses, she has been most passionate about it from the standpoint of bringing more awareness to Franklin to help all local businesses flourish.

We feel that it is very important to work within the community and support each other, thus Patti's membership in Rotary. We feel blessed that along the way we have met other business owners and forged great friendships.”

Despite expanding the studio to include more classes and fitness opportunities, Abel Fitness is dedicated to making sure the studio remains focused on holistic, natural fitness measures. “We are very passionate about our mission, so we really haven’t altered our business plan,” said Donnie. “Our plan has always been to find ways to attract people to take care of their health. Technology helps us maintain flexibility with clients' needs. It also gives us room to envision new ways of offering our products in the future, such as possible video classes that will create outreach with travelers and clients who have difficulty getting to the studio as frequently as they want. Sometimes, we can't move as fast as we want with these new ideas. We have built our business on our own, without large indebtedness. As a result, it takes us more time to implement new programs that might cost money or require more staff.”

As local business owners, the Abels understand that small businesses are crucial to the identity and survival of small communities. “Shopping and supporting the local economy is the duty of every citizen to make certain their neighbors remain in business and all the offerings we have here locally remain so rich and relevant to each and every one of us,” said Donnie and Patti. “We have to stick together and help each other, or we won't have good local businesses. Our country was founded on partnerships, in this case between the citizens and the local merchants who can deliver the service as well as the product. When we shop locally,we are keeping the money local, which helps build the local economy, versus the money being sent back to a big corporate office. Local businesses build community relationships, build local economy, contribute to more local charities, provide jobs, and support local causes. Hard to beat that combination.”

“We would like to thank all our present clients for their support and continued patronage, as well as future clients who will always be welcome,” said the Abels.

Unconventional fitness opportunities in Franklin

If you don't like the chaos or public atmosphere of a gym setting, Macon County is full of free activities for the whole family.

For those who are looking for a way to begin on the path to good health, consider starting with a walking goal. Walking is a slow and easy way to ease the body into a higher level of fitness. It is accessible to most everyone, doesn’t require any special equipment or practice, and offers a long list of health benefits, including: Lowering blood pressure, reducing the risk of, or managing, type 2 diabetes, preventing osteoporosis, managing weight and improving mood.

Macon County offers the perfect opportunity for a walking regime with the Greenway. The Greenway is a public/ private collaboration between Macon County, the Town of Franklin, North Carolina Parks & Recreation Trust Fund, NC Clean Water Trust Fund, Friends of the Greenway, and many citizens and organizations in Macon County.

The Greenway winds all along the Little Tennessee river. The Morris Trace trail begins at Big Bear Park, which features include the Big Bear Picnic Shelter which offers rest room facilities and barbeque pit., two gazebos, and a canoe put-ins. This trail runs North along the River to Suli Marsh where there is a parking area and access to the trail over a boardwalk.

From Big Bear Park to the Southern part of the Greenway trail is a matter of crossing the two roads and the river. It requires users to to cross under one bridge, go up a ramp and cross the second bridge to get to the the opposite side of the river. To access this portion of the trail, visitors can park behind the shops at Riverwalk shopping center where signs will point to the Old Airport Trail.

Next is the Rotary Centennial Loop, funded by the Rotary Clubs with a picnic shelter and adult exercise equipment. Going South on the trail you will reach Lewis Soles Memorial Bike Trail, with a challenging 2.6 mile mountain bike trail, great for exercising and physical activity. The trail may be accessed from the Library or the Greenway. For more information, visit www.littletennessee.org/greenway.


As part of the Venture Local Franklin (VLF) initiative, Macon County News is teaming up with VLF to highlight local businesses throughout Franklin. The Venture Local series appears perodically.





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