by Emily Williamson
While gyms are traditionally known to celebrate slim figures and body-builder images, Rainier Health & Fitness has a different purpose: to encourage healthy lifestyles, strong bodies and authentic community. For Amal*, her husband and seven children, Rainier Health & Fitness has been a key part of developing healthy practices. Every family member exercises regularly and Amal herself walks to the gym from their Beacon Hill home to hit the treadmill or participate in a yoga class.
Amal’s friends ask her, “Why do you go to the gym? You’re already skinny?” Amal replies that exercising is about staying healthy and feeling well, not just being skinny. Her mom died in 2008 and had high blood pressure and high cholesterol, so she wants to prevent suffering from the same preventable conditions. Plus, if she doesn’t work out, her muscles get tight and she has migraines. The migraines are actually what drove her to join the gym in the first place in April 2010; Amal’s doctor said she should go to the gym, a stress-free environment, for her migraines. Now they only resume after not coming for a week or two. “Coming here is good for my heart and brain,” Amal says.
In addition to regular exercise, Amal’s family has also made healthy changes to their diet thanks to the influence of their vegetarian daughter. Amal used to drink lots of coffee, but now has reduced her consumption to one cup per day. Coming from Somalia where many dishes are prepared with oil, she has steered away from this ingredient and has quit frying food. Instead, she serves the family only brown rice, oatmeal and whole grain bread, spaghetti and cereal. She also checks the labels of food and looks at calories before purchasing. As a result, no one in her family is overweight.
“Health is number one.” Amal says, “It’s worth $30 per month.” She tells everybody to come here and has met lots of new friends while working out.
* pseudonym, name changed to protect privacy
About Rainier Health & Fitness
Rainier Health & Fitness first opened its doors in March of 2005 with the dream of using exercise to address health disparities in its neighborhood. Since then it has grown to over 1600 members. The volunteers and staff at Rainier Health & Fitness are dedicated to improving the health of their Rainier Valley community by encouraging healthy lifestyles and strong bodies. The fitness center makes exercise fun and accessible by offering affordable prices and creating a non-intimidating workout environment, especially for those who are new to exercise. A variety of group classes including yoga, ZUMBA fitness, Pilates, turbo kick and cycling are available to members at no additional cost while personal training, group training and CrossFit are offered through certified trainers for comparably low additional fees. Regular memberships are an affordable $30 a month with a one-time membership fee of $99.