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Fitness Center Flourishes

By Carol Thompson The Record-Eagle, Traverse City, Mich.

TRAVERSE CITY

Weight lifting might be key to a chiseled physique, but it isn't enough to shape a strong athlete.

Take that from Jessica Liddell, an Olympic weight lifting coach and personal trainer who discovered that just lifting weights left her muscles tight and inflexible.

"I could not move," she said. "I thought I was so strong. I couldn't even touch my toes. I couldn't even straighten my legs."

Liddell recently opened East 02 Pilates & Yoga, a studio inside Fit My Life Personal Training Center, 887 Lynch Drive in Traverse City. She and other trainers teach beginning and challenging classes to help students gain strength and balance and improve mobility.

Pilates is a fitness system that uses controlled movements in "all planes of motion," Liddell said. Students don't just move up and down or back and forth like they do in other exercise routines. The practice is especially effective at core strengthening.

Liddell studied sports medicine at Eastern Michigan University and completed the Benjamin Degenhardt 360 Pilates training program. She used to run a pilates studio in Plymouth.

"A lot of people who come into pilates are really inflexible," Liddell said. "One of the best ways to fix that is to move."

East 02 is a small, calming space with sapphire walls and a wooden floor. It sits on the second floor of FML, a spartan, spacious gym that moved to its new location on Aug. 31.

The new site provides small office spaces for sports- and wellness-related businesses. A nutrition shop is slated to open next to East 02, while spaces downstairs will be home to a hair salon, a physical therapy office and more.

Kim Worden and Diane Miller already moved their businesses in.

Miller owns D's Sports Photography and D's Vinyl Graphic & More. She takes photographs for athletes, and makes things such as signs, banners, apparel and stickers for teams.

Worden is a fast-pitch softball trainer -- she coached the softball team at Western Michigan University for 20 years before opening a private training business for softball athletes in Kalamazoo.

She and Miller sold their businesses two years ago and moved to Traverse City.

The Traverse City softball community needs some attention, Miller said. Miller and Worden hope to boost regional recognition of the sport and help local pitchers improve their skills.

Both entrepreneurs appreciate their proximity to other related businesses and to those business' customers.

"I think it's great for networking," Miller said. "I think it's great for businesses that are starting out to be able to brainstorm with one another."

Sharing space with many businesses also keeps overhead low, which helps reduce costs of membership.

Gordon Briley, who co-owns FML with his brother Steve Stock, wants the center to be accessible to everyone, despite income, fitness level or age.

He prefers the term "performance center" to "gym" when describing his business. FML is outfitted with weights and strength training equipment, a pitching cage and lots of open floor space. There is no mass of treadmills or elliptical machines, and members can't come and go as they please. People either meet with personal trainers, join group classes or sign up for time to use a strength training circuit.

That means members don't have to worry about crowds.

"We aren't choosy about who you are," Briley said. "But we want you to be focused. We want this to be the place to go if you really want to be successful."

Members typically visit FML to boost performance in a particular sport and get help losing weight. Briley hopes to see young athletes from FML progress into college sports, hopefully with scholarships, and to see everyone improve their fitness.

Helping members lose weight and improve their lives motivates Briley, who has a background in nutrition.

"We love, love, love seeing how happy people are," he said.

FML will have a grand opening celebration on Sept. 26.

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