Blitz build slowed storms
September 20, 2012
By the time Judi Bannister reached her early 50s she knew the corporate world was no longer her thing.
"I'd worked for other people since I was 16 — all I'd ever known was life in an office," she said. "I was ready to make my own decisions and create my own environment."
In addition — as a middle-aged woman— Bannister knew it was the time in her life to get serious about her own health. Her mother, who has since passed away, was severely bent over due to osteoporosis.
"In looking at my mother, that was the picture I held onto in my mind of how I would end up if I didn't stay healthy," she said. "I thought to myself, 'What can I do?'"
Turned off by large fitness centers dominated by young exercise fanatics, Bannister decided to merge two of her life goals: health and working for herself. In 2003, she opened the doors of Fast and Fit, a small Grass Valley women's gym with an exercise circuit program primarily using hydraulic resistance equipment. It didn't take long for likeminded women to find her — at last, they had found a refuge from the body builders and fitness bunnies of larger commercial gyms, she said.
The best part? They stayed.
"It's been almost 10 years and some of our ongoing members signed up the day I opened," said Bannister. "I think they appreciate the individual attention they get. They're not lost in a mass of people. When people walk through the door, they feel like they're home. It's a break from life — people leave happy and feeling supported. Although we're geared toward middle-aged women, members range in age from 13 to 89."
As time passed, Bannister began to add new features based on feedback from her members, and a personal trainer and nutritional counselor were brought onboard. Today, Fast and Fit has evolved into a fitness center that boasts small group classes, such as core training, "Shape Up" and "Stretch and Reflect," which is designed for women who sit at desks all day. She also added elliptical machines, a stationary bike, free weights, stability balls and more. Exercise programs are custom designed for each member, making the gym ideal for all fitness levels, Bannister said.
"Some women come in having not exercised in years — they can't get up from the floor," she said. "It's so rewarding to see them finally strong enough to get up. Balance is problem also as women get older and we teach women how to move."
A native of England, Bannister moved to the U.S. with her husband Richard, a professional photographer, while still in her 20s. With the rest of her family is still "across the pond," Bannister says she's found an extended family at Fast and Fit.
Member Carol Scofield agrees.
"The classes are a kick, just fun," she said. "The same people usually show up at the same time so it becomes a social event. Judi is a hoot — ask her to show you the queen's curtsy."
Scofield, who for many years referred to exercise as the dreaded "E-word," finally came to Fast and Fit due to a doctor's recommendation. Now she's beginning her third year as a member.
"I was experiencing a lot of pain due to scoliosis — I needed to do something," she continued. "Now I'm pretty close to pain-free. I can tell — if I don't go to the gym for several days I'm in trouble. I also keep going back because of the environment — it's way fun. It's not about who has the best body, it's about health and taking care of yourself. They want you to succeed. It's a great place for women who are afraid of exercise."
Personal trainer Joyce Scott says she is encouraged by the fact that members are always eager to learn more.
"But the best part is seeing the women who come in a bit shy and unsure of themselves," she said. "Then we all get to watch them blossum — it's magical."
"The most rewarding part of owning Fast and Fit is seeing the change in people — seeing the physical difference and seeing them confident in their bodies," she said. "You start to see a light in their eyes. They go from 'I can't do it' to 'yes, I can.'"
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