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Not Your Typical Gym: Beaumont's Sola Life & Fitness Fills a Need

The medically-based fitness center offers a topnotch facility and a big dose of mindfulness.

Tall, verdant-green grasses, shiny black river rocks, tree-lined inland lakes and ocean hues … Sounds like all the makings of a scenery-filled spot at some vacation destination, right?

Rather, these inspiring elements adorn the walls and walkways at in Rochester Hills. Owned by Beaumont Hospitals, the facility opened eight weeks ago.

Members work out here, to be sure. But it likely doesn’t seem like typical workout drudgery for them as they lift and stretch their limbs, splash through a pool lane and pull up a seat at the counter of the chic cooking-demonstration kitchen. 

They jog or power-walk past huge murals of Milford’s Kensington Metropark and do the butterfly stroke beneath original artwork awash with peaceful, seaside hues (created by an artist who is a former Beaumont cancer patient). Striking tai chi poses, they take in large Ansel Adams-style nature photographs.

Mindfulness — being in the moment — is at the core of the center’s tranquil design and helps members focus solely on themselves and what they are doing for their bodies.

“We pay attention to our members in many ways, and the facility’s design is one of those ways,” said Debra LaRue, the center’s fitness director.

“People here want to make lifestyle changes through exercise, movement and nutrition and keep that going through the rest of their lives,” added the Rochester Hills resident.

What you probably won’t see at Sola, whose name comes from the Latin word sol, which means sun, are grunting body builders, women in scantily-clad work-out attire, mirrors galore and glares at members while they try to figure out how to adjust equipment.

That’s exactly why Cindy Giannini joined the center.

“In the past, I’ve joined different fitness clubs and have gotten all excited. I went a couple of times and then lost the desire,” said Giannini, who works for Beaumont Hospitals in Royal Oak and was one of the first to sign up for a membership.

“Sola really focuses on different age groups, and not just a younger crowd. After the initial evaluation, you stay connected and the staff seems to really want to help us and the quality of our lives.”       

Member John Arcori of Rochester Hills couldn’t agree more. The real estate professional has been a member for seven weeks.

“It’s new, clean, and the staff is fabulous,” he said. “The facility is overwhelmingly great. They haven’t missed a trick and have every type of equipment you can imagine.”

Fitness Programs Manager Lucy Sternburgh, who previously worked at Beaumont Hospital’s cardiac rehabilitation facility in Royal Oak, brings with her a wealth of knowledge when it comes to Sola’s various programs. Sternburgh, who lives in Rochester Hills, is certified by the American College of Sports Medicine as a registered clinical exercise physiologist, clinical exercise and health fitness specialist and inclusive fitness trainer.

From yoga and tai chi to nutrition and spinning classes, a plethora of wellness options await members.   

Medically-based fitness centers growing

Beaumont worked with Grand Rapids-based Health Integration Partners, LLC (HIP), to create the facility.

“It’s a growing trend for hospitals to open fitness centers,” says Curt Meyer, principal of HIP, which has opened 30 medically-based fitness center across the country. “There’s about a 15 percent growth rate annually for these types of centers nationwide.”   

Meyer attributes the growth in part to members wanting a less intimidating atmosphere.

“Those who know they need to be healthy and stay healthy are more comfortable at these medically based centers,” he said.

 Lay of the land

A walking and running track circles the main workout areas, which include two cardio areas, a stretching area, fitness testing room, personal-training rooms, free-weight area and more. Aerobics, Zumba and spinning rooms round out the offerings.  

“Spinning is very popular here, so we have 16 bikes,” said LaRue, who was most recently vice president of Home Health Care for Beaumont.

A large gym with a basketball hoop and areas for volleyball and more also await members, along with a lap pool and water therapy area.

Near the front entrance, patrons enjoy a small juice bar and pro shop, along with a nice sitting area. Beyond is a colorful play space for kids.

“We watch members’ children for up to two hours at a time while they work out,” explained LaRue.

Of the 98,000 square feet of space, 40,000 are taken up by the fitness center; other departments fill the rest of the space. All of the departments are part of Beaumont Hospitals. They include areas for physical therapy, orthopedics, integrative medicine, massage, reiki, acupuncture and more. An imaging area is scheduled to open sometime this summer.

A number of physicians also will be on-site, including a spine surgeon and others.

“They’ll be able to work with their patients right in the fitness areas,” said LaRue, "and possibly refer them to Sola before or after surgery. It’s hoped that we can prevent a surgery by developing core strength.”

Transitional programs also are popular at Sola for those who have been discharged from a health rehabilitative facility.

“People learn after ending their rehab that they really need to continue what they were doing there for the long term, for the rest of their lives,” said LaRue, who is passionate about her job. “I was a sedentary administrator before this,” she said with a smile, “so you can imagine how much I love working here.”

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