Physical Fitness is More than Just the Workout Equipment

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — When women join BarBelles, a fitness center in Poland, it becomes a second home to them, says owner Erin Markovicz. 

Markovicz has always exercised, and when she perceived heavier people being mistreated at a fitness center she once attended, she was motivated to create a place that would motivate all women regardless of size. “We want women to feel comfortable here,” she says. “Women of all ages.”

Markovicz opened BarBelles in 2016.

A Star Trac treadmill, recumbent and spinning bicycles, Precor ellipticals, Rogue boxes, Concept rowing machines, kettlebells, lifting machines and free weights are among the equipment found within BarBelles’ pink, 1950s-style interior.

“A lot of the computerized equipment breaks down a lot,” Markovicz says. “[For] my newer equipment, I have the repair guy come in a lot more often, so I like the old school equipment better.”

When Markovicz or her clients use the Trotter treadmill from 1994, their feet feel much better and they get better results, she says. 

Markovicz offers boot camp classes where women learn how to use all of the equipment. 

“Every class is different. I have all kinds of different exercises. So as you go through a boot camp, people feel more comfortable and they can do stuff on their own,” Markovicz says. “I have a group of women who love coming to class and they push themselves more in a group setting.” 

The first class in the three-month boot camp program is always free, Markovicz says. Women who go through the camp track their weight and measurements, and receive help to keep track of calories.

Although Markovicz is not certified in nutrition, she still makes recommendations to promote health and wellness to her members. She keeps an open mind and does not push supplements, she says. Her recommendations include consuming organic food and carefully reading product labels for calories, ingredients and fats. 

“Everybody is different. So I try to accommodate that,” Markovicz says. “I just want them to become more healthy.” 

While the BarBelles owner prefers older equipment, the YMCA of Youngstown continually invests in new equipment and generational updates, says Meri Fetkovich, senior health and wellness director at Central Branch. In today’s fitness industry, niche equipment is available such as rowers and glute-hamstring machines, she notes.

YMCA membership numbers ended 2019 ahead of 2018, and the staff keeps the equipment set up correctly so everyone can use it, Fetkovich says, regardless of their ability. 

“Especially on the free weights or machine weights,” Fetkovich explains, “you want to make sure you are properly aligned, that you’re seated right and that you don’t end up causing an injury.” 

Most of the technological advances in fitness equipment deals with tracking heart rate and counting steps from a cellphone, Fetkovich says. On the YMCA’s spin bikes, people can track speed and the distance they’ve biked. The stair machines at the Y seem to be the most popular, she observes. 

“It’s a very popular piece of equipment for cardio,” Fetkovich says of the stair machine. “They’re very challenging and are our most-used here and then, of course, the treadmills, ellipticals and bikes. There’s something that everybody does like to do. So it’s about working with the individual.” 

For Jamie Flynn, a head coach at Orangetheory Fitness in Boardman, the fitness industry has been a part of her life for 10 years. Until she started working for Orangetheory, Flynn was a personal trainer in Pittsburgh for three fitness companies, traveling to clients’ homes for training, she says. 

“The place that I did a lot of training for – I got an email one day saying that my pay was cut by 30% with no real reason behind it,” Flynn says. “I went into a panic. I went home to my husband and said, ‘I can’t work for this.’ ” 

When Orangetheory’s studio in Pittsburgh opened, Flynn went for an audition, which was a different experience for her, she says.

“I never had to go on a microphone and audition, and go through a lengthy training,” Flynn says. “I said, ‘I’ve been doing this for a while; I’m going to see if I’m good.’ It pushed me to do better.” 

Flynn returned to Youngstown to be closer to home, she says.

The Orangetheory fitness center, which opened a year ago in Boardman, is on the cusp of 400 members. With a template designed by a corporate team, certified coaches are not making up workouts on the fly, Flynn says. It is not an open fitness center, so members come in specifically for their hour-long classes, which can include treadmills, water rowers or the weight floor. 

The weight floor at Orangetheory comprises dumbbells, Bosu balls, body-weight exercises, mini bands, benches and TRX straps. Each class can have as many as 36 people, Flynn says.

“Orangetheory works for all different fitness levels,” she says. “On the treadmill, we go by base pace, push pace and all-out pace. We have people who are power walking in here and people who are running.” 

The water rowers are low impact and when members come in for their first class, a coach guides them step by step, Flynn says. Many people think rowing is just upper body because they can observe the pulling motion they need to do, but it’s a leg-driven exercise, she explains. 

While the water rowers can be intimidating and challenging at first, it’s still easy on the joints and people love to take up the challenge, Flynn says. 

“Being able to be a huge part of someone’s day just for an hour is pretty rewarding. It’s the best full-body workout across the nation,” she says. “So even though you’re physically demanded, it’s still an emotional journey.” 

Pictured: In 2016, Erin Markovicz opened BarBelles in Poland to create a fitness center where all women can feel comfortable and empower each other, she says. She teaches newcomers how to properly use the equipment. 

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.