Gym Login

A health club in the US is being transformed into a world-class facility for people living with a spinal cord injury. Ray Algar reports.

Mike Alpert’s early career was as a Californian stockbroker with Shearson Lehman Brothers, but it was a move to Oregon that profoundly changed his life. He had been drawn to Oregon for the winter skiing, but soon after arriving decided with a close friend to create The Athletic Club of Bend, a new multi-use athletic, aquatic, tennis and social club. One programme they started was for children with severe physically disabilities called ‘US Able Oregon’ and Mike began twice-weekly warm water pool sessions with a 5-year-old boy living with severe spina bifida. Alpert was always struck by the joy these sessions brought to a boy who would never walk again and asked himself why the club was not doing more programmes like this. “I became somewhat obsessed with wanting to do more of these kinds of things. That 5-year-old boy changed my life and gave me meaning” Alpert says.

Alpert eventually returned to California where since 1997 he has been the president and CEO of The Claremont Club. Founded in 1973, the health club, fitness and wellness centre nestles in seven and a half hectares (19 acres) in the city of Claremont, around 52 kilometres east of downtown Los Angeles where it serves more than 10,000 members. The inclusive operating philosophy that Alpert embedded in his earlier Oregon club is evident here, which is why this year it was the recipient of IHRSA’s Outstanding Community Service Award. Each year, IHRSA selects one club making a difference in, and beyond, their community.

Living Well After Cancer Programme

“I feel like I am trying to run away from my cancer when I am on the treadmill” says Linda Johnson, a The Claremont Club member. Johnson used to describe herself as a ‘professional couch potato’ but that was before she enrolled onto the club’s ‘Living Well After Cancer Programme – private donations enable the programme to be delivered without charge. The programme is a collaboration between The Claremont Club and Pomona Valley Hospital’s cancer care centre where over 13 weeks men and women take part in fitness conditioning, nutrition workshops and support group meetings. 790 people (at June 2016) have now completed the programme, who experience higher self-esteem, become fitter and report their quality of life has been enriched. Due to its popularity, the club now offers a free one-year programme for children and young adults living with cancer.

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