New women-only fitness center bright spot in Codman Square

Brilliant yellow and orange walls welcome new registrants to the front desk of Healthworks in the Codman Square Health Center, a new women-only fitness center that offers more than just a workout session.

Scheduled to open in October, the club is a result of a partnership between the non-profit Healthworks Fitness Centers and Codman Square Health Center. A similar operation is already in place at St. Mary's Women and Children Center in Upham's Corner.

A woman-only center is a "big plus" because women feel self-conscious working out in front of men, said local health maven Rosanne Foley, who registered early. "Men also tend to be competitive while exercising."

The new 9,000 square foot facility includes a fitness club, youth center, kitchen and childcare room. During an open house women can participate in sample cardio and strength classes and explore the facilities.

"The goal is to make it affordable and accessible for all," said Doreen Treacy, director of DotWell's CivicHealth Institute. "As women in this community, we are exposed to a lot of violence-domestic or on the streets. We wanted to create a facility where we can feel safe to workout."

Behind the registration desk sit lines of cardio and strength equipment. Two studios in the rear of the center will be used for group fitness classes, spinning, yoga, and Zumba - a fitness routine based on Latin dance and music. Regular workshops on health, nutrition and wellness are also promised.

Membership fees for the fitness center are based on a sliding scale. Subsidized rates are based on federal poverty guidelines, which are released each year by the Department of Health and Human Services.

"With the current economy, it is easy to make an excuse for not going to gym," said Marilyn Forman, who came to register during the ongoing open house. "The cost is absolutely attractive - fits right into my budget."

Women with chronic illnesses such as hypertension, diabetes and obesity, and with a prescription from Codman Health Center and Dorchester House Multi-Service Center are eligible for a three-month free membership.

Separated by glass walls on the left of the main fitness hall is a 2,500 square feet youth center that includes an Xerdance, a wall-sized interactive game. A light-up sports wall keeps score while children exercise, keeping up with music and dance steps.

"The youth center is free and existing youth groups and schools can participate," said Bill Walczak, CEO of Codman Square Health Center. Through a partnership request form, organizations can schedule fitness sessions and educational workshops.

To the right of the registration desk is a childcare room. Members can call in advance to use the childcare facility while working out. Initially the childcare room will be available for limited hours and will be increased according to need, said Walczak.

A yet-to-be-furnished kitchen space also sits in the main hall of the fitness club. "In the kitchen women can learn healthy recipes and cook for fun," Walczak said.

The $600,000 facility is owned by the Codman Square Health Center and Healthworks Foundation will provide equipment, staff and management.

"The colors are relaxing and the locker room is fabulous. I feel I am in a country club," said Virginia Bennett, who joined at the recommendation of Codman Square Health Center. "I have already started recommending it to others."