A life of exercise

KAPAHI — Kauai Athletic Club plans to open its new Kapahi location with a soft opening for members on Nov. 1 at 5633 Kawaihau Road, with a grand opening later.

The two-story, 11,950-square-foot fitness center is a converted former hardware store with $669, 200 in improvements. Management is crediting a partnership of building owner, tenant and contractors along with financing through the Bank of Hawaii.

KAC opened its Nawiliwili location three years ago and a growing membership prompted the search for a site on the east side of the island.

“We spent over a year researching locations for this particular gym,” said KAC co-owner Josh Nations. “We considered everything from the old Coconut Marketplace to the old Blockbuster, and the Children of the Land Center in the Safeway Kauai Village Shopping Center.”

The Smith family owns the building and installed new wastewater, HVAC, and a photovoltaic energy system to make it walk-in ready. The infrastructure made the project possible, Nations said.

“It was a true partnership,” he added.

Kaleo Smith, spokesperson for the Smith Family building owners, said KAC is the perfect fit for the building, in a dense residential area and nearby high school. The project was slow to start but he said the KAC team moved it forward.

“I think that this will be good for the community for sure,” Smith said. “This is a healthy product.”

Nations said it is preferable to build from the ground up, but Kauai presents limited space and its best to work with existing structures. Their Mainland gyms are in business areas, while the Kauai plan needed to be conveniently centered in a residential area where people can walk and bike from home.

“We want more people to use it by making exercise more a part of their lives,” Nations said.

KAC put in new flooring, equipment and other upgrades. There are private showers, storage lockers, and the women’s room is equipped with private changing booths.

Facility manager Billy Swain is an Anahola native who once served as both a state representative and a county councilmember. Now age 58, the local musician said its important to choose the jobs that make us wake up happy to go work.

Swain worked out at the original KAC site for over 20 years and started working for the new owners when the Nawiliwili facility opened.

“I love it,” Swain said. “It’s always been a part of my life for 40 years.”

Nations said Swain is a good employee with a strong history in fitness.

“Billy knows how to manage people and he knows how to deal with situations,” he added.

There are two full-time managers and 12 part-time employees at the new location. There are also 20 instructors and five personal trainers who provide yoga, strength conditioning, tai chi, zumba classes, Les Mills exercise programs,  multimodel classes, physical therapy and more.

The trainers share their passion and skill with groups, Nations said. It is important to have independent instructors providing time at a centralized facility.

“It is important to have programming,” Nations said. “We provide a venue for trainers and instructors to do their thing.”

The classrooms are a vital space to motivate people who want to work out alongside friends with an instructor. Music and group programing is very important to the club.

“We have a motto that we have a workout for everyone here and so there is a class for everyone regardless of how you like to workout,” Nations said.

The cardio equipment includes four types of elliptical machines, two styles of treadmills, upright bikes, rowers, step mills, steppers and Jacob’s ladders. They sit in front of 60-inch TV screens to watch while working out.

The Expresso bike simulates a street or racing bike experience and the pedaling adjusts itself to match the terrain on the screen. The rider can race online around the world and all the statistics can be downloaded to store races and rankings.

“They can hook up their iPad and download the workout into an app,” Swain added.

“It simulates the experience of riding the most popular routes around the world,” Nations said. “It is a very popular virtual experience and people in the cycling classes come back to ride the Expresso bike on their own.”

The updated circuit machines include plate-loaded Hammer Strength weights. The isometric motion allows more focus on specific points to fully develop major muscles.

There are also an array of cable machines, Olympic benches and free weights.

Open space is available for non-machine based equipment such as medicine balls, ropes, and all the exercises that require running and leaping.

As a neighborhood facility, KAC plans created a “Green Room” lounge to relax or use WiFi before or after workouts. There will also be a juice bar in the front.

A child care program is in the works. When classes are not going on, KAC plans to offer floor space to martial arts, community dance and non exercise groups.

“We would love to donate space for free to groups doing worthwhile cultural things,” Nations said. “We want them to have room to use in their own backyard and that is incumbent on us as our responsibility to the community.”

It’s all part of the effort to combat the national obesity epidemic and health crisis, Nations said. The KAC goal is to get the entire island exercising, whether that is outdoors or indoors, with equipment or not, it is just that important.

Opening specials include the “Commit to be Fit” membership plan with no initiation fees. The memberships are cheaper, but they offer a month-to-month plan.

There are also special rates for students, seniors and Weight Watcher’s members that take part in the “Exercise 101” class.

A section of the property is still available to lease. Nations said this is an ideal opportunity for a health-related retail that would work with the gym.

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