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New fitness center fit for kings, queens

Art of Fitness offers several exercise systems, including Pilates to help relieve pain from injury and illness.

Published April 19, 2004

LARGO - A wakeboarding accident four years ago sent Marilyn Landry to the hospital for back surgery. When she returned to work as a trial lawyer, her back was in constant pain.

Nothing helped until she tried Pilates exercises, which begins with building strength in the abdominal muscles and muscles that surround and support the spine.

"It stopped the pain in my back," she said. "It really transformed me." Impressed, she began studying the Pilates method and gave some thought to teaching it to other people in pain from injuries. With the exercise, "symptoms diminish. I'm a perfect example of this."

Encouraged by her family, Landry, 53, gave up her law practice in New Orleans last year and bought a fitness center, Body Balance, in Clearwater. She and her husband and two sons have lived here since 1984 and she commuted to her job in New Orleans for 19 of the 20 years she practiced law. "It was time to move on to something less stressful," she said.

Three months ago, Landry expanded her business and moved into the Village on the Lake at 556 Clearwater-Largo Road along Largo's redevelopment corridor. She built a dance floor and brought in equipment for Pilates training and Gyrotonics, a workout system that is based on yoga, dance, swimming and gymnastics and uses hand and foot operated wheelbases and suspended pulleys to create resistance. Both Pilates and Gyrotonics aim to create a harmoniously functioning body.

Landry invested $100,000 to move her fitness center to a 1,700-square-foot space in the Village center and renamed it Art of Fitness.

The dance floor is used for ballet, tap and jazz fusion classes that Landry teaches. Belly dancing is taught by another instructor. Landry, who studied ballroom dancing with Marge and Gower Champion and moved on to classical ballet, danced with the Boston Ballet Company after college and the National Dance Theater of Jamaica during a stint in the Peace Corps.

Belinda Glover of Belleair Bluffs said the only exercise she ever got was walking in her neighborhood and on a treadmill, because gyms intimidated her. When Landry, her neighbor, opened her first fitness center in Clearwater, she decided to try Pilates.

In a matter of weeks there was "a dramatic change in my body," she said. When Landry moved to Largo, Glover enrolled in classes there.

"I have osteoarthritis in my spine," said Glover, 50. "My doctor tried to get me to take a bone supplement, but it made me sick." The classes, she said, were her "last alternative."

"I'm a big gardener and when squatting down doing weeding and planting, my back would be so bad I couldn't get back up," she said. "Now I can go out there and do my thing without any problems, my back is so much stronger. I have so much more energy."

Anita Solar of Largo, who has exercised all her life, said Pilates has become her passion. "I've done all kinds of exercise programs," she said, "but none of them got to me." She goes twice a week for Pilates exercises with a personal trainer.

"It blows my mind open in the morning and I feel wonderful," said Solar, who owned discount stores before retiring and now invests in real estate. "Not only that, I have lost inches. I have firmed up and my posture is good. It gives you a whole new attitude."

Sally Stubbs, a Dunedin resident and triathlete, said her fiance got her interested in working out at Art of Fitness, where he exercises. The 42-year-old corporate counsel for Market Street Mortgage said her overall body strength has improved. "The results were more immediate, more dramatic," she said, than with other training programs she has done over the years.

Art of Fitness classes range from $15 a session to $100 for 10 sessions. Pilates with a personal trainer ranges from 25 minutes for $35 to 10 sessions at 55 minutes each for $500. Five 55-minute sessions on the Gyrotonics equipment is $275.


Art of Fitness

Clearwater-Largo Road, Largo

- Offers Pilates, personal training, ballet, tap dancing, belly dancing, massage therapy. Gyrotonics is slated to be offered next month.

- Five full-time trainers/instructors. Other teachers/trainers brought in for specialty classes.

- "I'm looking so good in my clothes. I'm not a youngster, but the energy I have and the moves I do - you'd never believe how old I am." Anita Solar, Pilates student.

[Last modified April 19, 2004, 01:05:27]

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