December 6, 2007

E-Fitness Sets Sights on Health

By Kat Bergeron, The Sun Herald, Biloxi, Miss.

Dec. 6--e-Fitness & Wellness is located in the rapidly developing Cedar-Popp's area near Interstate 10 in Biloxi, with easy access from much of the Mississippi Coast. The large complex includes seven pools, from an indoor cold-dip pool for muscle therapy to an outdoor family pool that is part of melding fun with physical activity.

At a Saturday membership party, those who have signed up before doors officially open will see 160 pieces of state-of-the art exercise equipment for cardio and muscle-strengthening workouts, locker-filled rooms near the co-ed sauna and steam rooms and an overall open layout in the 175,000-square-foot complex that allows viewing many activities at the same time, including two places to eat and socialize.

Some features won't be in place. Yet to come will be the Nirodha Spa, offering massage therapy, hair and skin care and other spa amenities for men and women. Within a few months, the center hopes to have Lanier Gymnastics and Gulf Coast School of Dance, both called e-ffiliates.

"Wellness is no longer a luxury. It's a necessity," said Brian Picou, who wears two hats as e-Fitness wellness director and executive director of the Mississippi Wellness Foundation, and who also has a master's in exercise physiology.

"Mississippi has the highest risk factor population in the country, and we intend to educate and enlighten the population about accountability for their own health. This center shows how socialization and entertainment are tied to the industry of fitness and wellness. People haven't made the connection yet, but they will."

The staff of 75, many part-time specialists, is particularly excited about a partnership with the Parisi Speed School, an internationally recognized program for sports training that helps hone the potential of young athletes. There are also a spinning bike room and two racquet ball courts.

A rubberized indoor walking-jogging track encircles much of the exercise equipment, some of which includes TV screens and audio for watching shows or keeping an eye on your child in the Wee Kids child-care program.

Part-time and drop-in day care is available to members, the theory being parents won't have the excuse of no time away from the kids to exercise.

The day care is within the 20,000-square-foot e-Kids, described as a medically directed children's center with a goal of preventing childhood obesity and promoting healthy lifetime habits. Indoor rock climbing, gymnastics, an outdoor playground, birthday-party sites, swim lessons and strength training are presented as fun ways to achieve those goals.

Adults might prefer the poolside Marlin-Murphs cabana, an outdoor bar and grill as inviting as in any private club. Or they can eat a healthy daily special in The eatery, such things as jambalaya with turkey sausage, as they watch a sports game.

The e-Seniors program includes a monthly luncheon; nutrition and cooking classes; and such physical and social activities as water volleyball, walk and dance classes. The e-staff believes the healthy cooking demonstrated by celebrity chefs in a stadium-like auditorium will appeal to all ages.

Even before opening, the center has signed up 2,500 members and hopes to reach at least 5,000. Membership is $49.95 a month per person, with lower rates for each added family member. Corporate discounts are available and seniors, teachers, military and first responders have reduced fees.

Picou said e-Fitness chose month-by-month fees instead of annual or two-year contracts because too many potential members have faced bad experiences with unused gym fees.

"People will want to come back here," Picou said.

Membership allows use of facilities, including the extensive exercise equipment and group exercise classes, such as yoga and aerobics. The use of personal trainers, the dietician and spa services are extra. Membership includes two hours of drop-in service a day, but fee programs allow for more hours and program involvement.

Members have the option of having their fitness programs medically directed (for an extra fee) or minimally supervised. Fitness consultants will be available for questions about proper use of equipment. One room, a "techno-gym" will even track by computer your exercise progress for $15 month.

e-Fitness Executive Director Ken Kachtick believes the secret to success will be the openness of the layout. While on a treadmill, people can watch the pools or an exercise class. The buildings that comprise the complex are large and open, a feeling enhanced by numerous glass walls.


About e-Fitness

What: The stated mission of e-Fitness & Wellness is "to provide the optimum combination of enlightened wellness facilities and highly qualified staff with premium service and convenience at an affordable rate."

Where: 1735 Richard Drive, Biloxi (from Popp's Ferry, turn south onto Cedar Lake then right on Richard; from Cedar Lake after getting off I-10 exit 44, go straight at Popp's Ferry, then right on Richard.)

Hours: Monday-Friday, 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (These hours begin once the facility is officially opened. The staff expects that to be no later than Dec. 15.)

Tours and membership: Business office hours are currently Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Membership fees: Monthly dues $49.95 a person, with second family member $39.95, third $20, fourth $15. Special seniors, military, fire, police and teacher monthly fees are $39.95. There is an initiation fee, currently discounted. (Memberships for Nirodha Spa will be available once it opens early in 2008.)

About Saturday's membership party: 5 to 8 p.m., members welcome.

Details: 396-3200;


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Copyright (c) 2007, The Sun Herald, Biloxi, Miss.

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