When many people hear “health club,” they might be inclined to think “discretionary spending,” or “disposable income.” It is true that for some regular health club attendees, a membership can be somewhat of a luxury, but for many others it’s a matter of life and death.
I tracked down Terry Ciaschi, a longtime friend and one of the people involved in bringing Island Health & Fitness from concept to reality. Terry has worked at IH&F since its opening in 2006, and he told me, “We are still functioning in some capacities. Our Cardiac Rehab, Sports Medicine, Cardiology and Physical Therapy operations are up and running, and of course, everyone is wearing masks and following all the safety protocols.” He added, “We’re trying to do the right thing in terms of everyone’s safety, with all our sanitation efforts. We know how important it is to be there for those that need it the most.”
Ciaschi observes this time of change through an additional lens, given he was in the restaurant business for 30 years running The Station Restaurant, and he knows that many businesses will have to make some tough decisions on the other side of this.
“I remember coming out of the winter with a stack of bills, knowing that the graduation and prom season would get us caught up,” he offered. “Many business owners will need to make some big changes.”
He has already received several emails from members explaining that they might not be able to continue, and he hopes to find ways to work with members to maintain the relationships, both business and personal.
While Ciaschi is very eager to get back to some semblance of “normal,” he is impressed with (IH&F’s parent company) Cayuga Medical Center’s early and disciplined response. “CMC has been right on top of it with their remote testing and other measures” Terry stated. “I understand that we got an “A” rating, and that’s a very positive thing.”
Kelly Chase, the Assistant General Manager at IH&F, is also an Exercise Physiologist who understands how important it is for some people to be able to continue to work out. She told me,
“We are doing a lot of online programs, and we have our own YouTube channel.” She continued, “We provide fitness tips, mental health and all around health and wellness tips from our own instructors, as we like to make it personalized. We are offering programs for members and their families, and we are using our membership database to connect with national programs.”
Chase went on to say, “We are setting up affordable virtual training sessions and Zoom classes to keep members active and to keep our staff employed, and we’re trying to keep our brand on it and keep our people engaged.”
In Kelly’s words, “We are also trying to give members stuff to do at home, using the equipment they have or doing things using their own body weight.” Ever the optimist, she added, “I think people will re-engage when this passes. I believe they really miss the camaraderie, and I know that we miss them.”
Longtime Ithacans are likely to agree that the Ithaca Fitness Center was also The Center of the Fitness Universe in the 1980s and 1990s. That place surely featured an eclectic cast of characters, and front and center among them was Barb Chatham, who passed on last weekend at the age of 87. Barb ran her own sales enterprise at IFC, and she outfitted members with all manner of workout gear (including the leotards, leg warmers and headbands that defined the era).
After IFC closed, Barb was a reliable volunteer for the Cops, Kids and Toys motorcycle ride, and she did that as long as she was able. I wrote in this column that Barb was welcome to saddle up with me for the ride, and she politely, but firmly, declined.
After she lost her husband of many years, Doyle Chatham, she rekindled a romance with a Southern gentleman named Bill she had known as a young lady in South Carolina, and the two could be seen around town for the past several years. When Barb found love again, she also reinvented herself along with her wardrobe, and she and Bill looked and acted like two young people in love. Barb was feisty and classy, and I will miss her a lot.