December 09, 2013It's tempting to say the Pala Fitness Center is little known and under-appreciated.
In truth, this 8,000-square foot facility near Highway 76 deserves more recognition, and there is no doubt that current users, although small in number, appreciate it very much.
The only obvious shortcoming, in the view of this writer, is finding the facility. You must exit north off Highway 76 near the Pala casino and onto the frontage road, called Pala Mission Road, which is less than a mile long. The center is a quarter-mile east of the exit that sends you north on Pechanga Parkway toward Temecula.
From the frontage road visitors will first spot the softball field, or the skate park, then well back on the property is the fitness center about 100 yards from a Wells-Fargo Bank, which is a very short distance from a large swimming pool.
If you say gyms are essentially all the same, you would be wrong in this case. Before entering the spacious facility you pass the swimming pool that is heated year-round, a children's playground, and a walking track. These are included in the membership. The sports field usage is separate through the recreation division, but rental time is possible. There also is a skateboard park available for a fee.
On the inside of the gym itself there are 48 workout machines, weights of all sizes and shapes, a full-size basketball court, locker rooms with showers, space for a game of volleyball, classes that are free and instructors who will plan a workout program for you — all are free of charge.
Classes range from chair aerobics to circuit training to mixed martial arts, including jiujitsu.
The hours of operation are 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekends. This is 97 hours the doors are open. There is ample staff present at all times and there are trained fitness personnel available to service your needs, which means you don't need to experiment on machines without knowing how best to use them, or how best to reach your workout goals, including your limitations. Lots of posters help with instruction, too.
Adults must accompany anyone age 15 and under when working out. One can exercise in private or with help from an instructor. There is rarely any waiting time. There are five television sets plus piped-in music. Or you can shoot baskets inside, walk a track inside the gym, or go outside to take a different track that offers you a mountain backdrop.
Lots of seniors, including those with minimal handicaps, partake in the Thursday chair aerobics class, including this writer, or the Tuesday class (both one hour) which combines chair aerobics with use of machines. The seniors go at their own pace, work to responsible limits of their ability and yet follow a clearly defined routine by chief instructor Bruce Guachino.
Men and women compete in the same class, do the same routines. Doing aerobics mostly from a chair sounds like a piece of cake. It isn't. It's challenging for the geriatric set and you'll know you had a brisk and meaningful workout. It's done with music, too, including the softer, soothing kind when it is cool down time the last 5 minutes.
The best part is there is no Sticker Shock. Price to join is $25 per month, a bargain. There is a one-time administration fee of $25, although as a promotion this charge has been waved for the month of December by visiting the site or calling 760-891-3504. Those joining must do so for a 6-month minimum. This means $150 up front; however, you can go for a ''test drive'' before making a decision.
The center offers anyone a one-day free pass to try the equipment, discuss workout plans, check the class schedules, etc. before making a decision. Potential members are not out on a limb here. Staff will spend time showing them the benefits of joining. There is no hard sell. The gym operates more as a service than as a for-profit business.
The gym is not in a city. It is in the community of Pala on Highway 76 and run by the Pala Band of Mission Indians. It is near but not attached to the busy Pala casino, so parking is no problem.
P.S. The column space filled by this writer in the Roadrunner ends as of today after two months of enjoyable musings following a 29-year absence from writing for a daily newspaper.