A Tower of Strength

Ironworks Gym in Point Edwards, Ontario

By Shay Bapple

When success was looking like a thing of the past for Ironworks Gym in Point Edwards, Ontario, drastic change was needed to ensure the business' survival. Then the so-called "fountain of youth" was discovered for the gym, creating a new beginning and revival with the simple introduction of Ontario's elderly community.

When Cam Davies bought Ironworks in 1992, the gym had a prototypical "muscle-head" membership that emphasized bodybuilding and power lifting.

"I belonged to the gym since its opening in 1984 and was asked to buy it in 1991," Davies said. "I bought the club in 1992 when it was a place for a group of 235 people who focused strictly on weightlifting."

After three years of running Ironworks, Davies began running into issues that made him question whether he would be able to keep the facility up and running. He thought at the time that he was going to lose the business.

That is, until he began teaching strength training courses to senior citizens between 70 and 79 years old at an outside facility. Seeing promise in that program, Davies asked some of the students of the course to come over to Ironworks to continue their training. When half of the students agreed to try out the gym, the growth in the business quickly followed.

"We started educating seniors who had different health issues—anywhere from new hip and knee replacements to diabetes," Davies said. "Things really grew for us. We started doing community functions for seniors, hired personal trainers and built a rehab fitness program."

Ironworks has rehabilitation programs that include core training exercises that people of any age or ability can take part in, as well as ailment-specific exercises. Some of these exercises include stroke victims using balance training with stability balls and half-dome balls while the gym offers weightlifting programs for people confined to wheelchairs.

The rehabilitation program runs during the day. However, the 24-hour gym still attracts its original clientele, which consists of bodybuilders and athletes who come in at night to train.

Ironworks has a new facility that opened in December 2007, which further improves the quality of training for its elderly, disabled and able-bodied members. The new facility includes wheelchair-accessible washrooms, cable weight machines that members in wheelchairs can back their chair up to and use without getting out, free weights and numerous cardiovascular and aerobic exercise machines, and machines that allow for a possible 52,000 types of strength training exercises.

Ironworks currently boasts 1,400 members, half of whom are seniors, and six of whom are over 90 years old.

Two unique features in Ironworks' new facility include a NuStep leg stabilizer designed for people with disabilities and severe injuries, as well as SofSurfaces Duraflex flooring. The leg stabilizer machine is designed to neutralize the leg to keep from unnecessary loading of the joints and to reduce torque on the knee joint. The machine benefits members who suffer from stroke, brain injuries and limited mobility.

Ironworks utilizes Duraflex flooring in many parts of the gym, including on the walking track and in the aerobics room. The floor tiles consist of a hollow core that creates air space under the surface to create resilience, easing joint and muscle strain. This technology helps prevent injuries and is advantageous to Ironworks' elderly members, as well as the athletes who train there at night.

"The soft flooring works well for our aging population because it's easier on the joints—unlike being outside and training," Davies said. "It also helps the elite athletes that may bind up while working out."

Since introducing his training programs for the elderly and disabled members of the community, Davies said that he has discovered a market that keeps growing. But he added that knowing how to deal with different people's situations is crucial for being successful. He has worked hard to bridge the gap between physiotherapy and the gym.

"The idea all along was to develop programs that center around different disabilities," Davies explained. "Everybody can benefit from a good fitness program that is tailored for them. You have to really make sure you know how to deal and work with certain injuries."


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