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Revamped Tucson J stresses myriad pathways to wellness

New treadmills in The J’s modernized sports and wellness center look out at the Tucson Mountains.

After several years of planning and fundraising and more than nine months of construction, the Tucson Jewish Community Center will hold the official grand opening of its new 15,000-square-foot sports and wellness center on Sunday, March 29, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The day will start with a ribbon cutting ceremony and feature free fitness classes, membership discounts, raffles and giveaways.

The $4.1 million fitness center remodel is phase one of an overall expansion and renovation of the Tucson J. Phases still to be completed as fundraising is finalized, says Todd Rockoff, president and CEO of The J, include enlarging the special needs and early childhood education program areas and expanding the Heritage Center into the sculpture garden.

Much of the fitness center revamp, which includes updated locker rooms and a remodeled Café at the J, was in place by the end of 2014. The modernization has already resulted in a significant boost in membership, which had been dropping, says Rockoff.

The new cardio room faces south with a view of the Tucson Mountains “that’s just absolutely gorgeous,” he says. The exercise machines, from treadmills and bikes to elliptical and arc trainers to a new TRX rig, are on a three-year lease so The J can continually acquire new, cutting edge equipment.

The remodel also expands on “the philosophy that wellness is more than just working out,” says Rockoff. While physical fitness and nutrition are important, he says, there’s a total of 14 distinct aspects to wellness, including emotional, intellectual, artistic and spiritual.

Linking this philosophy to the Torah portion read on Feb. 21, Rockoff explains that we learn “that the beauty of the Mishkan that was built was that it was not in any one physical space, but it was really any space that you bring it. It’s the quality of what happens within that space that matters.”

Expanding on the many components of wellness, Rockoff notes that The J’s relationship with the Weintraub Israel Center continues to grow, and the J will take a staff mission to Israel in November. “The goal of that is to really help our team connect our mission to our practice,” he says.

Happenings at The J include an abundance of group exercise classes, programs such as Elder Rehab (for people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s or other dementias), specialty classes such as “Stress Reduction — The Science of Breath” and free lectures provided by Banner -University Medical Center Tucson and other community partners. The J also is teaming up with Tucson Medical Center on nutrition programs, says Rockoff, and programs such as Girls on the Run, part of a national effort that helps girls in third through fifth grades develop self-respect and healthy lifestyles.

This fall, The J held its first Family Wellness Expo featuring exhibitors from throughout Pima County. The second annual event will be held Oct. 18.

As part of an emphasis on family wellness, on April 19, The J will host a family triathlon in partnership with TMC (see http://www.tucsonjcc.org/sports/com munity-outreach/tucson-family-triathlon/). The event will be non-competitive, for children ages 3 and up and their adult mentors, explains Susan Frank, director of health and wellness for The J. She shares responsibility for the sports and wellness department with Luke Avants, director of sports and recreation, who oversees swimming, tennis and adult and youth sports leagues.

On Aug. 16, The J will be the venue for a USA Triathlon-sanctioned “Splash & Dash” for ages 7-15. The swim and run event (no biking) is a competitive event, with different distances for ages 7-10 and 11-15.

The J is offering new personal training options, says Frank. Members can choose one-on-one training;  small groups of three to four people, which are less expensive and provide both group support and individualized attention; or template training to follow on one’s own after initial assessment and demonstration sessions, with periodic trainer check-ins.

Nutrition consulting also will be offered in both one-on-one and group settings, she says.

There are many pathways to a higher level of fitness, says Frank, whether it’s yoga, weight training, sports or other activities, and a community center offers them all. “Our perspective is that if you are doing something you love and you are moving your body, your passion for that activity becomes something sustainable that can be a practice for life.”

The J offers so much beyond the gym, she notes, from the art gallery to the café to the pool, with programs for every age range, from kids to seniors.

Former members who have returned to The J since the renovation “are thrilled,” says Rockoff.

“We are very happy to be back at The J because my kids missed having a place to go and hang out and just feel at home,” says April Glesinger, who recently rejoined with her husband, Jeff and children, a daughter age 4 and two sons, ages 7 and 11.  “My older ones are playing basketball” and the 7-year-old has starting swimming and hopes to join the Stingrays swim team.  “The locker rooms are gorgeous,” she notes, adding that her sons “are in love with that frozen yogurt machine in the café,” even offering to spend their allowances on the treat.

The J hopes to start the special needs/early childhood addition — a second story that will be built above the current ECE space — during the summer and finish by the end of 2015, says Rockoff. It will include an indoor playground and a teaching kitchen. The added space will let the Taglit day program for young adults with special needs expand from 25 to around 40 people, and it will also “allow us to grow camp a little bit.”

The Heritage Center expansion will be undertaken simultaneously or soon after the special needs addition, Rockoff says. “Through this whole construction project, I cannot say enough about our construction committee that was headed by Bill Viner and included Steve Shenitzer, Fred Steiniger, Ken Goodman, Randy Emerson, Ken Light, Barney Holtzman, Tom Warne and Dale Green, our building services director. They were just amazing.”

The special needs expansion ties in with a special needs assessment The J is conducting, funded by a Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona/Jewish Community Foundation grant, says Rockoff, who emphasizes that The J is always open to feedback.

“We really want people to help us know what they want from The J and we want be there to help provide it. It’s not that we just want to sell memberships. We actually want to build relationships. Membership is a piece of that, but it’s really about working together to serve our community in that total spectrum of wellness.”