Space constraints haven’t held Hound Ears Club back from finding ways to provide creative and effective fitness solutions.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a Fitness Director who’s more on the move than Debra Critcher. In addition to the non-stop instructional energy that she brings to every class, session and workout that she leads (or conducts for herself), Critcher also splits her time between working at a local wellness center in Boone, N.C. and serving as part-time Fitness Director for Hound Ears Club, a 330-member property in that Appalachian town that takes its name from the rocks that stand up like beagle lobes on the top of the mountain behind its George Cobb-designed golf course.
Club Name & Location: Hound Ears Club, Boone, N.C.
Staying on the move is an especially good idea when pursuing fitness at Hound Ears, because there really isn’t much space for standing still. The club’s current fitness center, even after a recent renovation that created a small “floor work/stretching room” at the back, still measures just 1,200 square feet, and virtually every inch is packed with a wide variety of equipment.
“We have no space in the fitness center for any type of large class,” Critcher says. “Because we have to limit participation, we try to get creative in what we do, and where and how we do it—using the pool, for example, for water aerobics and an arthritis water class.”
The limits on space, however, certainly haven’t cramped Critcher’s development of programs that fit the needs of the Hound Ears community, where the average member age is in the upper 60s. “Stability ball classes and a golf fitness class that I developed are also proving to be very popular,” she reports. “I did a lot of study of what goes into the golf swing and made a series of exercises designed to work on four critical competencies: strength, core, balance and flexibility.”
Taking the time to study what’s needed, and then apply what’s learned, are just some of the attributes that have helped Critcher create growth in the fitness program (and in her own part-time hours) at Hound Ears. After starting at 10 hours a week five years ago, she’s now doubled that time. And in addition to an increasing workload for personal training sessions, she also helps, and encourages, members to set up their own workout regimens and take advantage of the 24/7 key fob entry now available for access to the club’s fitness center.
Lending Her Ear
Probably the most valuable attribute that Critcher brings to her duties, according to Don Vance, General Manager and Chief Operating Office of Hound Ears Club, is her ability to listen.
|Debra Critcher rarely stops moving in her role as Fitness Director for Hound Ears Club—but she’s always ready to stop and listen to what members want to tell her about their individual wellness goals and needs.|
“She’s the most talented Fitness Director who’s worked for me in my 40 years in club and resort management,” Vance says.”And her ability to listen and determine what people need, so she can really zero in on a true ‘wellness’ solution that fits each individual, is probably the biggest reason why I say that. She’s almost like a bartender, with her ability to get people to talk to her and feel comfortable in telling her what they’re feeling physically, and what they want to improve.”
Vance, who became Hound Ears’ new GM/COO earlier this year, sees no reason why fitness won’t continue to move forward as an important amenity for the club. “It’s definitely growing, and we are looking to find more space for it as we speak,” he says. “Probably the next step would be an addition [to the stand-alone fitness center building] so we could have larger aerobics classes. We will also be looking at finding space to offer massage therapy.
“The good news is, we still have 100 acres of undeveloped land here,” Vance notes. “We expect a lot of growth for fitness both from within the current membership and from among the younger families that will see [the Hound Ears community] as a great place to relocate and raise their kids.”
In the meantime, while waiting to see what might be next at Hound Ears, Critcher certainly won’t be heard complaining about her current working conditions. “I hear that the first ‘fitness center’ here was in an old lodge that used to serve as a ski shop—complete with a deer head over the fireplace,” she laughs. “It was quite ‘rustic,’ I’m told, and all it had was a treadmill and few weights.
“Then the ‘center’ was moved to what is now our yoga room, with just one multistation weight machine and a few pieces of cardio equipment,” she adds. “Five years ago, it was moved to where it is now, and that’s when I was hired as Fitness Director. So looking back, it’s not hard to see we’ve already come a long way—and it’s exciting to look forward to see how far we can still go from here.”
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