I met Christine St. Laurent last year, at a Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce marketing meeting, about the time Christine and Tom were opening their fitness studio, St. Laurent Health and Performance at 307 East Center St. Since that time my wife Carole has joined their fitness class. Last December, I visited them and got to see their studio at their holiday open house. Their approach to health and fitness is very different than the gym memberships that are often hyped this time of year. Their sincerity, enthusiasm, and focus on the needs and abilities of each client sets them apart from their competitors.
Timothy Becker: Where did you get your education in exercise facility management?
Christine St. Laurent: We both are 1998 Manchester High School graduates and we both studied kinesiology with a concentration in exercise science at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Kinesiology is the study of human movement. We then went on to earn master's degrees in exercise physiology at the same university.
Timothy Becker: Whose idea was it to open a health and performance center?
Christine St. Laurent: We’ve both wanted to do this for a long time. We have worked in hospital based, commercial, and non-profit facilities, and managed fitness centers in university settings. We were ready to open our own facility after gaining experience in so many settings.
Timothy Becker: Where did you work prior to opening your business?
Tom St. Laurent: I worked at Harvard Business School and at Boston College, Christine managed the fitness departments at the UMASS Lowell campus and Springfield College and was the fitness and wellness director at the Indian Valley Family YMCA in Ellington.
Timothy Becker: So you decided to come back to the old home town?
Tom St. Laurent: We grew up in Manchester, our families are here, and we wanted to come back to our roots. It is working out really well. Christine and I are coaching at Manchester High School during the day. I coach strength training in the fall and coach indoor and outdoor track during the winter and spring. Christine takes over the strength training in the winter and spring. Mike Jones was the coach at Manchester High that introduced us to resistance training.
Timothy Becker: Where is all the fancy exercise equipment at your studio?
Tom St. Laurent: We use mainly functional strength training equipment and exercises. Suspension trainers are huge tools for us. We use them a lot. The exercises require you to engage all the muscles in the torso which is more like real life. By changing the angle of your feet or hands on a suspension trainer, you can make the exercise more difficult.
Timothy Becker: What classes do you offer at St. Laurent Health and Performance?
Christine St. Laurent: In addition to private and semi-private personal training we offer group training. Our most popular program is called Team Fit. We cap the size of each session to 10 people. The Team Fit program is 45 minutes long and includes resistance training and aerobic drills. It is our version of boot camp. We cater to all levels. There is a variety of options for each activity. This is true of all our exercise programs. We accommodate people of different backgrounds and physical fitness levels.
Timothy Becker: How does a new student get started?
Christine St. Laurent: We do a free initial consultation, and with the member's permission, we will contact their health provider if needed. Our Jump Start program has two options. We offer two weeks of one-on-one personal training for $40 or we have one week of free unlimited group training sessions that includes an orientation session for people that want to start with group training right away.
Timothy Becker: How is St. Laurent Health and Performance LLC different than a typical gym?
Christine St. Laurent: We consider ourselves a personal fitness studio. We want to offer the personal training experience to as many people as possible. We have a variety of membership options. In addition to private personal training we have semi-private, and we can do two to four people. Then we have the group training with a set schedule. All of the workouts are supervised by one or both of us. We also offer a variety of seasonal specialized programs such as sports performance and pre/postnatal fitness. Every program or service that we offer provides a customized approach for each member and we strive to create a supportive, family-oriented community among our members.
Timothy Becker: What new programs are you offering for 2013?
Christine St. Laurent: We have been mostly catering to adults. In the next month or two we will be offering youth memberships and a group training program called: Team Fit Junior. Parents can come at the same time as their children and both can work out in separate classes.
Timothy Becker: What have you learned since opening a new business up in 2011?
Tom St. Laurent: Everyone has been very supportive. We have learned to be very flexible with our training style, and we will continue to adapt our offerings. We have also found that referrals are the best source of new clients.