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The River Valley Club: Making Fitness The Best Part Of Your Day

Nov 17, 2022 03:50PM ● By Wren Wahrenberger - Photography courtesy of River Valley Club
In early 2020, the River Valley Club, the iconic fitness complex situated up the hill from the Lebanon Co-op, was forced (like everyone else) to shut down in-person operations for several months due to the pandemic. The core management team used this time to “revamp and reorganize,” according to Marketing Director Ross Dutille. They committed to finding new ways to make members’ time at the RVC “the best part of their day” when everyone returned.

They started by reorganizing spaces, such as the Fitness Floor, providing easier access to more cardio machines. They updated air circulation so that every eight minutes, brand-new air is cycled into the studios. When they reopened, they started utilizing the now popular back deck, bringing some CrossFit classes outdoors, weather permitting.

They also planned a sweeping renovation and building project, which would add outdoor tennis and pickleball under lights by the spring of 2023, and indoor pickleball to the indoor tennis court area in the fall of 2022. The Club also made plans to renovate the indoor swimming pool area, adding a larger cold plunge pool and new SwimEx Performance Pools, with controlled speed and temperature, next to a new saltwater recreation pool for the fall of 2023.

Thoughtful Improvements for Kids and Teachers

As part of their renovations, the RVC is adding four new classrooms to their FitKids childcare center for the fall of 2023. FitKids is known for its unique natural playground and is located beyond the main RVC building. The children can take swim, tennis, and rock-climbing lessons at the RVC  as well. FitKids provides free childcare for all RVC employees and also serves the community. To attract high-quality teachers, FitKids has increased teacher salaries and added generous sign-up bonuses for employees who recruit new teachers. Teachers in the sweetly named classrooms, including Bear Cubs, Porcupines, Bobcats, and Raccoons, greet parents at pickup and drop-off with the smile of employees who know they are appreciated.

FitKids teacher plays outside with a child.

After being closed during the pandemic, the KidsClub, which offers drop-in childcare (ages infant to 13) for members using the facility for up to two hours, is now reopened with new toys and activities in a space down the hall from the spa and salon.
These days, with the full reopening of the Club, members (who must be over 14) are more appreciative of their community—a tribe dedicated to getting and staying fit together. As the decorations go up for the holidays, members and employees will choose an ornament from their traditional holiday giving tree, which is in partnership with the Upper Valley Haven and has the age and gift request from a child of a local family in need. Members say that returning with the unwrapped gift feels like another way to be part of the community.

Something for Everyone

A vibe of positive energy now permeates every corner of the large RVC complex. A trainer waves hello from across the room to connect immediately to anyone entering the Fitness Floor, a 10,000-square-foot space with weight-lifting and cardio equipment. The photo and bio of the trainer on duty is posted so that a new member can easily identify them.

BodyCombat class with Jennifer Karr.

Everyone who joins the Club receives a one-hour fitness orientation with a personal trainer. Members desiring more one-on-one training can purchase packages of the more tailored sessions in a quiet personal training studio or anywhere in the Club.
Of course, the RVC vibe is at different frequencies in different parts of the building. For example, the Yoga Studio, which only hosts yoga and meditation classes, maintains a peaceful vibe, with its delicate flower lanterns and yoga cushions. The Fitness Studio, in contrast, has bright windows and large mirrors, and is loud with upbeat music. On a weekday morning, it is emptying of members covered in sweat and full of laughter as they put away their small weights after a BodyPump class. Their instructor, Emily Cleaveland, her indigo streaked hair in pigtails, chats about the muscle pain that occurs after trying a new form of exercise. “When it’s not from an injury,” she says, quoting Chester Puller, “‘pain is weakness leaving the body.’” Many other classes are held in the Fitness Studio including Zumba, cardio, dance, Pilates, and Forever Fit.

The CrossFit Box, on the lower level, has a vibe that is dead serious but supportive. A 5,000-square-foot space, the CrossFit Box is designed for anyone who is working on strength and conditioning using weights, ropes, kettlebells, rowing machines, Schwinn Airdyne bikes, artificial turf for speed work, training bars, and pull-up rigs. Each day a CrossFit trainer designs a new “workout of the day” or WOD for their specialized classes.

CrossFit members enjoy one of the five daily CrossFit group classes.

At one end of the CrossFit space is the 30-foot rock-climbing wall of simulated granite designed for all levels of climbers. Harnesses, shoes, and ropes are provided, as well as trained belayers during their evening hours of operation.

Upstairs, the Spinning Studio’s vibe is electric. Running lights help members step up to the bikes when the main lights go down and the serious riding begins. The back row, which is higher up, allows for an uncompromised view of the instructor.
The Pilates Reformer Studio has an active and dynamic feel to it. The specialized resistance equipment has a bed-like frame with a flat “carriage” platform that rolls back and forth on wheels within the frame. Unlike the regular Pilates classes in the Fitness Studio, the reformer classes require a one-on-one fitness consultation before the first class and an extra fee.

RVC Tennis Pro Chad Arado demonstrates the proper grip for a backhand shot with tennis member Paloma Asensio.

The indoor tennis courts are a popular destination for many RVC members, especially during the winter months, with groups of friends meeting during regularly reserved times slots. The popular staff of tennis instructors is now certified to teach one-on-one pickleball lessons, a sport which is increasing in popularity across the country.

After working out, the café area welcomes members with a vibe that varies with the time of day. It’s a quiet place in the morning to work on your laptop with a coffee, and it becomes a social hub during the busy 5 to 7pm evening hours, a place to have a healthy smoothie and snack with friends. Healthy grab-and-go snacks and cold drinks are available by the front desk where members first check in.

Setting Members Up for Success

The River Valley Club has so many options for fitness training and health maintenance that it might make locals recall another landmark establishment’s motto, Dan & Whit’s “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it.” Serving the Upper Valley since 1998, and gearing up for their 25th anniversary in March, the RVC has something for adults of every level of fitness and age group, from the total beginner working with injuries to the elite athlete maintaining and improving fitness skills. If you make the decision to come, the RVC’s goal is to take care of you every step of the way.
Longtime RVC member Terry Tarun says, “The Club is state of the art . . . locker rooms are oh, so nice—showers, jacuzzi, towels, and lockers. The staff is helpful, patient, and friendly!”

“Members are the number-one priority in every decision we make about the Club,” says Ross Dutille. “Our goal is to make that one hour a day they spend with us the best time of their day.” According to Ross, the key to fulfilling this mission statement is having well-trained employees with a positive attitude. Starting at the front desk, all employees are trained to show new members around and help them get acclimated to the Club, answering questions and finding the services that are right for each individual. Members sign up for classes, the pool, and other services, such as drop-in childcare, online at the comprehensive RVC website.

“We want to set new members up for success,” says Ross. One of the ways the RVC encourages members to maintain their new fitness routine is by having special membership offers. For example, in January, all new members with a 12-month contract can earn back their $395 sign-up fee by coming to the Club at least eight times during the month of January. The monthly fee is $135.

Undergraduate college students, seniors over 70, and active-duty military always receive a discounted membership fee of $102 per month. In addition, all newcomers can come to check out the Club and  exercise their first day for free! Also, anyone over 90 years of age can use the Club free of charge. Ross says he knows a few members who are counting down the days for that particular perk. Day passes are available for nonmembers for $40 a day and are discounted to $30 if nonmembers have booked a spa service that day or if members bring them as a friend.  Members receive incentives for signing up new members. New members also get a welcome packet containing gift certificates and coupons, including one for a free smoothie, a 30 percent discount coupon at the salon and spa, and 20 percent off at the fitness shop. The packet also contains a coupon for a free tennis lesson and a free Pilates reformer consultation and class.

The RVC’s amenities are also open for nonmembers, including the spa, salon, and barbershop, and a physical therapist’s office. The spa offers massages, hair removal, and facials, including the new Hydra Facial. The salon provides cut, style, and color services as well as nail services. The men’s and women’s fitness clothing shop carries lululemon gear and  tennis equipment. Members praise the RVC as a one-stop shop where you can get your hair cut, work out, socialize, and drop off the dry cleaning (at the fitness shop).
“Community is important, now more than ever,” says Ross, and it’s clear that the RVC’s goal is to foster that community, encouraging members to set up fitness as a habit or routine. “It’s better for us, and it’s better for them.”


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