CCM Wellness Center celebrates its first anniversary

Jessica Stölen-Jacobson
Montevideo American-News

CCM Wellness Center was a project years in the making and set to open April 1, 2020, when they got the news that the COVID-19 pandemic had evolved to a point that businesses and facilities such as theirs had to close their doors for an undetermined amount of time. Construction was complete, equipment had been delivered and placed, but the opening would be delayed until June 10. “That was hard to see,” says CCM Wellness Center Director Leah Lehtola. “This fresh facility was just ready to be accessed and was at the mercy of the pandemic.”

In the months leading up to the expected opening date, an overwhelming amount of construction had taken place in the building that used to be home to a grocery store. Windows were added to bring in natural light and provide a view of nature to those using the cardio machines - the first area you walk into upon entering the facility after crossing over the walking track. Ellipticals, treadmills, stair masters, incline treadmills, rowing machines and more fill the open space. The machines are labeled with information such as what muscles the equipment is targeting, and the motion of the exercise done on the machine. A label provides a QR code so that those with a smartphone can scan the code to see a video demonstration on how to use the equipment, although the fitness specialists on staff seven days a week do offer complimentary equipment orientations. A fitness turf area divides the cardio equipment from the weight lifting equipment which includes a machine called the Synergy 360 that allows for 200 different workouts to be done from one machine. The EXP training center sits behind the free weights area and is designed for personal training sessions that also include athlete sports performance programs for in-season and off-season athletes throughout the year. Tucked farther back is a heavyweight room before the area surrounded by the walking track winds around to a multi-purpose court that is a half-basketball court and pickleball court. A racquetball court that operates as a first-come, first-serve area but does take reservations is next, followed by a group fitness studio. There are 12 spin bikes located in the group fitness room, and when classes are not being offered in person, there is a tablet mounted to the wall outside where members can choose from a library of virtual fitness classes. Fitness on Demand contains pre-recorded classes that can be searched by filters such as difficulty level and type of workout, instructed by well-known names such as Jillian Michaels. “We knew that it could be challenging to find certified fitness instructors in our area for things like Pilates,” says Lehtola. “Knowing that we proactively purchased the system because we knew we were going to include classes in the cost of our membership so we wanted to be sure we had a full calendar of them.”

The locker rooms include spa-inspired seating areas, restrooms, showers, hairdryers, and programmable locking storage. “We tried to make it convenient so that you don’t have to bring a lot if you’re going to come in before work,” says Lehtola. “We provide shampoo, conditioner and body wash through dispensers in the showers. You don’t have to worry about bringing your own lock for the lockers or paying an additional fee for a locker.” The 35,000 square foot facility was planned carefully to offer as many amenities as could fit. “Brian Lovdahl, our CEO at CM Health, and team did a wonderful job of planning this space out very carefully to fit a lot into the space. There’s really something for everybody here - all ages, all fitness levels but what really helped was the community survey that we performed. That helped guide us to design the amenities that our community would be interested in taking advantage of and are enjoyed by our members now daily,” says Lehtola. Construction on the facility involved several local contractors. “CCM Health did a wonderful job engaging local contractors and really keeping as much work as possible within our community which I think adds to the sense of pride in this facility,” she says.

With members finally able to join and utilize the facility last June, some areas of the facility were still unable to be opened while restrictions remained. The facility then had another four-week closure from mid-November to mid-December. “Similar to other industries we navigated the ever-changing restrictions one day at a time,” says Lehtola. “The hardest part was being held back from fully opening the facility, however, we were very grateful to be open in some capacity. Fortunately, we were able to open right back up after those four weeks, but when people were welcomed back it was under some pretty tight restrictions. The members' patience and compliance with the ever-changing restrictions and doing what it takes to keep themselves and their fellow members safe has really been remarkable. It’s nothing we could have ever planned for so we are just very appreciative of that.”

Areas current members had not yet had access to as the COVID restrictions continued have included the Kids Zone indoor playground. An indoor social area containing tables and chairs to allow people to gather has been unused thus far as well as a conference room with large double doors that can open to create an overflow area in the social area. Another area that hopes to see more action soon is the demonstration kitchen “The kitchen is used for teaching people how to prepare healthy foods,” says Lehtola. “Jessica Stettner [an Advanced Practice Clinician at CCM Health] is very passionate about culinary medicine and educating people on how to prepare healthy foods. She’s very instrumental with getting the Community Garden going so this is kind of a next step.” So far, the demonstration kitchen has been able to offer one series of classes limited to four households but they will be adding more as restrictions are lifting. The restrictions in place barring the use of the saunas in the locker rooms, Kids Zone, conference rooms, and such lifted just last Thursday and so Friday those areas were able to be opened to members for the first time. Additionally, the restrictions expiring allow for the childcare drop-off area to be opened soon. The child-care drop-off area is a space near the front desk that allows for children to be dropped off for a limited amount of time in what is essentially a supervised play area while their parents work out. parents must remain in the facility. “That removes that barrier of not being able to get your workout in because of not having childcare,” says Lehtola. CCM Health will be posting the opening for that position and hiring somebody to open that space soon. 

Six people are currently employed including Lehtola ranging from fitness specialists to member representatives. The facility is open 24/7 for members 16 and over, and is staffed during certain hours seven days a week. “The team here has done a phenomenal job handling all the challenges that present during the first year of being open especially during a pandemic. We really have a great team of individuals here that are committed to providing a high-quality experience for our members and guests and just very passionate about helping others achieve their health and fitness goals,” Lehtola says. 

The information on class schedules, offerings, membership, and the ability to sign-up for membership online is available on the wellness center’s tab on the hospital's website. CCM Wellness Center does offer discounts for seniors and students as well as packages for families or individuals. Contracts also run month to month but do require a 30-day cancellation notice. “For anyone thinking of joining or just wanting to see the space, please come visit us for a tour - we’d love to have you,” Lehtola says.