Friendly gym proves to be a perfect fit

By Vanessa Wiltshire

THE failure rate of small businesses is notoriously high. But Amber Tavinor is bucking the trend as she celebrates two successful years as owner and operator of 3523 Fitness Centre in Heathcote.

“I moved to Heathcote in January 2016 with my family from Melbourne,” she said. “The city was too fast-paced, and we wanted our kids to be in a smaller school and community-based environment”.

A fitness professional who has been dancing since the age of three, Amber was disappointed, if not surprised, to find that there wasn’t a gym in town. So after about 12 months, Amber decided to solve her own problem and open one.

“By no means was it easy,” she said. “The biggest obstacle was finding a place to open in and manage family balance. But my dad came up and stayed with me for over three months and we worked on it together.” Amber credits her parents as two of her greatest mentors, in addition to other members of the Heathcote community.

In just two years the gym has grown and employs five local people on a casual basis. This is in addition to Amber, who is full time. 3523 Fitness Centre also has two independent health contracting specialists; an exercise physiologist and massage / myotherapist who visit 1-2 days a week.

With experience in the fitness industry and many years in the corporate world as an executive assistant, Amber acknowledges that opening a gym in a small town was a risk.

“It was always going to be a risk, but I saw opportunity,” she said.

“The hard work never stops. But it’s been worth it. We now have members from their teenage years, all the way through to people in their 70s. That’s a lot of local people who are now exercising who weren’t before.”

After interviewing several members of 3523 Fitness Centre, the real secret to Amber’s success has been her ability to facilitate a welcoming and safe atmosphere. Simply, it’s a space where ordinary people can make remarkable transformations.

“Its all about being part of something,” Amber said. “It’s an honour to run 3523 Fitness Centre for the community. I am proud of my personal growth. I am also very proud to have my two children love the gym as much as I do. Running your own business is not always easy, but it’s been worth it, and we do have some fun!”

Brian Doherty

BRIAN, 23, works in the mental health industry as a security worker. Before 3523 Fitness Centre opened, he would work up to 10 hours a day in Bendigo, before visiting a local gym. Then he would drive back to Heathcote.

“They were 14-hour days,” Brian recounts. “I was knackered. Fitness has been an important part of my life for about five years. I used to be overweight. One of the things I never appreciated about other gyms was that you felt on show, like people were judging you. At 3523, I can use the weights and no one looks, no one cares. It’s a family-style environment and you know that someone is always there to help, or to look out for you.

Brian also revealed that he suffered from cancer three years ago. “I know that it’s important to maintain my health and fitness, to stay well,” he said. “Although things are OK now, I make sure I always take the time for my health. Everyone is so welcoming at 3523, it’s something that really means a lot.”

Niki Rees

NIKI and her husband were excited to find a gym opening in their new town of Heathcote two years ago. We both go to the gym because we are in our 50s,” Niki said. “It’s an essential part of saying fit and healthy. What I love about 3523 Fitness is that it’s nothing like the inner-city gyms we used to go to. It doesn’t matter what you wear. There is a community atmosphere and it’s very social. We have really appreciated that as newcomers to town. Plus, we never have to wait to use any of the equipment, like you would in Melbourne.”

Chris Hennessey

CHRIS Hennessey, or Coach Chris as he is affectionately known, knew it was time to make a change when he turned 40. “I was a stay-at-home dad for many years while my wife worked full time,” he said. “I reached 125 kilos and knew I had to do something.’’

Although Chris had ‘worked out’ in the past, life had got in the way. He started exercising again three months after 3523 Fitness Centre opened.

“I could see the improvements,” Chris said. “It was fantastic, I was really motivated. Then I decided to do a certificate in personal training.’’

The study has helped him start a new career and secure a job in town. Chris undertook his work experience hours at 3523 Fitness Centre under Amber’s guidance.

He is now employed casually as a Group Fitness Instructor and is well known for his tough-but-kind approach.

This year Chris has set himself the goal of completing a Spartan Trifecta.

Catherine Fisher

CATHERINE said that she could never stick with gyms until 3523 Fitness Centre opened.

Overweight and unfit, the mum knew she needed to make a change, but didn’t know how.

When the gym opened, Catherine ventured along. Since then, she says, she’s never looked back.

“I was a bit scared at first but Amber has been amazing. She’s been behind me, the whole time,” Catherine said. “I’ve lost 20 kilos and gone from being really unfit to running in obstacle races, team events, even a half marathon.’’

Catherine says the group classes and community atmosphere of the gym has been the key to her transformation.

“You’re part of a group and no one leaves you behind,” she explains. “I’m doing things that I never thought I’d ever be able to do, like a hundred sit-ups at a time”.

Catherine’s goal for 2019 is to complete three half marathons.

Anne Laurens

ANNE was diagnosed with cancer in late 2017. During periods of high shock and stress most people probably don’t think about joining a gym.

But that’s exactly what she did.

Anne, who was awarded one of Mandalay Resources Costerfield Mine Sponsored Senior Memberships, covering 12 months of membership at 3523 Fitness Centre, decided to take the opportunity.

“Even with the chemo and later radiation, I went to the gym as often as I could,” Anne explained. “I joined the Creaks and Cracks fitness classes, which are designed for people my age,” she explained. “I thought that if I got fitter and stronger, that might help with the cancer,” she said.

Overall, Anne’s story is a happy one, and she says that things are going well. She has lost 20 kilos and walks at least three kilometres a day, six days a week, mostly on the treadmill.

Anne says that despite her health challenges, the last 12 months have been positive. ‘‘I’ve rediscovered my sporty side. I’ve also ‘lashed out’ and renewed my 12-month membership.

‘‘With so many new friends as well, and I’ve not felt this healthy in a long time. Let’s hope it continues”.