New gym to focus on 'functional fitness'


MANCHESTER — Mel McManus knows fitness. In her early 20s, she began Olympic Lifting as a way to diversify her training. By her 30s, she had competed in five consecutive Regional CrossFit Competitions and in 2017, she earned the prestigious professional status as a female bodybuilder in the Women's Physique Division.

In mid-May, McManus will be sharing her passion and knowledge of fitness in her new gym, The Body Lab Training Center. The gym, which will be "industrial raw" is going to have showers but not a spa. It will be located next to the Subway on Depot Street in Manchester.

Before moving to the area, McManus owned and operated a 10,000 square foot CrossFit gym in Needham, Massachusetts. She loved the energy in the large space but, since moving to Vermont, she has made a conscious decision to keep her new facility much smaller — 1,500 square feet — and more individualized. The Body Lab Training Center will not be the typical modern-day gym.

"It is not machine based. We use kettleballs and dumbbells," McManus said. "That's really the only equipment we use. For cardio, we use ski ergs."

McManus said The Body Lab will focus on "functional fitness" which means the exercises she introduces her clients to are meant to mimic movements from the real world and improve daily activity.

"We do things that help you prepare for real life," McManus said.

"Our workouts cover cardio to strength so that people are more rounded," McManus said. "We define fitness differently. If I can run 100 miles but I can't touch my toes, I'm I really fit?"

A variety of programs — private to small groups to monthly clinics — will be offered and will cover all age groups and abilities.

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For her younger clientele, McManus teaches them how to be active, healthy and to become a better overall athlete.

"The emphasis is on physical literacy and all-around improved health and wellness," McManus said. "I work with kids to round them out so they don't get hurt playing sports."

With adult clients, McManus listens to what they want to work on like losing weight, improving their skills in a sport like downhill skiing or tennis, or challenging themselves to something new. She then builds a fitness regimen around their needs.

For senior clients, McManus helps them maintain their independence. She teaches them how to maneuver safely while participating in daily activities such as moving heavy objects and climbing up and down stairs while carrying a laundry basket or bag of groceries. McManus likes to call this type of coaching "pre-hab" which simply means training that helps her clients avoid rehab by not getting hurt.

For the past four months, McManus has been active coaching local individuals and small groups.

"It's such a community, like a little family," McManus said. "In some of my groups, if you don't show up for class, people from the group will call you and ask where you were."

Eventually, McManus says she will have to hire another coach to help her at the gym. While she admits she is not easy to work for — she is the daughter of a military drill sergeant — she plans on offering an internship program that will be open to someone who is active in the community and demonstrates a dedication to coaching physical fitness and well-being.

The Body Lab Training Center will be "community run," McManus says. "What do you want? What do you need?" These are the questions McManus will be asking her fitness community when she opens her doors in May.

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