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That’s the one-word response many people exclaimed upon seeing the newly expanded and renovated Spring Hill RECenter for the first time. The facility, which opened December 13, includes a new regulation-sized gym with an elevated, three-lane track for walkers and runners; a new, twostory fitness center that is four times the size of the old one and features a new line of Cybex weight training machines; a custom-built TRX suspension system; five family changing rooms; plenty of space for additional fitness classes and lots of natural light.

“It’s really welcoming,” said Ranko Kettunen of Vienna who was among the first to try out the new walking track with her 4-year-old daughter, Julia. “I like the open space and brightness, and all of the equipment is really updated,” she said.

“The layout is really impressive,” said Daniel Hunziker of Woodbridge as he played one-onone basketball with his friend, Justin Nguyen of Springfield. “It’s definitely one of the nicest facilities I’ve ever been in.” Nguyen, who used to teach basketball at the old Spring Hill RECenter, agreed. “I had to come back on the first day to experience it,” he said enthusiastically. “I’m really proud of what they have done here. It’s like seeing your baby grow.”

Mark Damjan of Great Falls was equally impressed as he arrived with his 3-year-old daughter, Danielle, for her swimming lesson. “Wow, this is an unexpected surprise. It’s beautiful,” he said as they stopped to marvel at the new gym on their way to the pool. “It’s new and exciting; equivalent to the new car smell.”

“I really like it because it’s really big and has a lot of space for a lot of people,” said 8-yearold Carlos Ordunez breathlessly while shooting baskets in the new gym. He was expending some opening-day energy along with his mother, while his 12-year-old brother, Pedro, had his swimming lesson. “Now the facility is more inviting,” said the boys’ mother, Yanelis La Rosa of Falls Church. “There’s the family changing rooms, and I also saw other new areas for yoga and other classes. We will definitely spend more time here as a family than before.”

The two-story fitness center with all-new exercise equipment is also getting rave reviews. “There’s so much more room,” said longtime RECenter member Wendy Laguarda. “I love the windows and the new Cybex machines. This is beyond my expectations. It’s a great, great facility. This could compete with the 24/7 [commercial] gyms.”

WOW!“It’s nice to look out and see tranquil woods and trees while you’re working out,” said RECenter member Carey Monts of Vienna, “and when the bad winter weather sets in, I’m going to really enjoy the indoor track.”

Amenities vary at each Fairfax County RECenter, and membership gives you privileges at all nine of them at no extra charge.

Rosie Bombaugh

Finding Life Balance in Fitness

Like many members of the “sandwich” generation, Rosie Bombaugh always put everyone else’s needs ahead of her own. The Burke wife and mother was sandwiched between the responsibilities of caring for her high-school-age sons and her 90-year-old mother, and that left her with little time to do anything for herself. “I was always taking care of my family,” she said. “That’s the way I was raised. You make your family the priority.”

It was only after her sons were in college and her mother passed away that she realized what her selflessness had cost her personally. “I was very overweight and I didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin,” she said. “If I could do it over again, I would have made time for myself.”

Bombaugh found her fitness motivation in the winter 2012 issue of Parktakes magazine. “I started looking at the classes in Parktakes and reading the profiles of other people older than me who had gotten fit and were active, and I thought, ‘If they can do it, I can do it.’ They inspired me to get moving.”

Rosie Bombaugh's motivation is the success stories of others.           It had been years since Bombaugh had been active in tennis, swimming and martial arts, and she knew she would have to start slowly after years of sedentary living. She began with a class at South Run RECenter that would prepare her for something she never thought she would do – a 5K run. “I hated running from the time I was in high school, but the 5K-Team Beginner training class was really cool,” she said enthusiastically. “You mostly walk to begin with, and by the time the (11-week) class is over, you’re actually running the whole 3.1-mile distance. Now I love it!”

As her confidence increased, she added more exercise options to her schedule including the RECenter’s drop-in fitness classes, where she found more inspiration. “You need that camaraderie that comes in class,” she said. “You need the group to give you that push to get out of your comfort zone.”

Eventually, she found herself training with a personal trainer and signed up for a swimming class in preparation for something else she never thought she’d do – a triathlon. “The swimming class I took was amazing! Here was this 20-something-year-old teaching me. He had me swimming a mile in 25 minutes. I was amazed.”

One of her greatest accomplishments came in Washington, D.C. last fall when the 4’11” exercise enthusiast ran for the first time in the Marine Corps Marathon. “I cried at the end when I crossed the finish line because I thought, ‘What a neat thing that my kids can see that their mom just pulled 26.3 miles!’”

These days the 51-year-old dynamo feels far younger than her years, and she marvels at her results since launching her personal fitness campaign two years ago. She is 35 lbs. lighter, she has more energy than ever, and she now looks forward to working out almost daily. “I run three days per week, swim at least two times per week and do core work in between,” she said. And she still finds inspiration in Parktakes. “I read the [fall 2014] story about the 72-year-old guy who got fit and now competes in the Senior Olympics,” she said, “and I found out that the competition is for people age 50 and older.

So I thought, ‘Hey, maybe I should try that,’ although the people I have to beat are 60 years old and running seven-minute miles. That’s crazy!” With encouragement from her family, friends and colleagues at South Run RECenter, Bombaugh says she’s up to the challenge. After all, she says it’s not really about winning or losing. It’s about making personal wellness a priority. “You don’t have to be the fastest or the fittest or the thinnest.” she said. “You just need to get out there and do something.”

Park Authority RECenters have multiple training options. To learn more, call or stop by the RECenter nearest you.

Train like a lumberjack

Put a unique spin on your fitness routine with log rolling at Mt. Vernon RECenter! “It’s a great way to work on balance, coordination and core strength without doing situps,” said Mt. Vernon aquatics director Britta Stratford. “It doesn’t feel like exercise; it’s just a fun challenge.” Stratford’s 7-year-old daughter, Olivia, was among the first children to try out log rolling at the RECenter. “I like it because you get to run, and it’s different than just swimming,” she said.

Train like a lumberjack                      In traditional log rolling, two competitors balance themselves on a log floating in the water and begin rolling the log with their feet. The goal is to outlast your opponent and roll the log in a way that gets them to fall off the log and into the water within a certain time limit. Rather than using a traditional timber, the log at Mt. Vernon RECenter is a new product made of the same synthetic material used in modern-day kayaks. The hollow core makes it easy to transport to the pool, where it’s filled with 50 gallons of water to mimic the weight of a log. Each student first learns to balance on and roll the log individually and then progresses to matches with a competitor. “It’s addicting fun, and it generates a lot of interest from swimmers when we put the log in the pool,” Stratford said.

The sport of log rolling dates back to the 19th century. It developed from the North American river log drives, when lumberjacks floated logs from the forests downriver to the sawmill towns. The log drivers would run back and forth across the river of logs, guiding them down river to try to prevent the logs from jamming up. Because a floating log spins quickly when you step on it, the log drivers quickly learned to step atop the spinning logs, avoiding the icy water and the oncoming floating lumber. They realized it was pretty fun and challenged one another to matches, and the sport of log rolling was born.

Soar into Spring with Birds

Look up this spring, and you’re sure to see one of the greatest shows on Earth as colorful, neo-tropical migrant birds flock north from their winter homes in Central and South America. Northern Virginia is one of the best areas for bird watching because of its location near the coast, the mountains and along the north/south divider, and Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria is a great place to spot birds. Its accessible boardwalk leads you out to the park’s wetland giving you a chance to see birds you would normally have to go to the Chesapeake Bay to see. Last year, the wetland was fully restored.

Soar into Spring with Birds“Our goal is to attract species back to the wetland that have been absent or noticeably reduced over the last few decades,” park manager Kevin Munroe said. “We have seen rails, bitterns and grebes visit the wetland since the project construction finished, so now we’re crossing our fingers that they will judge our work good enough to come back in the spring and raise young.”

Everything from weather patterns to seasons can have an impact on migration, and Munroe says what you see in Fairfax County depends on where you look. While some birds may be attracted to Huntley Meadows wetland, distinctive features in other Fairfax County parks attract birds you wouldn’t necessarily see at Huntley Meadows. Perhaps the best aspect of birding is you can do it anywhere – from the big city to your own backyard – and you can do it anytime and in any season.

“Patience, good observation skills and plenty of enthusiasm are really all you need,” Munroe said, “but a good pair of binoculars, a bird field guide and weather-appropriate clothes will help.” For best results, Munroe says knowing where and when to look increases your odds of success. “The last week of April through the first week of May is usually the peak time when most birds are moving through. Soar into Spring with BirdsDawn and dusk are by far the best times of day to look, so give yourself an hour or two on the wetland boardwalk at the beginning or end of the day, try to be both still and quiet for a while, and you’re almost guaranteed to see wildlife you haven’t seen in Fairfax County before.”

Whether you’re a beginning or experienced birder, the Park Authority offers many options for learning about birds.

Bluebells at Riverbend

Celebrate the first signs of spring by attending the Bluebells at the Bend festival Saturday, April 11 at Riverbend Park in Great Falls! These breathtaking beauties usher in springtime by carpeting the park’s floodplain with their magnificent blooms, and the bluebells are so abundant in some areas you can’t see an end!
To 19th century poets, bluebells symbolized solitude. In the Victorian language of flowers, they represent constancy. See for yourself the glorious display that draws generations of wildflower watchers to Riverbend Park.

You can also learn about other harbingers of spring during wildflower walks and cherry blossom activities in several Fairfax County Parks.  Festival entrance fee:  $5 per person.

New Community Center Comes to Providence District

New Community Center Comes to Providence DistrictProvidence Community Center, located at 3001 Vaden Dr. in Fairfax, is now open. One unique feature of the new facility is a sensory room. This room offers individuals of all ages and abilities an opportunity to explore various ways of sensory stimulation while experiencing benefits such as relaxation, learning, communication, memory, focus, concentration and social skill development.

Providence RECenterThe facility also includes a commercial kitchen, senior center, computer room, gymnasium and office of Providence District Supervisor Linda Q. Smyth. It is operated by the Fairfax County Department of Neighborhood and Community Services.

Providence RECenter on Marc Dr. in Falls Church continues to offer recreational opportunities for children and adults. Amenities include the pool, spa, fitness center, raquetball courts, classes and camps, and membership entitles you to access at all nine Fairfax County Park Authority RECenters.

School-age children always look forward to fun at summer camp, and now there are options for their younger brothers and sisters will get extra hour of fun at Kiddie Camp! The half-day camp now offers four hours of daily fun, with outdoor games, water play, music, movement, arts and crafts and a special event for 3-to-5-year-old children. Parents of children who attended Kiddie Camp last spring and summer gave it high marks in a post-camp survey.

“The counselors were so enthusiastic and really great with the kids,” said one parent whose son attended Kiddie Camp at Lee District RECenter.

“They stole my heart immediately, and I felt totally confident leaving my child in their care.”

“I loved the variety of activities and that they took the kiddos into the pool three times,” said another parent whose son attended Kiddie Camp at Providence RECenter. “It helped my son build confidence in the water.”

“The counselors really engaged the children in all activities instead of simply watching them play,” said a parent whose child attended Kiddie Camp at Spring Hill RECenter. “This can be challenging with such young children.”

The Park Authority offers spring and summer Kiddie Camps at five locations across Fairfax County. To find the location nearest you, turn to the Camps section.

Twin Lakes Golf Course Steps Up its Game

Golfers of all abilities will soon be able to hone their short-game skills at a new practice area at Twin Lakes Golf Course. The facility’s larger, new practice putting green should be ready for play in time for the spring season, and the old practice putting area will be converted into a practice chipping green.

“Eighty percent of the score in a golf round is attained within 100 yards of the green, and that’s the part you really need to practice,” said Twin Lakes superintendent Scott Hamm. “Now, we have a dedicated putting area and a dedicated chipping area that allow players to work on their short game without the pressure of going on the course and playing a full round.”

Hamm says the larger, sand-based putting green was created to USGA standards and “more closely matches the characteristics of the Oaks course,” which opened in 1998. The new practice areas plus the driving range provides a full complement to the facility’s two, 18-hole courses. “The practice greens also give us more options for golf lessons and camps,” Hamm said.

fdfsffsaThe new practice greens aren’t the only changes at Twin Lakes. All of the Oaks Course bunkers have been renovated to modernday standards. “They’re state-of-the-art,” Hamm said. “The feedback from our customers has been very positive.” The new Oaks Course bunkers were created using the "Better Billy Bunker Method," invented by Billy Fuller, former longtime superintendent of the Augusta National Golf Club, home of the Masters Tournament.

The entire bunker below the sand is filled with three inches of gravel and topped with a polymer coating. This enables water to filter through the sand. “Now, when it rains, there’s virtually no washout of bunkers, which was our biggest complaint with the old system,” Hamm said. The long-range plan is to upgrade the existing bunkers on the Lakes Course as funding becomes available.

Gear up for Golf!

Gear up for Golf!

The spring golf season is just around the corner, and now is the time to plan your winning strategy.

Strengthen and lengthen the muscles used in golf and improve your flexibility, balance and endurance by signing up for Golf Fit or Yoga for Golfers classes.

Learn the game or fine-tune your skills with group or private golf lessons at your nearest golf course.

Join a golf league of your own. Leagues are forming now for beginners, junior golfers, men, women and seniors.

Take advantage of advertised golf course specials now through March 31, and don’t forget the biggest sale of the year! Beginning March 23, save up to 25% on frequent player golf passes. The more you play, the less you pay!

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