Saipan now holds the distinction of being the second Micronesian island after Guam to have a fitness center that is germane to the feminine gender.  Curves the 11-year-old chain of fitness facilities that cater exclusively to the female population officially opened for business on Jan. 3 in Gualo Rai.

Karen Benson an educator of 12 years who co-owns the facility with her son Nathan said that her health concerns led her to buy into the Curves franchise. Five years ago Benson was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and was sent to California to undergo extensive testing.   Thus began her literal journey on the path to Curves. 

“Bringing Curves to Saipan really stemmed from my own health problems. Five years ago I was diagnosed with the beginning stages of severe rheumatoid arthritis. At the time the doctor told me I needed to get something with resistance training. So I needed to find a source for good resistance training. The other option was in a swimming pool. And we just don’t really have that available here on Saipan. So I decided that since there wasn’t anything here for me I needed to do something and be proactive about it ” Benson said.

She and her family visited several fitness companies throughout the U.S. in search of a center that would fulfill her doctor’s order for good resistance training. Although the facilities they visited varied the proprietors and the patrons shared something in common: they were middle-aged women pursuing a healthy lifestyle.

“When we came back to the U.S. to attend our son’s wedding in May we toured several facilities. There were two that were really a standout in Utah.  There’s this woman who came and greeted us at the door.  I looked at her and she was fairly overweight and I was surprised to see her over there.  But within a minute or two she showed me her picture and she had lost 80 pounds.  I hardly recognized her from the picture.  She was so excited to show us around her facility ” Benson said.

The experience “happened over and over again” at different Curves Clubs and caught Benson’s interest even before she signed up to get the franchise which initially cost $70 000.  “The women who are working inside these facilities were showing us their ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures. These aren’t 18-year old girls; these are middle-aged women who are ready and wanting to do something to have a better life. As we age we are looking at a healthy and quality lifestyle. I could see it worked. There were many women that Curves was helping and it was successful.”

In bringing Curves to Saipan Benson looks to bring a healthy lifestyle for women by following the Curves exercise and nutrition plan. 

“If women will exercise three times a week their chances for diabetes breast cancer and cardiovascular disease high blood pressure osteoporosis and arthritis will decline. All of those illnesses really make our life miserable. A 30-minute workout three times a week can change your life ” Benson said.

According to Benson the ages of members on Saipan range from 14 to the late 60s which she said was “pretty standard (for Curves) across the nation.”  When she trained in Texas Benson said that a couple of franchise holders told her they have women who are in their 90s working out. The oldest Curves member in the U.S. is a 97-year-old woman.

When the 1 000 square-foot Curves facility was launched on Saipan Debbie Tamplin a mentor and owner of two Curves facilities in Illinois assisted Benson and her staff.

Tamplin said that the defining characteristics of Curves had to do with the supportive environment it provides exclusively to women.

“Our favorite saying at Curves is ‘no men no mirrors no make-up.’  We want this to be an environment where women are comfortable and they come to improve themselves and not to inspect themselves.  You don’t have to look good for somebody else.  Here it’s just us girls ” Tamplin said.

Tamplin touted the Curves lifestyle as not so much about achieving a uniform size for women as teaching women how to be healthy.

“At Curves we teach you how to eat properly.  Diet has become a bad word.  We’re all on a diet it’s either a good diet or a bad diet.  We encourage a good diet.  We teach a program called the 6-Week solution.  Using the 6-Week Solution we teach women how to make good choices.  It’s not about eating less but about eating enough of the right food.  Women need 2 000 to 2 500 calories a day and not gain weight.   That’s true because we teach women to eat correctly exercise correctly and increase their metabolism ” Tamplin said.

The Curves brand of exercise is “weight bearing and not weight lifting ” making it “just as safe as swimming ” according to Tamplin.

“Curves provides a total body workout so you can achieve the effect of an hour-and-a-half workout in just 30 minutes. We can do that because we use hydraulic resistance equipment. These equipment are double positive. So we use these equipment in such a way that we work opposing muscle groups at the same time. So you don’t have to use a different set of equipment to work your biceps and another set of equipment to work your triceps. And another advantage is it’s fast and it reduces the possibility of soreness ” Tamplin said.

Benson stressed that the speed with which the exercise equipment can be worked depended on the strength of the individual. “Those who are in better condition can work the machines faster. And those women who have not been exercising for a long time they can only use the machines slowly.  As they increase in strength and endurance then they’ll be able to work the machines more quickly.

Women who work out at Curves lose up to 10 pounds and 10 inches in the first month said Tamplin. “When you see Curves advertising worldwide you don’t see the disclaimer ‘results not typical.’ That’s because we do feel better we move better we sleep better we look better.”

“If all the benefits in this exercise can be put in a pill this will be the most widely prescribed medicine.”

Tamplin matches her belief in the exercise program with this enrollment projection: “I think it’ll be safe to say that while we’re expecting our ladies to trim down we expect our enrollment to burst at the seams.”

The idea behind the founding of Curves International 11 years ago by Gary and Dianne Haven in Texas came in much the same way that Curves was opened by Benson on Saipan: a woman with health problems needing adequate health care. Gary Haven lost his mother when he was a young boy. His mother had many health problems and did not receive the kind of health care that she needed because there was not enough health care available at the time.

“The loss of his mother to illness had been Gary’s driving force. He wanted to bring a way for women to improve and maintain their health in an inviting environment that is comfortable for them and is not very expensive ” Tamplin said. “The idea behind the facility Curves in general is to provide women with an inexpensive and beneficial way to improve and maintain good health.”

In bringing Curves to Saipan Benson said she hopes to provide women on the island a fitness center that meets their individual health care needs in a comfortable and supportive environment surrounded by women.

The cost of hotel spas and fitness centers along with a chain of fitness centers on Saipan are similar said Benson. “Of course at the hotels they have other facilities. But I don’t know about sign-up fees and other costs.”

An individual monthly plan at Club Elan of the Hyatt Regency Saipan costs $200.  At Spaness of Saipan World Resort the annual plan for singles is priced at $700 with a water park option for an extra $200 a year. At Curves plans start at $39 a month. MBJ