Vineyard Tennis Center Workout and Spa steps it up


The Vineyard Tennis Center Workout and Spa at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport is an ever-evolving and expanding project for owner and tennis pro Connie McHugh.

What started out 15 years ago solely as a facility that would provide for off-season tennis players has expanded to include a full-scale health club and spa, with two segregated sets of saunas and steamrooms. From two courts, a reception area, and locker rooms, the facility has grown into a three-level multi-function fitness center. Ms. McHugh is committed to continuously updating equipment and adding on to the club’s offerings in response to the desires of her members and the community. She notes, “We’ve had four proposals in front of the Commission to add improvements in 15 years. That’s pretty good.”

The very recently refurbished lobby with new carpeting extends up the stairs, a fresh paint job, and a large new reception counter give the club a clean modern look and are indicative of the changes the club owner has initiated in the last few years. She timed the renovation project to coincide with what she sees as the beginning of the season. She’s less concerned about the summer crowds than the year-rounders. “We built this to be an Island recreation center,” she says. “A spot for Islanders to use and enjoy.”

The new look is part of an initiative to celebrate the club’s 15th anniversary. In keeping with a tradition of continual upgrades, four new stationary bikes were purchased just weeks ago. The majority of one room is now lined with bikes of three types — upright, recumbent, and hybrid, which, as Ms. McHugh explains, can accommodate a variety of users, including those who are older or injured. Many of the club’s cardio machines are made by Matrix, a cutting-edge company in Wisconsin that has pioneered many advances in design, including the user-friendly step-in feature on the club’s newest bikes.

Like the Matrix bikes, much of the club’s equipment is unique on the Island. A machine called the Ascent Trainer, sort of an elliptical that allows you to climb hills, is a recent addition. It can be made as challenging as desired while still providing a fluid, comfortable workout and adds even more variety for regular cardio users. The club also has the full spectrum of treadmills, elliptical machines, and rowing machines, along with a couple newer variations, the Wave and the Arc.

Variety is also a consideration when it comes to classes. Currently the club offers 30 weekly classes. There are 10 instructors and 11 different types of class to choose from, and the roster frequently expands. Ms. McHugh gives her instructors budgets for continuing education and encourages them to make trips off-Island for conferences and to receive additional certification. Instructor Chris Martin is particularly interested in learning new techniques. She was the first to teach the very popular Zumba on-Island and she will soon add PiYo (a Pilates/yoga blend), and hip hop cardio classes. Occasionally the club imports master teachers to lead specialized classes for a day.

Spinning classes have become a hugely popular part of the center’s class roster, so much so that the club has dedicated a room to them with 12 top-of-the-line bikes and an independent cooling system. Fitness director Phyllis Kugler recently added an introductory spinning class that emphasizes personal attention. Many of the students continue on to the more advanced classes, but the class is also perfect for people with limiting factors like age or injuries.

The spinning room is one of three instruction rooms. The yoga room upstairs doubles as a boxing area with speed bags and body bags available in-between classes. The largest of the class rooms can hold up to 30 people, has closets to keep equipment off the workout area, and has been outfitted with a free-floating floor, a feature that Ms. Kugler notes is very important for reducing impact.

Personal training accounts for a large part of the center’s members. The club has five personal trainers. The most recent member of the team is a young man who will be working on sports-specific training, particularly for young athletes. He is also introducing a special boot camp with a focus on core strength. The other trainers all have between 17 and 30 years of experience. Ms. Kugler prides herself on her staff of trainers and instructors. She notes that she will only bring on board staff who are dedicated to the profession. She talks about how trainer Cathy Ashmun, Chris Martin, and yoga instructor Meghan Grennan have made names for themselves on the Island for being at the top of their respective fields.

Getting people jump-started on a fitness regimen is a mission for Ms. McHugh. She is continually working on programs to ease newcomers into a workout routine. Last year, a class, organized with Vineyard Health Care Access, to introduce a group of Brazilian women to Zumba was a big success.

Now Ms. McHugh is putting together a fitness sampler program wherein participants will try out a different repertoire of workouts led by experts each night for a week. “It’s for the person who has not been through the door, never been in a health club, who needs someone there to hold their hand and walk them through it,” Ms. McHugh says. “It will be a situation where everyone is new. The comfort level is very important. That’s what our club is very good at. We’ve created an environment where all ages, all sizes are welcome and comfortable. We’re built around that.”

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Gwyn McAllister, of Oak Bluffs, is a frequent contributor to The Times.