Gym dandy

Running new recreation center is dream job for former VCU player

Growing up in Jacksonville, Fla., Torrance Archie lived just a few a doors away from his neighborhood recreation center. Now Archie runs Henrico County's newest recreation center.

He is senior coordinator at the Eastern Henrico County Recreation Center (EHRC), 1440 N. Laburnum Avenue. The center opened in October and launched a full slate of fitness classes and activities this week.

Archie made a few stops between his days of hanging out at his hometown’s rec center and directing this 25,773-square-foot center.

He said his memories of his neighborhood center influenced his career choice. And the time he spent on the basketball courts there came in handy later.

Archie played basketball at Daytona Beach Community College before transferring to Virginia Commonwealth University in 1996.

He recalls that his two years playing as a power forward on the VCU team were good ones. He started every game in his basketball career at VCU.

Torrance Archie, senior coordinator at the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center, encourages fitness center member Sylvia Paige as she walks on the treadmill.
“I loved playing for Coach [Sonny] Smith. He treated us like we were his own kids.” Archie said.

Archie also said he enjoyed meeting teammates who came from all over the country to attend the university. He also met, Seatra, the woman who would become his wife.

In fact, the couple married shortly after he graduated from VCU in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree in Recreation, Parks and Tourism.

Less than two months after they married, Archie left Richmond to pursue a dream of playing professional basketball.

His new wife supported his decision. Archie lived and played semiprofessional basketball in Sweden for two years.

Back in the U.S., it would be a few more years before Archie found a job that called on him to use his recreation degree. He joined the Henrico County Recreation and Parks division about four years ago.

Archie said that when he heard the county was building the center in eastern Henrico, he thought working at the center would be his dream job.

“This is something I’ve always wanted to do,” he said. “It’s a blessing for me because this is what I love to do. I love to work with the community.”

Archie and the staff at the center are on a mission to help residents get in better shape while taking advantage of all the center has to offer.

About 37 percent of Richmond area residents exercise on a regular basis, according to the Richmond City Health District.

The center has a lot to entice you to get off the couch. Zumba, weight training, and yoga are some of the classes it offers.

Many of the classes are open to anyone – even those who don't live in Henrico County. Participants pay fees to enroll.

One unique feature at the recreation center is the fully-equipped fitness center. It’s the first of its kind at Henrico County rec centers.

The fitness center has 11 pieces of equipment for a cardiovascular workout, such as exercise bikes, treadmills and ellipticals, 12 pieces of weight equipment, and four large screen televisions to watch while you work out.

Archie and Rueridh McNicol, the center's fitness coordinator, said they want everyone to feel comfortable using the fitness center even if they have never picked up a dumbbell.

“All of our staff have personal trainer certifications, degrees, or group exercise certifications,” said McNicol, in a Scottish accent that's hard to miss. “We staff the center with a fitness instructor at all times. Everyone goes through orientation to help them feel comfortable with the exercise machines.”

Archie said four or five senior citizens were among the first members to join the fitness center.

“The ‘young ladies’ hang pretty tough,” Archie said. “They have a good time. They walk the track first and then come [to the fitness center] for a good workout.”

The fitness center, open only to county residents, also is popular among residents who come before and after work.

Sylvia Paige used to walk at Virginia Commons Center but now comes to the center in the mornings before she goes to work.

“I think it’s wonderful. I love it,” said Paige as she walked on a treadmill on a recent morning, shortly after the center opened at 8 a.m.

David Armstrong drives from western Henrico to use the fitness center.

“I was looking for a gym and heard about it from my co-workers. Its 10 bucks a month – that’s why I chose it,” he said.

The fitness center draws those who are looking for a structured personal workout. Now that classes have started, participants can register for group activities.

On Saturdays, a youth basketball league fills the rec center with parents and eager kids running across the gleaming gym floors. Archie should feel right at home.

* * *

The Eastern Henrico Recreation Center offers a number of fitness classes, including:

• Get Fit Boot Camp mixes cardio, calisthenics and body weight exercise with interval and strength training.

• 20/20/20 is a fusion workout that includes 20 minutes of low impact aerobics, 20 minutes of basic strength training and 20- minutes focused on stretching and balancing.

• Zumba mixes Latin rhythms and easy-to-follow moves.

• Women on Weights introduces women to the benefits of strength training with free weights, giving confidence to use weights safely and effectively.

• Intro to Yoga helps you improve balance, flexibility, posture and circulation and will enhance your ability to relax.

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