ROCKLAND — Mona Stearns owns and operates Mid-Coast Gym at 44 Park Street in Rockland. MCG is an 8,000-square-foot facility. Twenty-four years ago, Mona and her husband, along with her brother-in-law, built Mid Coast Gym. Mona is not only the owner, but also a personal trainer and a registered nurse. She said her goal is healthy and not just skinny. Penobscot Bay Pilot spent a few minutes with Mona to talk about the gym.
“This used to be the old FMC building,” she said. “It was a grain warehouse and we purchased it and renovated it and put together a gym. It has grown ever since. The direction has changed a little bit from when we first started out. There was a lot more youth and everyone was really noisy and there was a lot of testosterone. Now, we have more mature members and we have a lot of women. The average age is probably 50, which is a little older than most gyms. Our goal is to help people be healthier.”
PBP: Tell us about how it has evolved.
“We had a lot of equipment from the get-go, so we’ve pretty much just updated what we have,” she said. “The downstairs level, we haven’t added more than five pieces and of course everything gets updated as needed. Our free weights start at five pounds up to 140 pounds. We have 30 pieces of strength training equipment. Our cardio equipment has been replaced more frequently because that gets a different type of use. It takes wear and tear easily; it’s all made out of steel, and even our big, bad boys out there can’t tear it apart.”
PBP: The average person who visits your gym, what are they looking for?
“Today is different then 24 years ago,” she said. “Today they are looking more towards health. They want to lower their blood pressure, they might be pre-diabetic. I have a lot of men and women who are looking at bone density, as in osteoporosis, as their driver. There’s always the never-ending battle of the waistline. For my younger members, a lot of them are fishermen and carpenters and they are looking for strength. They want to be strong in what they do.”
PBP: What were they looking for 24 years ago?
“They were looking more for the walk-down-the-runway model look and men were looking for the big bicep and big chest look,” she said. “As the gym evolved — and it might have to do with that I’m in my 60s now — I’ve taken the direction toward the baby boomer because there are more of us and it makes for a bigger market. Twenty-four years ago, it was more for appearance, the way you looked on the outside. Now I think it’s more what’s going on inside your body.”
PBP: The big buzz today is six-pack abs. Can you achieve it, or do you have to be born with it?
“Genetics plays a big part in it,” she said. “Of my 300 to 400 members, I probably have four young men who have a six pack. If you watch them work out, it’s 24/7, and by that I mean everything that goes into their mouth is clean. They are immaculate in their food choices. They do at least one to two hours of cardio workout per day and they stress train every day. So, yes, it’s achievable, but not for the mere mortal human. It’s not realistic. We have some very fit women also, but it’s hard for a woman to get a six pack. The dedication, the discipline, the constant vigilance; most people are unable to follow through with that.”
PBP: For cardio fitness, how many times a week would you recommend someone visit the gym?
“Cardio fitness is about your heart,” she said. “The heart is probably the most important piece in your body. Standards say 30 minutes three times a week. I say for a healthy heart, three to 60 minutes every day and it doesn’t have to be only in a gym setting. When you’re walking your dog, just walk a little faster. When you’re in your home, go up and down the stairs more frequently. What you want to do is elevate your heart rate, because as your forcing your heart to work harder you’re making it stronger. It doesn’t all have to be done at the same time, just throughout the course of your day at work, at home or outside.”
PBP: Being a registered nurse, how does that affect the gym and hoe does it intertwine?
“I used to work in the telemetry unit at the hospital, which, of course, is reserved for if you really have something bad happen to you,” she said. “Something has gone really wrong with your heart, or a stroke. My take on that is that I wear two hats: If you do not take care of your body in a healthy manner, you will meet me and unfortunately you’ll meet me in a world that you don’t want to meet me in. The time you invest in your heart and health is priceless. You can’t put a price tag on health and being a registered nurse I have a real appreciation of how important your health is.”
PBP: Every New Year you hear people say I’m going to go to a gym, I’m going to take better care of myself, and two weeks after they’ve forgotten all about it. What advice can you give someone to take that important first step?
“First, you have to label it as a commitment and not a resolution. One small step like eating breakfast every morning, taking a walk everyday. Coming into a gym the first time can be very intimidating, so what I suggest is you bring a friend. It’s always nice to have an ally. My average age is 50 at the gym. Everyone say, “but they’re so young in there,” so I tell them to come and have a look. Be honest with yourself. Sit and reflect and say how did I get to where I am today? And write it down because once you see it on paper, it makes it real. Once you see it on paper it makes it tangible and easy to acknowledge. Say, for example, you put down you have fried food four times a week. We all know fried food is bad for you. Well, let’s see if we can cut it down to three times a week for a couple of weeks and then two. Simple changes are easy to do. It’s when you try to do them all at once that makes them impossible to carry through. It’s human nature and human nature says I’m okay right where I am.”
PBP: Say something in closing about Mid Coast Gym.
“Give us a try,” she smiled. “We’ve been around a long time, 20-plus years. The majority of my staff, my office manager Judy Tibbetts has been here that minus six months, the same amount of time that I’ve been here. Our members are every day people, your coworkers, your friends, your sister, they’re just every day people trying to be healthier. We’ve got longevity, we have great trainers and it’s a fun place to be.”