Quest to keep fitness affordable

Staff writerOctober 16, 2011 

Blake Surina shook his head as I told him about some of the money I’ve spent recently in the name of physical fitness.

Personal trainer: $45 per hour. Gym membership: $115 per month. Body composition test: $50.

“You shouldn’t have to spend a fortune to be in shape,” he said.

One of Surina’s passions is trying to make fitness and exercise science more affordable and accessible to his community, Fircrest. That’s why when he opened the Exercise Science Center in 1985, he charged just $25 per month. And that’s why 26 years later, dues have increased only $10.

“How is somebody going to work out their whole life at $50 per hour?” Surina said. “It’s like an energy bar. It’s great in a pinch, but eventually you have to go back to eating real food.”

The Exercise Science Center, 1101 Regents Blvd., is not a typical gym. The $35 per month membership starts with an assessment that includes a body composition test, an aerobic bicycle test that measures oxygen consumption, a hand-grip strength test, a cardiovascular risk test and flexibility tests.

The assessment provides you a fitness grade-point average. Surina and his wife, Carla Edman-Surina, then evaluate the results and help set up a workout program.

Surina charges $40 – less than a standard body composition test ($45-$50) – for the assessment for nonmembers.

A membership at the center includes access to the gym and three-person staff, blood workups, nutrition counseling and sports-specific coaching. Surina says his 350 members range in age from 13-96. The assessment test is administered every two months to monitor progress.

“We don’t sell vitamins or T-shirts, it’s all about exercise,” Surina said.

Surina grew up in Tacoma and graduated from Stadium High School before becoming an all-American decathlete at Western Washington University and then earning his master’s degree in education and hospital administration degree from the University of Puget Sound.

He is a certified respiratory therapist and pulmonary function technician and a three-time Masters track and field national champion.

He also served as a sports medicine intern at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in the early 1980s.

While he loves studying all aspects of fitness, he says what he enjoys most is seeing people find success in pursuit of their fitness goals.

He’s helped Masters swimmers, college and high school athletes and elderly people who simply want to improve their quality of life.

In a nutshell, Surina believes “strength training keeps you young and cardio keeps you alive.”

And, of course, developing a workout program where those exercise become a part of your regular routine.

“That’s what we are all about,” Surina said. “Teaching people how to exercise and how to do it as a lifetime thing.”


Miriam Zderic, a Tacoma native now living in Bellingham, won her age group in the Twin Cities Marathon earlier this month in Saint Paul, Minn. Zderic, 56, ran the race in 3 hours, 3 minutes and 25 seconds to win the USA Track and Field Masters Championship.

The race doubled as the Masters championship this year. She won by nearly 17 minutes.

Zderic was not the only local runner to win a championship.

Bob Brennand, a 50-year-old Olympia resident, won his age group in 2:42:29, the fastest time of the 29 Washingtonians in the race. He won his race by 1 second.

Mary Hanna, 50, of Maple Valley finished second in her group.

Craig Hill’s fitness column runs Sundays. Submit questions and comments via, or

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