Healthy was not the word used to describe Lydia Haskell as a child.
At 2, Haskell became deathly ill with pneumonia. Three years later, what started as a bruised hip following a tricycle accident turned into another near-death experience as the injury led to a severe staph infection. Her condition was so grave that a priest gave her last rites twice.
That was more than 40 years ago. Today, Haskell is the definition of "healthy," having spent the last 20 years promoting a healthy lifestyle as a fitness instructor, NFL cheerleader and fitness competitor. Haskell has since took that passion to a new level with the recent opening earlier this month of The Fitness Rave at in White Marsh.
The 8,400-square-foot fitness studio is an expansion of her original studio in Bel Air, which opened about a year ago. Haskell quickly outgrew that building and decided a change of venue was needed.
“Fitness is my passion,” said Haskell, 46, a Bel Air resident and a married mother of a teenage daughter. “I try to offer a workout that is more of an experience. People that come here get a workout that is fun and they don’t even realize they are working out when they are here.”
While many fitness chains like Planet Fitness and offer low membership rates by concentrating mainly on traditional gym equipment, Haskell said The Fitness Rave concentrates on group fitness. Her venue features two huge studios that are housed with powerful sound and light systems that make many of her classes feel more like an evening at a nightclub rather than a gym.
Among the courses offered by her staff of more than a dozen instructors, including Haskell, are suspension training, Zumba and personal training for those of all fitness levels. Friday night cardio dance parties and fitness “raves” are just some of the unique aspects to Haskell’s studio. The studio, however, does also offer circuit-training equipment.
“It can be really motivating for people to work out in this type of electric environment where they are exercising with 75 to 80 other people at a time,” Haskell said. “Plus, it is a lot of fun, especially for those who don’t want a traditional workout.”
Kim Butcher is one of those studio members. The 31-year-old Bel Air resident joined The Fitness Rave when it opened in Harford County and followed Haskell when she moved to its current location.
Butcher said despite the longer drive, she believes it is worth it for her to make the 30-minute trek several times a week.
“The Fitness Rave just offers the complete package,” Butcher said. “I love the group aspect of it. Everyone pushes each other and you make a lot of new friends in the process. It’s a very social experience.”
Haskell, whose husband Rick is operating partner at Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar in Baltimore, said most of her fitness courses are based off of philosophies of Les Mills, a New Zealand-based company whose programs are offered in more than 13,000 clubs in 75 countries that account for more than 5 million weekly users, according to the company website.
Haskell’s ultimate goal, she said, is to franchise The Fitness Rave, something she believes is possible even in today’s current difficult economic climate.
“We offer group fitness at an affordable price,” Haskell said. “We have already seen in a short time that those who come to our studio are hooked on what we do. We believe others will be too.”