Mural covers wall at fitness center

A health-related mural painted by Luke Hager, a Redbank Valley High School graduate, graces one wall at the new Tri-County Health and Fitness in New Bethlehem.

NEW BETHLEHEM — Wellness enthusiasts in the region can find not only fitness classes but also nutrition and sleep counseling under a single roof. Tri-County Health and Fitness, located above Zack’s restaurant along Wood Street in New Bethlehem, is a cooperative venture of Zack, Austin and Mitch Blose.

And the three brothers have gotten a high school friend, Luke Hager, into the act as well.

Hager, a graduate of Redbank Valley High School and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, has a degree in exercise science but has lent his natural artistic abilities to the gym.

“I have always been drawing since the time I was a little kid,” Hager said. “I just used pencils until I took art in high school. That is when I branched out into colored pencils and some paints.”

The gym’s new mural was accomplished using indoor acrylic paints.

Other than taking two years of elective art at Redbank, Hager has had no formal training. Nevertheless, he earned the Most Promising New Artist ribbon at the Autumn Leaf Festival art show in Clarion a couple years ago. Ready to take on a larger project, he created the large mural that now graces a formerly blank wall at Tri-County Health and Fitness.

Dominated by a depiction of a heart’s arteries branching out to create an abstract torso and limbs that flow into a tree shape, the image is topped by a cluster of leaves subtly modeled to resemble the human brain. Motifs of healthy lifestyle ingredients accompany this central image.

Vegetable images are arranged according to the colors of the rainbow, beginning with red tomatoes and ending with deep-purple eggplants. Silhouettes of athletic men and women are found throughout the mural.

“The upper background refers to a person’s sleep-wake cycle,” Hager said. “Without proper rest and sleep, all other fitness goals suffer.”

Healthy sleep habits is a theme picked up by co-owner Mitch Blose.

“We start out with an initial consultation with somebody who wants to join the gym,” he said. “We sit downstairs in the restaurant and talk about what goals the person has. Of course, there’s diet and exercise, but we include sleep counseling, too.”

Each human being has unique sleep needs, especially how many hours are needed each night. Blose says that it is not about quantity but rather quality. Waking up refreshed is the key indicator.

The gym operates as a nonprofit organization, holding a 501(c) designation from the federal Internal Revenue Service. With this status, Blose said that the fitness facility does not charge membership fees but does accept donations of suggested amounts.

Tri-County Health and Fitness is very much a work in progress, but Blose and his brothers have ambitious plans for their upstairs space.

“Really, my brother, Austin, is the go-to guy for so much of what we do,” Blose said. “He has a business degree and holds a paralegal certificate from Clarion University. Austin is kind of the brains of the operation.”

Mitch Blose graduated from Slippery Rock University with a bachelor’s degree in health and physical education. Brother Zack is a holder of a hospitality management degree. Their collective brain power is the driving force behind getting the gym up and running at full capacity.

At present, the gym is not open to the public except for its wellness counseling services and women’s fitness classes on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. A $50 donation will get a person two or three classes per week for four weeks. A casual drop-in attendee will be asked for a $10 donation for a single class.

“I lead the classes,” Blose said. “While I follow a consistent format, I try to change up the activities to keep things fresh and interesting. We use stretch bands, exercises using body weight and also some light weights.”

By plowing the donation money back into their business, the Blose brothers are on target to purchase up-to-date free weights, weight machines, treadmills and exercise bikes for their clients.

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