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Healthier lives all over the world a goal for Victorson

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AREA — At least $100,000 has gone into renovating the Harvard Ridge Fitness Center, according to owner Steven Victorson.

Victorson, a Boxborough resident raised in California, is the owner of the Harvard Ridge Fitness Center. Formerly the Harvard Ridge Pool Club, Victorson has spent almost $100,000 renovating the building including purchasing all new Keiser exercise equipment, remodeling locker rooms and refitting the 25-yard-long indoor pool and saunas.

But the centerpiece of the new Harvard Ridge is an exercise regimen Victorson calls “swimfit” based on his own experiences as a “human movement” specialist. It involves a combination of “water and land training.”

“I created swimfit to kind of get the word out about my water and land fitness program,” said Victorson. “I have a lot of experience in my background including coaching for a ski team. I’m also a master certified in the Burdenko method that brought to the forefront the use of water in training, conditioning and fitness.

Victorson said he worked with Burdenko for 14 years as well as fitness guru Don Chu learning the effectiveness of water-based training.

“I’ve been around since the early 1980s, and I’ve watched the changes made in the fitness circles,” said Victorson. “At first change came slowly, but finally in the last four to five years, fitness is not just about weight training anymore. It’s about balance and coordination. In that regard, I’ve been ahead of the curve for a long time.

“But any exercise program that doesn’t include the water is a program that’s falling short,” he said. “Water is easy on the joints, so you’re not getting the pounding on the joints as most land training does. So the right combination of land and water provides optimal training.”

In his career, Victorson has spent a lot of time coaching and working directly with top-level athletes including champion skiers.

“I do a lot of work with high school students and injury prevention,” said Victorson. “My philosophy will help get a kid into shape and they don’t have to get so beat up doing it. Most of my clients though happen to be adults, and they range from master athletes to 82-year-old retired professionals. My clients really, really vary in the their backgrounds, but mainly they’re adults.

“My approach to fitness is movement. Life is about movement,” he said. “With my clients, I work on balance and coordination. I teach them how to move their bodies, how to feel balanced and to move with more fluid motions.

Located at 90 Swanson Rd., in Boxborough, the 10,000-square-foot Harvard Ridge Fitness Center features small group classes in yoga and aerobics, pilates and stretch classes as well as Victorson’s swimfit program.

Memberships are available and guest cards for the use of the facilities can also be purchased.

“Every day I apply what I’ve learned during the course of my career,” said Victorson. “I’m not just gong to teach a kid how to win, but how to be a better athlete, too. It’s not enough to just show up on time for practice. And I put all those same skills to work with my adult clients too.

“Everything I do is based on my research and experience,” he said. “It’s not just pulled out of the air. There’s more to my program than its physical aspects. There’s the motivational aspect, teaching kids how to use their minds, the psychology of winning.”

For adults, said Victorson, there is also inertia to overcome. How to “break the cycle of not doing anything.” Like going to church every Sunday strengthens the spirit, regular exercise creates a healthy body. But strong willpower is needed for both if the routines are to be maintained.

“Physical exercise is one thing that helps you live longer and in better health,” said Victorson. “But it’s a funny business because although everyone knows they need to exercise, they don’t want to do it. Exercise has got to be a daily deal if it’s going to work. It’s like for many people, their bodies come last. Staying healthy is better for the kids, better for the family, better all around.”

“About 10 years ago I met Ann Goldfield, a client and very good friend of mine, who as a researcher in infectious diseases, spent much of her career in Cambodia,” said Victorson. “In the 1990s she started an organization called the Cambodian Health Committee. One of the outgrowths of the committee was a place called the Maddox Chivan Center for kids who were infected or affected by HIV. The kids could be orphans caused by the disease of be victims of it themselves.

“The center was created because kids in Cambodia needed to have a place where there was no discrimination or stigma attached to having AIDS. The center was a safe haven for them,” he said. “Also, it provided a place to get kids proper medical care. The center also conducts classes and Ann invited me down there to help out with their sports health and physical education programs. So that’s become my involvement. So far I’ve only gone to Cambodia once this summer, but I’m planning to go again in the fall.”

Its population decimated by over 10 years of fanatical rule under Pol Pot, Cambodia has spent a longtime recovering from its national trauma. In its wake, different social ills have arisen to complicate the process including the spread of AIDS.

“Unlike the United States, in a place like Cambodia, you’re helping people that don’t have a lot of options,” said Victorson of why he has chosen to concentrate his efforts in such a faraway place. “You see people with smiles on their faces and it makes it all worthwhile. That’s an experience that you get out of a place like that, one that’s so far off beaten path. In Cambodia, there’s not a system or structure in place yet to give kids a chance.”

Determined to keep those faces smiling, Victorson has planned a fund-raiser to help raise money to get his fitness program at the Maddox Chivan Center off the ground.

Sponsored and organized by Suzanne Schultz, the fund-raiser will be held Sept. 14, at 221 Robinson Rd., in Boxborough, and will be attended by both Victorson and Goldfield in an intimate setting.

For information call Victorson at (978) 635-0500.

In the meantime, aided by a half-dozen part-time employees, Victorson said he is comfortable with the way the Nashoba Valley area has accepted the new Harvard Ridge Fitness Center as a member of its thriving business community.

“So far my business has been very well received in town,” Victorson said. “It’s doubled in the last year. We’ve got lot of Harvard people coming in and people from Groton, Littleton and Acton, too, and I think the critical factor has been developing a personal relationship with our clients.”

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