Darcy Spence lifts a bar during a group weight-lifting class at Rogue Fit Solutions in Phoenix.

Fit in Phoenix

Health was Robin McMillin's hobby before a short-lived career as wellness coordinator for Central Point schools. When the school district's lack of funding forced McMillin, 48, to reinvent herself, she developed a one-stop center for health and wellness in an unlikely location: Phoenix's Shoppes at Exit 24.

"There's nothing in this area," says McMillin.

Her Rogue Fit Solutions opened in February offering exercise, nutrition counseling and free health workshops. McMillin draws on both her experience as a health-club instructor and former middle-school teacher to appeal to clients attending exercise classes or lectures.

"They come and choose what they want," says McMillin.

Punch cards priced between $28 and $80 grant access to McMillin's four levels of Zumba classes, plus group weights, yoga-Pilates fusion and abs/core. Classes range in size from a few people to 30 at varying levels of fitness from "barely moving" to traversing the entire dance floor, says McMillin. The typical demographic at Rogue Fit Solutions, she adds, is women in their mid-40s.

"I'd love to have more men."

An introductory class is free, and Rogue Fit Solutions has no joining fees. Private exercise and cooking classes, as well as personal training and nutrition counseling, are available at hourly rates.

Because losing weight is most clients' goal, Rogue Fit Solutions launched its first intensive weight-loss program in early April. Ten participants paid $299 apiece for the eight-week series of group classes and individual coaching.

"It's affordable, which is huge," says Carrie Anderson, a Phoenix resident who has never had a fitness-club membership. "I'm kind of just looking at it as an investment for the future."

McMillin invested in her fitness future more than 20 years ago in Southern California, where she studied to be an exercise specialist. A move to the Rogue Valley entailed changing careers, but when she wanted to improve her own health and fitness, McMillin didn't stop at taking classes. She started teaching group exercise at Superior Athletic Club and cooking classes wherever she could find a kitchen with enough space.

McMillin's ultimate plan is hosting cooking classes through Rogue Fit Solutions, once the facility can accommodate it. For now, she whips up green smoothies, her most popular lecture topic. Others have addressed sugar, water and sleep.

A vegan who also doesn't eat foods containing gluten, McMillin says she promotes a commonsense approach to eating reminiscent of The Balanced Weigh, a long-running local program devised by health educator Linda Willis.

McMillin says she learned the whole-foods lexicon through consulting a naturopathic physician, independent research and trial and error following decades of roller-coaster dieting that damaged her health.

"The programs that are here are based on real food," says McMillin, who's tried just about every diet plan advertised, including Take Off Pounds Sensibly, Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers and Nutrisystem. "Typically, gyms have weight-loss programs that are supplement-based."

McMillin sells no supplements, steers clients away from processed foods and dispels the myth that it's more expensive to eat better. Instead of handing out meal plans and menus, she advocates purchasing an unfamiliar piece of produce and looking up a recipe for it on the Internet. The simplest preparation for most vegetables, she says, is simply sauteing in olive oil with garlic and a splash of lemon juice.

"People don't need to know how to cook."

Feeling the need to watch what she eats more closely, Anderson says she still wants satisfying foods that don't come in boxes. McMillin's program, she says, seems different, the cooking "doable" and the results sustainable.

"She really knows her stuff."

To complement her certifications in personal training, group fitness and life and weight-management coaching, McMillin is obtaining certification from the Nutritional Therapy Association, based in Olympia, Wash. After two months of operation, Rogue Fit Solutions boasted clients who trimmed inches off their frames, she says.

Others are pleased to gain agility and coordination in McMillin's exercise classes. Chuck Reiling, 74, took his first Zumba Gold class at Rogue Fit Solutions because the format is geared toward seniors. McMillin says her Zumba Gold is a "toned-down" version of an already toned-down format based on Latin dance, and it offers more detailed explanations.

Joking that it makes him appreciate all the work that goes into the broadcast-television spectacle "Dancing With the Stars," Reiling says he needed more than circuit training to stay fit for downhill skiing. Although "it doesn't take any strength," Reiling says his muscles feel stretched after Zumba Gold. McMillin's style and personality, the Medford resident adds, puts newcomers at ease.

"It's pleasant pushing."

Rogue Fit Solutions, at 205 Fern Valley Road, Suite Z, Phoenix, is open during scheduled class times: Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday mornings and weekday evenings. See a schedule at www.roguefitsolutions.com. For individual consultations, call 541-941-8028 or email robin@roguefitsolutions.com.

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