Rent was increasing, and Gina Denison had already started telling her clients she wasn’t sure how much longer she could keep open her West Orange Fitness personal-training studio in Oakland.
One of her clients told her she couldn’t close her business because they all needed her — and he had an idea to find another location for her.
“We need fitness, and you need a place,” he told Denison.
The plan worked out, she negotiated her rent, and in April, after six years on Tubb Street, Denison moved her equipment and her business to the West Orange Country Club, in Winter Garden.
“I guess I’m not done; I’m staying in fitness,” she said. “This was a sign: ‘You’re not done, you’re just going to move.’”
Denison is grateful to keep her studio doors open, especially after going through a rough patch during the pandemic. She said she had to shut down for 12 weeks and it nearly caused her to permanently close.
When she told her clients in Oakland she was reopening at the country club, all 35 decided to make the move with her.
“It was really a blessing how it all came about,” she said. “They did the renovations, and we just started putting together an agreement and a plan and moved in here the end of April.”
Denison’s presence has been a boon for the country club, too.
“We are very excited to now offer a fitness amenity to our members here at West Orange Country Club,” General Manager Brendon Chase said. “It’s been a pleasure partnering with West Orange Fitness and being the home to their fitness programs. Gina and her team offer a variety of fitness programs that fits perfect for our growing membership. We now have a new renovated fitness room that has beautiful views to our golf course. We look forward to our new partnership and new offerings to our members.”
Country club membership includes access to the gym, and members can sign up for personal training at a discount price — but Denison stressed her studio is open to the public as well.
“You don’t have to be a member to work out here,” she said.
“It’s a great opportunity, and I’m grateful to have a great team,” she said.
The studio provides personal training; one-on-one buddy training; TRX training, a tether-band program designed by the Navy Seals; and nutritional guidance. All programs the gym offers its clients focus on cardio, strength and flexibility. Denison wants to hold small-group classes in the future.
She and two staff members, who are nationally certified, make up the West Orange Fitness studio. Brandon Strong specializes in personal training and general fitness, including resistance, strength training and cardio, and is working on a children’s golf training program. Penny Dittbrenner is certified in personal training and yoga and specializes in yoga and TRX training.
Denison’s interest in fitness began when was 19 and teaching aerobics part-time at a club in Winter Park. She also worked full-time at a bank but made the decision at the age of 30 to go back to school. She began a full-time personal training position at the Roper YMCA in 1996 and was the organization’s first trainer on staff.
She took the leap a decade later and opened her own gym, Winter Garden Fitness, in downtown Winter Garden.
When her lease was up and the landlord quadrupled the rent, she said, she couldn’t afford to stay there. That’s when she moved to Oakland and changed the name of her company to West Orange Fitness.
“I love fitness,” Denison said. “I’m passionate about helping people, and it’s a win-win. I get to do what I love and help others.”
She lives and works by what she calls her three components: being healthy mentally, physically and emotionally.
“Fitness is my calling — and how I can help people become healthier, more balanced and have a better quality of life,”
Community Editor Amy Quesinberry was born at the old West Orange Memorial Hospital and raised in Winter Garden. Aside from earning her journalism degree from the University of Georgia, she hasn’t strayed too far from her hometown and her three-mile bubble. She grew up reading The Winter Garden Times and knew in the eighth grade she wanted to write for her community newspaper. She has been part of the writing and editing team since 1990.