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PORTAGE | In a world of new big chain work-out/fitness centers, Classic Bodyworks 24HR Gym & Fitness stands out for its longevity, family atmosphere and the faith-based principles that guide its operations.

“I was working in a factory, and I wanted to do something different. I loved lifting weights and working with people,” said owner Al Sabedra, 54, about the inspiration for opening the gym and fitness center in 1995. “This is a life-long dream.”

Located in The Meadows Shopping Center at 6020 Central Ave., Classic Bodyworks has more than 20,000 square feet of space and offers weight lifting, cross-training, cardio workouts, aerobics, personal training and free child care for youngsters ages 6 months through 12 years while members use the gym’s facilities during specific hours.

In addition, members can sign up for classes such as pilates, zumba, fitness yoga, body sculpting and HIIT (high intensity interval training) that are included with membership fees.

A variety of membership options provides flexibility for individuals, couples and families. There are also discounts for senior citizens ages 60 and older, military personnel, and members of area police and fire departments. For example, paid-in-full membership for an individual is $375; $675 for a couple and $895 for a family of three. The senior/military/police/fireman discount is 20 percent for paid-in-full memberships.

The 24-hour access allows members to work out on their own schedules. Many of the members work various shifts in area industries.

“We have such a diversity of young and old. There are also so many women who are training seriously,” Al Sabedra said.

Family continues to be a major reason for Classic Bodyworks’ success, according to staff and members.

Al Sabedra’s 27-year-old son, Lucas, serves as operations manager while the owner’s wife, Teresa, is in charge of accounts receivable.

“I was 8 years old when my dad started this business,” said Lucas Sabedra, of Chesterton, who is an Ironman Triathlete. “We’ve kept it a family atmosphere. Like a 'Cheers' of fitness.”

“Not many fathers get to work their sons,” Al Sabedra said of the family business.

Member Deb Cooper touted the gym’s atmosphere for her own continued success.

“I’ve been going to gyms for many years. This gym is like family,” said Cooper, 52, of Porter Beach.

“I’m getting in conditioning and strength training. My goal is to be in the best shape I’ve ever been. I’ve always worked out. I spend about two to three hours here every day,” she said. “It keeps me mentally and physically fit.”

Cooper’s personal trainer Ryan Scribailo said Classic Bodyworks custom-tailors exercise programs to help members reach their personal goals.

“I take a history that includes their past exercise history, did they play sports, their diet, what supplements they take and what their goals are,” said Scribailo, a resident of Porter.

The Sabedra family’s Christian faith creates the structure and guidelines for Classic Bodyworks.

“I am a Christian. I serve God. That’s how I run this gym, by treating other people like we want to be treated,” said Al Sabedra, adding that this comes with specific rules that members must follow.

For example, a large sign in the workout room states the use of steroids by members will be prosecuted. Appropriate attire for men and women includes shirts and gym shoes, not sandals. No extremely short shorts or sports bras are permitted. In addition, members aren’t to drop weights or lean weights against walls or machines, and must put weights back when finished.

Garry Phillips, of Portage, has been one of the personal trainers at Classic Bodyworks since its opening day and agreed the Christian-based operation is a reason for the gym’s longevity.

“This gym is like the foundation of our country. It’s based on Biblical principles. It’s still being run that way, and that what sets it apart,” said Phillips, a 60-something Portage resident.

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Senior Copy Editor

Jeanette is a journalist with The Times Media Co. who has worked as both a reporter and editor. She has a master's degree in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois at Springfield.