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Fitness ambition pays off as new centre opens.

Byline: Andrew Hebden

WHEN Dominic Bowser and his partner Claudia Cooper finally ended their seven-year hunt for the ideal premises for a new personal fitness centre, they were determined that it would stand out from the crowd.

As anyone who has visited a gym will know, they can be unwelcoming, intimidating places with an almost clinical atmosphere.

So taking a look around the home of Sound Mind and Body in the former telephone exchange in Front Street, Benton, Newcastle, is a rather surprising experience.

Gone is the stench of sweat and chlorine that immediately reminds you of the school changing room. Instead, you are greeted with polished floors, fresh flowers, floral wallpaper and even chandeliers in the gym.

As well as the well-equipped exercise suite, there are beautifully decorated consultancy and therapy rooms plus a comfortable lounge area in which to enjoy Dominic's homemade muesli or a freshly-prepared fruit salad.

The couple opened their new venture in March, promising to offer a personal training fitness facility unlike any other in the North.

They compare their service to that provided by a Formula 1 racing team - bringing together experts from different fields to provide their clients with everything they need to keep their body (and mind) in shape.

They say the new facility is proving a hit with business executives but their members range in age from 11 to 90.

For Dominic, who completed his personal training qualification in Florida 15 years ago, the opening of Sound Mind and Body is the culmination of a long-held ambition to run his own business after working at some of the biggest gyms in the North East.

None though is quite like what he and Claudia have developed, said Dominic, 44. "We wanted to create somewhere that people could come and feel a bit special.

"Although it's a gym, we wanted to make it somewhere that people could have a bit of enjoyment as well."

Dominic admits developing the new facility has not been cheap and getting the banks to understand the philosophy behind the venture was tough. He said: "We kept being told they would not invest in the leisure sector and that there were too many gyms but I kept saying that, 'Not like this there aren't!' "It is only now that we have opened the doors and people have experienced the team and the building that they can see, feel and enjoy all the benefits we offer.

"Our trainers and therapist have come to us highly recommended."

Claudia stresses the personal touch that they can offer as well as the wide range of services, from advising on a work-out programme and diet to suggesting a new look for a client's wardrobe or even recommending a restaurant for that special occasion. "I love looking after and assisting people - whether that be finding a special dress or an ideal gift," she said.

"We don't want to have a huge membership because we want to keep the service very personal. And we're really determined that whenever a client comes in there's a friendly face waiting for them at reception."

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SPECIAL TOUCH Dominic Bowser with partner Claudia Cooper and sons Jake Cooper, 17, and Myles Cooper, 12
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:May 9, 2011
Words:534
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