There is a reason that the Columbia River Gorge has been designated as the largest scenic area in America. The Gorge offers a wealth of opportunities to enjoy being outdoors and active, from hiking and cycling to snowboarding, kayaking and windsurfing. The gorgeous scenery compels anyone who appreciates nature to spend time outside.

Of course, not everyone can make a day of it on the river or the trails. For those who want to keep fit in between hikes or kayak runs, MCMC’s Fitness Center at Water’s Edge offers a comprehensive approach to wellness. Fitness enthusiasts cite the beautiful setting—right on the banks of the Columbia River—as just one reason for choosing the facility. The Fitness Center is staffed by nationally certified trainers, degreed exercise physiologists, physical therapists, health educators and other elite fitness professionals. The clean, modern setting houses state-of-the-art equipment including treadmills, strength training free weights and elliptical machines and offers sports training and exercise testing. Aquatic therapies are offered in the center’s pool as well as group exercise classes such as Tai Chi and Barre. The wide variety of exercise options is just one of the reasons Lora Williams Helmer has made The Fitness Center her home base for wellness.

“I moved back to The Dalles 2 1/2 years ago after living elsewhere for 37 years,” the 60-year-old says. Before moving back, Helmer lived in Portland and worked out at a gym she enjoyed. She wanted to find an equally challenging workout in her hometown. “I walked into The Fitness Center, took a tour, met the staff and knew I wasn’t going to look anywhere else,” she says. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, she was taking water aerobics three times a week as well as Barre and Tai Chi classes. Safety precautions have halted the water aerobics classes temporarily, but Helmer still enjoys the Barre and Tai Chi classes that are ongoing at the center.

“The staff is friendly, knowledgeable and very welcoming,” she notes. “They really focus on helping you create a workout that is beneficial to you.” She appreciates that her instructors are constantly innovating the movements in her classes. “My Barre instructor really emphasizes exercising the whole body for a full body workout. My Tai Chi instructor practices balance both personally and physically. That’s important no matter what your age is. Both instructors emphasize safety and are trained to help each student individually.” In addition to group exercise, The Fitness Center offers individualized services such as nutritional education and health-risk assessments.

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, Helmer says she feels safe in The Fitness Center. “The staff does a great job of keeping the locker room and amenities clean and sanitized. When they can open up the center to more members at a time, I am sure they will keep the same high standard. I’ve missed the camaraderie of the other members but look forward to the staff welcoming us all back soon.”