BARSTOW Jed Shay says he never exercised before moving to Barstow. But five years ago, when Shay relocated from Houston to work as an anesthesiologist at Barstow Community Hospital, he found himself with free time.

Shay joined a gym.

Since then, the 49-year-old doctor has grown a passion for exercise.

"I see the ill effects of not being fit and being overweight," Shay said of many of the surgery patients he sees.

Shay has become a well-recognized face at Main Street Fitness, where he works out twice a day, chatting up members and giving them pointers as a fellow exerciser and as a physician. Now he'll be taking on an even bigger role with the gym.

Starting Monday, Main Street Fitness will shift next door, transforming into Fitness M.D. 24/7. Shay, who approached current owner Kris Okamuro about the idea three years ago, will be the president of the business while continuing to work at the hospital, while Okamuro continues to manage the gym's day-to-day operations.

The new gym, relatively similar in size to the current 6,400-square-foot facility, will offer aerobic classes like cardio and kickboxing, will have new amenities like air conditioning and showers and will be open 24 hours a day starting its second week.

Despite the current depressed state of the economy, Shay, who will be the majority stock holder of the business, said he was willing to take a risk with the investment.

"I feel very strongly about what I do," he said.

Current Main Street Fitness clients will have their membership transferred to the new gym, according to Okamuro. He anticipates membership dues increasing in the future, since the gym will be open 24 hours.

Currently, Anytime Fitness also on East Main Street is the only 24-hour gym in town. Owner Aaron Miller anticipates that Fitness M.D. will create direct competition for Anytime Fitness, but said that anything to get people to exercise more was positive.

"It makes more people aware of fitness," said Miller.

Joann Locke, a Main Street Fitness member of four years, said she was looking forward to the added shower facilities. The 68-year-old Baker resident, who walks on the treadmill for two hours two to three times a week, said she's looking forward to being able to clean up before the drive home, especially for the hot summer months.

The new hours will help out people who do shift work especially those who want to use advanced weight training equipment, said Matt Schneider, a member of Main Street Fitness for three years.

"If they want to hit the gym at two in the morning, where can they go?" said the 21-year-old, who is training for a body building competition in July, and hits the gym twice daily.

Mary Ann Serafin, a fitness/yoga instructor who previously had her own business, will be teaming up with Shay and the Fitness M.D. staff and will teach beginning and intermediate fitness classes at the new gym's aerobics room, which features hardwood floors and mirrored walls.

Shay will also offer consultations regarding specialized diets for medical weight loss. Shay puts the necessity of exercise in stark terms, from his experience working in hospitals: you can either exercise now or eventually end up on the operating table.

"You're going to pay a price at some point in your life," said Shay.

"If people embrace the idea of working out, it won't be as hard as it seems."

Contact the writer:
(760) 256-4122 or elee@desertdispatch.com