Venice has long been a retirement and tourist destination. But in the last decade or so, we’ve also become a wellness destination, with practitioners in all sorts of healing arts offering classic and cutting-edge classes and treatments. There’s a wealth of healthful opportunities along our sunny shores; here’s a sampling to get you started.
“I Took Charge of Aging”
A former middle school science teacher, Gloria Turnberg remains physically active—and fiercely independent—at 88.
“The human body gets old,” she says. “That’s going to happen. But how soon it does is in your own hands.”
Six years ago, Turnberg began experiencing dizzy spells. When doctors couldn’t stop them, she says she decided, “If dizziness was going to be part of my life, I needed to learn how not to fall. That’s the beginning of the end for so many people.”
Turnberg enrolled in a balance/movement class at the Friendship Centers, where she works with Jeannie Burke, an exercise physiologist who focuses on balance, movement and flexibility.
“Jeannie taught me to increase core strength by using atrophied muscles. I felt stronger than I had in years,” says Turnberg.
Burke also helped Turnberg recover from surgery that had left her unable to lift her hand above her head. By using stretch bands to loosen and strengthen her shoulder muscles, she can now reach high again.
“I can do things now I couldn’t do years ago,” says Turnberg. “We’re not always aware of the loss of muscular strength. Jeannie helped me recognize and correct this problem before it disabled me.”
Goal: To stay independent, maintain strength and avoid falls.
Focus: Improving flexibility and core strength.
Patience Pays Off: “There’s no such thing as overnight perfection. Slow and steady progress is what counts.”
Mantra: “Just because you’re older doesn’t mean you can’t improve your health and well-being.”
There’s a new movement afoot—in more ways than one. “Conscious movement” is what it’s called. It’s all about the liberating power of intuitive dance. In our area, this movement finds expression at Dance Temple at Authentic Fusion Studio.
Instructor Lucy Sky explains: “It’s a form of self-expression, and a liberating way to clear out mental blocks and harmonize with yourself and others.” While participants are encouraged to “dance what you feel,” she says, instruction and guidance are always available. “We offer an open dance floor for you to explore different rhythms, patterns of movement and your inner journey,” she says. The practice combines the healing nature of movement with a sense of fun, play and artistry. “And it’s a great workout!” she adds.
101 W. Venice Ave., #24, Venice; (941) 483-0748; authenticfusion.com
Small Changes, Big Results
Like many, Deb Peters struggled for years with weight and body image issues. When she finally broke free of the cycle, she launched DP Fitness and Wellness to help others achieve lasting results.
“So many programs and diets are difficult and rigorously structured,” says Peters. “DP Fitness and Wellness is all about incorporating daily, manageable changes that eventually transform your life and body.”
The DP program employs “functional movement” and a combination of strength and cardiovascular exercises. “We create a balanced, challenging workout with dumbbells, bands, balls, kettlebells, TRX and other tools,” Peters says. “But your body is really our most important piece of equipment.”
She customizes every program. “At our initial discovery session, we’ll talk about your history, lifestyle and goals,” Peters says. “Together, we’ll create a road map to achieve these goals.” Who can benefit? “Anyone who’s tried and failed at a fitness and lifestyle program,” she says. “Most of us know what to do, but it is hard to be your own cheerleader. That’s what I’m here for.”
210 Miami Ave. W., Venice; (813) 731-8767; dpfitnessandwellness.com
As a young dancer in training, Elizabeth Holland experienced multiple injuries, chronic pain and potential surgeries that threatened to end her career. She got back on her feet and into her dancing shoes, thanks to the Gyrotonic Expansion System. Holland offers several mind-body modalities at Suncoast Center for Movement Venice, including equipment sessions in Pilates and Gyrotonic methods, and Gyrokinesis group classes.
“I experienced profound healing and relief from pain using a mix of these systems,” she says.
Most of us are familiar with yoga and Pilates, but what is Gyrotonic? According to Holland, the system involves the repetition of circular movements, in harmony with rhythmic breathing, while creating space between the vertebrae and other joints. “Your body can enjoy a full range of motion without impact or compression,” she says. “Gyrotonic method increases strength, flexibility, coordination, balance and posture. Ultimately, it can teach the body to regenerate and reorganize itself into a more desirable and supple form.”
Suite 25, 101 W. Venice Ave., Venice. (941) 879-8657; suncoastmovementvenice.com
It's a Community Affair
The pursuit of wellness is a good thing. It’s even better when you’re not on your own. That’s the philosophy behind the Venice Holistic Community Center, a vibrant group of healers, teachers, and seekers.
“We offer approximately 20 programs per semester to inspire well-being, personal growth, peace and happiness,” says Jillaurie Crane, an educator and Buddhist chaplain who leads mindfulness meditation classes at the center. “Our programs include yoga, healthy eating, workshops for personal and spiritual growth, djembe drumming, and our very popular swing classes.” She adds that the nonprofit center runs on volunteer power, and it’s done so for 13 years. “We want to help actualize a community that thrives on cooperation, mutual support, compassion and creative expression,” she says.
714 Shamrock Blvd., Venice; (941) 323-8033; veniceholisticcenter.org
“Barre Classes Reshaped My Body”
After barely making it through a game of pickle ball, Kathy Venturelli decided to take a class at Body by Barre.
The Swiss Army Knife of workouts, barre employs a ballet barre for balance and combines ballet positions, yoga postures, Pilates movements and isometric exercises. It’s low impact, high repetition, and aerobically invigorating.
That first class was hard. But it did her body good—and Venturelli knew it. Within a few months she was attending classes six days a week.
“I saw definition taking shape in my arms, back, abs and legs,” she says. She also grew stronger and more flexible. Those changes encouraged her to change her eating habits. She reduced portion size, cut out late-night snacks of soda and chips, and limited restaurant meals to two per week.
When barre leader Kim Hackett added a yoga teacher to the studio, Venturelli signed up. She now takes Vinyasa yoga two days and barre four days a week.
“I continue to challenge myself and to be amazed at the changes in my body,” she says.
Goal: To regain muscle tone, strength and balance, and increase stamina.
Raising the Barre: In 2 ½ years, she’s completed more than 600 barre sessions.
Mantra: “Take it one day at a time.”
Big Loser: Although losing weight wasn’t her original goal, Venturelli has dropped 25 pounds.
Spreading the Gospel: Instead of skipping workouts when she has company, “I drag them along with me. Some have become barre converts!”
“I Lost 40 Pounds and Turned My Life Around.”
Susan Freedley’s husband died at 59. It was a heartbreaking wake-up call.
“My family is prone to diabetes and heart disease,” she says. “I made up my mind to turn my life around.”
In 2016, around her 60th birthday, Freedley met with Deb Peters of DP Fitness and Wellness in Venice. “I needed someone to motivate me,” Freedley says. “Deb turned my mindset around.”
Peters designed a program that included strength and cardio training, a nutrition plan and accountability. She also helped inspire Freedley with daily texts, and encouraged her to get a bike.
“I hadn’t been on a bicycle in 20 years,” says Susan. “Within a few weeks, I was biking six to eight miles a day several days a week on the Legacy Trail.”
Her new strength and confidence have motivated Freedley to take a job in the restaurant industry. “I’m on my feet a lot, without any problems,” she says.
Goal: To get in shape, eat better, and lose weight.
Mantra: “There’s no such thing as instant transformation. Baby steps lead to giant changes.”
Big Loser: Went from 166 pounds to 126 pounds and from a size 12 to a 2.
Muscling Up: After starting with an eight-pound weight, she can now hoist a 15-pound kettle ball.
Success Means: “I don’t even need a Fitbit anymore!”
Sweet Leaf Brings Sweet Relief
Cannabidiol (“CBD” for short) has grown from a fad to a billion-dollar industry. This cannabis derivative is said to have therapeutic properties for wide-ranging medical conditions, including chronic pain, anxiety and sleep problems. Family-run Sweet Leaf Relief & Wellness is devoted to promoting CBD’s healing virtues. “We’ve seen it work,” says owner Marion Lutz. “We’ve experienced the benefits of CBD in our own lives.”
Several years back, a steel shelving display collapsed on top of Lutz. She suffered four broken vertebrae in her neck. Surgeons had to remove the vertebrae and replace them with brackets and screws. She also endured extensive damage in her lower spine, and most of her tailbone was removed.
In 2007, Lutz was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. “Pain was an understatement,” says Lutz, who was prescribed “oodles of opioids and synthetic drugs.” In her search to find an alternative to pain medication, she found Green Roads CBD—and it helped her turn the corner to wellness. Now that’s the only CBD product she and her husband, Rick Sweet, use themselves—and feature in their business.
“Green Roads offers the safest, cleanest and purest CBD extract available,” says Lutz. The delivery system comes in many forms, including oils, syrups, edibles, capsules and topical creams.
How to find what’s best for you? “Just ask,” says Lutz. “I’ve dedicated myself to educating people that there is a better way—a natural way—that works.” To find out more, catch Lutz and Sweet at most area farmer’s markets or visit their detailed website.
353 Cedar St., Englewood; (855) 793-3853; sweetleafreliefandwellness.com
The Eyebrows Have It
Full, well-shaped eyebrows can make a big difference in your appearance, but age and other factors thin your brows. A new procedure called microblading, which uses a hand tool to draw tiny hair strokes and inject pigment under the skin, can restore natural-looking brows and take years off your looks in just an hour or two. Microblading is not as deep or permanent as a tattoo, and treatments can last a year or more.
Heidi Aeppli, owner of Venice Day Spa, often uses it for patients undergoing chemotherapy. “During treatment, patients can lose their hair, eyebrows and eyelashes,” she says. “Women can disguise their hair loss with wigs and scarves. But there’s little they can do for their eyebrows until recently.”
One client came after a round of chemo treatments had virtually erased her eyebrows. “When she looked in the mirror, she said, ‘It’s me! I finally look like myself again!’” Aeppli says. “We all had tears in our eyes.”
509 Tamiami Trail S., Venice; (941) 488-3674; venice-dayspa.com
A Delicate Balance
The Venice Friendship Centers offers a host of fitness and wellness classes, programs and workshops, including the popular SilverSneakers, an exercise program specifically designed for older adults. Also good for aging seniors: balance movement classes, which focus on strengthening the muscles that assist with balance and movement.
“Falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries among Florida residents over 65,” says instructor Jeannie Burke. “Our program offers participants information, tools and checklists to increase self-confidence, bolster core strength and psychomotor skills, and reduce their risk of falls.”
350 Scenic Drive, Venice; (941) 493-3065; friendshipcenters.org/locations/venice/
Nadine Mazeika, a practitioner at Lemon Bay Wellness & Yoga Studio, struggled with debilitating migraines in her teens. When Mazeika discovered Ayurveda, a holistic healing system developed more than 3,000 years ago in India, she turned her health around.
“The heart of this tradition is living within our daily cycles and seasons,” she says.
Today Mazeika joyfully shares these principles of mind-body wholeness with her students and clients. Her 10-week self-care program covers a range of Ayurvedic techniques, including diet, bedtime and morning routines, and meditation.
“These techniques will allow you to live and age with grace, vibrancy and clarity,” she says. “You can expect to feel full of life and health in your body and your mind.”
The Towers Plaza, 648 N. Indiana Ave. Englewood; (941) 548-7708; lemonbayyoga.com
Be here now! That’s the simple philosophy behind mindfulness—and it’s not for adults only. A recent study showed that students who had trained in meditation experienced improved cognition, memory, adaptability and earned better grades.
The folks at Aura Organic Spa understand the power of living in the present. That’s why Dianne Voikos, RN, BSN, LMT, offers mindfulness meditation sessions for children ages 5 and up. (Parents are welcome to sit in.) Voikos begins each session by leading young participants in a mental scan of their bodies, from head to toe. She then guides them through exercises designed to reduce anxiety and focus awareness. “The children learn to understand what their bodies feel like when they’re calm, angry, tired, hungry and so on,” says Voikos.
202 Miami Ave. W., Venice; (941) 375-8552; auraorganic.net
You could spend a week at the Zen Day Spa luxuriating in dozens of treatments, including massage, chakra balancing, manicures and pedicures, facials and workshops. Don’t have a week but need a wellness refresher? Try Raindrop Therapy. This energizing treatment combines reflexology, aromatherapy, stretching techniques and essential oils sprinkled—like light rain—on your spine and feet.
Tabitha Reed, the spa’s wellness director, says she’s been using it for 20 years. It started with a broken neck and no insurance to pay for surgery. “My mother was trained in raindrop therapy and used it on me three times a week,” she says. “Within a few months, I had completely improved and didn’t need the surgery.” Reed says the therapy can help loosen muscles, reduce inflammation, improve circulation and strengthen the immune system.
“The oils are dropped about six inches above your spine,” she says. “It feels like raindrops gently soothing your spine. It’s so relaxing and comforting.” A 60-minute session is $85.
1946 S. Tamiami Trail, Venice; (941) 408-9000; zendayspavenice.com
Raising the Barre
Kim Hackett was a hard-working reporter (who’s now editor at large for this magazine), mother of three, and a weekend athlete. Then a running injury stopped her in her tracks. “I was in my 40s and lower back and heel pain was so severe I could barely move,” she says. “Every exercise I tried only aggravated my injuries.”
A friend recommended a low-impact fitness regimen called barre. (The name comes from a ballet barre, which is used for balance and resistance.) The workout fuses movements from Pilates, yoga and ballet to create a calorie-burning, strength-building, total-body workout.
“I felt relief after my first class because there's so much stretching,” she says. But classes were only available in Sarasota. She decided to bring barre to Venice, earned her barre certification and began Body by Barre. She now has five instructors and more than two dozen weekly classes. Clients range from age 12 to 80.
"We teach modifications so it works for all fitness levels," says Hackett. “You’ll never do the same routine twice. We keep you guessing, and you keep your body guessing.” Hackett says that students lose inches and weight because they’re burning up to 900 calories per class.
“If you’re new to barre, you’re in for a treat,” she says. “You’ll find a tight community of upbeat people who’ll make you feel right at home.”
1952 S Tamiami Trail, Venice; (941) 786-5955; bodybybarre.me