When it comes to teaching group fitness classes or personal
training clients, Samantha Donovan, co-owner of Down Under
Sports and Fitness, Wyomissing, enjoys offering a touch of
variety and an elementof fun by using medicine balls. "It's
great for strengthening the core area as well as conditioning
stabilizer muscles," Donovan said. "It's great for posture. It
improves alignment."

She discussed some other aspects of the balls that make them appealing to incorporate into a
workout.  "The medicine ball is great for all populations of client, from a deconditioned client to a
professional athlete," Donovan said.
"You can do almost the same exercise,
but just change the weight of the ball
to increase the intensity of the exercise
by adding a heavier weight. There is a
weight that suits every person."

The balls Donovan uses range in weight
from 2 to30 pounds.  "Everything you
can do with a weight or any traditional
weight or body-weight exercise,you can
add the medicine ball into," she said. 
Whether it is a squat or a lunge, a
plank or a sit-up,there are aspects to a
medicine ball that make it unique.  "It provides an element of instability," Donovan said. "It's challenging in that it provides more instability than what a dumbbell would provide."  "If you put a medicine ball under each hand, the ball moves, and it's adding that element of instability, which engages and fires those stabilizer muscles," she said. "It provides a different type of resistance."

The ball's versatility also leads Donovan to incorporate it into her high-intensity cross-training class called Down Under.    "It's a great modality or piece of fitness equipment because it can be used in so many different ways," she said.



  • Sit-ups: Partner up and throw the ball to one another as you perform sit-ups.

  • Diagonal wood chop: Pull the ball to the side of the hip and rotate it up to the opposite shoulder.

Upper body

  • Plank (two variations): Place your hands or feet on topof the ball to perform a traditional plank pose.

  • Push-up: You can put one hand on the ball and onehand on the floor to work those stabilizer muscles for apush up.

Lower body

  • Squat: Hold the ball and perform a traditional squat.

  • Lunge: Hold the ball and perform traditional lunges.

Benefits of medicine balls

  • Provide a different type of resistance related to total body power, muscular endurance and flexibility.

  • Anyone of any fitness level can use a ball by selecting the weight of ball that best suits them.

  • Provides an element of instability not offered through dumbbells.

  • Conditions the core.

  • Adds variety and an element of fun to a fitness routine in a challenging way.

Reading Eagle:

A ​new year typically brings new fitness trends.

With the fitness dance craze apparently waning, it
might be time to say bye-bye to Zumba and hello to
another potential favorite for 2013.  Some local
fitness experts offer some insight into what's going
to be going strong as we ring in the new year, as well
as give us a glimpse of new things we'll see on the

​Workouts on demand at Down Under Sports & Fitness

Stephen ​Pradon, co-owner of Down Under Sports and
Fitness, Wyomissing, with his fiancé, Samantha Donovan, said they will be rolling out a new concept for 2013: an out-of-the-box approach to fitness in a gym setting.

“Workouts on demand,” he said, referring to the touchscreen
program he developed. “There are 200 workouts from which tochoose.”  The workouts are played on a 15-foot television screen in one of the gym’s fitness studios, where people can work out to the video privately or with a group.

​“From kick-boxing to cross-training, basic Pilates, yoga, anything you can imagine,” he said.  While Pradon developed the workout program for the gym, the videos he offers are licensed.  “We let a few dozen people give it a try,” he said of a pre-new year test run. “They loved it.”

​If you are wondering why anyone would want to go to a gym to work out to a video instead of doing it at home, Pradon has an answer.  “People can get sidetracked at home,” he said. “It’s always easier following someone than following your own program.”

Prior to launching this program, Down Under has been offering virtual bike rides.  “They are

different, actual rides with training cues,” he said. “We have rides in California, Colorado, Alaska.”

Reading Eagle:

​Ski lift for fitness

Members of a local club get in shape for the slopes with a special conditioning class at Down Under Sports & Fitness, Wyomissing.
By Courtney H. Diener-Stokes

With snowy slopes on the horizon, now is the time
to think about the state your body is in, to determine
whether or not you're going to be capable of
thoroughly enjoying your first time out.  While
switching up your routine to focus on particular
exercises to strengthen your legs and core is an
option in preparation for dusting off your skis and
snowboard, a local fitness center has taken things a
step further by creating an entire fitness program centered on ski and snowboard conditioning.

"We got together with a couple of the Dutchmen and we
decided to put together a conditioning program for them," said Stephen Pradon, 35, co-owner of
Down Under Sports & Fitness in Wyomissing, referring to a local ski club, the Flying Dutchmen. 
Pradon and his partner, Samantha Donovan, teach the class.  Pradon said that if your body
isn't properly prepared to start the season, this might be your reaction after a few runs:  "You
say, 'Oh, my gosh, I'm either going to go back to bed
or go to the bar', and that usually happens at the
middle of the day," he said.

His class, offered exclusively to Flying Dutchmen
members, takes place three times per week from
mid-October through January, and then once per
week throughout the rest of the year. Members are
offered discounted rates as an incentive to join
Down Under, but a membership to the fitness
club isn't necessary to participate.

Pradon, who is a skier, referred to the variety of exercises offered in the program.  "We constantly change it up for them, and they don't know what to expect," he said. "The one thing they love is that it's never the same program."  Over the course of the two-and-a-half months prior to ski season, the intensity builds up.

"It gets more and more difficult," Pradon said of the
class.  "Steve and Sam (Donovan) are really tough on
us, but we seem to go back for more," said Patti L.
Spitler, a member of the Flying Dutchmen who takes
the class two to three times per week. "We joke with
them about being so tough. We are always glad at
the end when we're done."

Spitler, 51, of Leesport is also the social director of
the Flying Dutchmen and has been a member for
13 years. Her favorite places to ski in the area are Bear Creek, Elk Mountain and Blue Mountain. Her partner in life and on the slopes, Jim Dolan, whom she met through the Flying Dutchmen, also takes the ski conditioning class.   The ski club, which has 800 members, offers discounts to local ski resorts and ski stores, along with ongoing activities.  The approximate 30 participants who take the class regularly are mostly skiers, and some are snowboarders. Pradon said that regardless of your preference on the slopes, both require similar conditioning.

"In reality, it's the same across the board," he said.
"It's going to be a lot of stamina in the legs. It's really
increasing the overall fitness level as a whole. The
stronger the core is, the stronger the body is." 
When it comes to focusing on the core during the
class, Spitler said the impact the workout has on
your body isn't apparent initially.  "You work on core
not realizing what it's doing until the next day, when
you're sore," she said.

Pradon gave an example of a typical class.

"We might have 30 different stations set up in a row as a circuit," said Pradon. "We might do stability exercises on the BOSU ball, or fitness bar exercises."  He has enjoyed the positive feedback from participants, and said that when they report back to him after their first day on the slopes, people say they can last all day on the slopes after the conditioning.

"The last two years you could really see the difference," said Spitler, noting that those who have taken the class stay on the slopes much longer than they used to.  Pradon said the class also offers a great way to avoid injury and provides additional benefits.  "The majority of our participants are 45 on average," he said. "They say that their joints feel so much better since
they started taking the class." Given that the class is only offered to Flying Dutchmen members, it provides added motivation to attend, according to Spitler.  "This allows us to always know somebody (in the class)," she said. "It helps push you to get there."

Spitler has enjoyed seeing the group's progression over the three years the conditioning program has been offered.  "We started doing two or three push-ups and now we're doing a series of 20 push-ups at a time," Spitler said. "It's amazing how we've all progressed."  She even found herself doing 1,000 squats one day.  "He told us it's all in our minds - push yourself," she said. "It's amazing what you can do with someone motivating you."

Contact Courtney H. Diener-Stokes:

Reading Eagle:

​How to Choose a Gym!

Congratulations!  You have made the decision to join a gym and get in shape. But choosing which gym to join can be a daunting process. There are so many factors to keep in mind. Here are a handful of factors to consider when choosing the right gym.​

Location  location   location

Your gym or fitness center should be convenient to where you live or work. If you plan on hitting the gym after you leave your job, choosing one that is close to the office would be preferable.  If, however, you will be going to the gym or fitness center from home, choose one that’s as close to home as possible. Not only will this save on time and gas money, but you’ll be more motivated to go if there isn’t along drive.

Your fitness goals

When choosing a gym to fit your fitness goals, be sure to look for one that motivates and inspires its clients. The most popular gym facility is not always the best choice for your individual needs, so you will want to break down their services and be sure that you are in the fitness program that suits your goals and abilities.


This might not seem important, but to many amateur fitness enthusiasts, it is. There are plenty of gyms that are geared just toward women, men, families or body builders. If you are trying to lose weight or if you aren’t experienced, you might feel intimidated trying to workout in front of people who are experts or instructors. Choose a gym or fitness center where you feel comfortable with the people as well as the staff.

Personal training

The serious gym user will seek out the services of a professional and personal trainer to devise a program with realistic goals, while encouraging and even hammering the diligent member. Personal trainers put your best interest at hand and are there to lead you to victory with a workout you never dreamed possible. They are trained professionals to assess your fitness level and put you on a program that pushes your body to the limits at a safe and healthy pace. And for the rookie in the gym, this is the way to go. However, some gym members may not wish to have a personal trainer. In such cases, a trainer may develop your gym routine, prepare a sports nutrition diet, and monitor your progress with a weekly meeting. However you wish to play it, the personal trainer is a must.

Group classes

If pumping iron is not your inspiration at the gym, you may opt for a different approach to get into shape. Add a dose of high energy and motivation to your workouts with group exercise classes. Group classes offer you a new and exciting way to get totally fit:
  • Work out longer and consistently with a professional instructor leading the way.
  • Make fitness fun when you learn new exercises and techniques.
  • Stay motivated when you work out with other people.
  • Bring structure and discipline to achieving your goals with a set class schedule.
  • Meet new people and make new friends.

Perhaps large group exercise classes are not for you.

Go smaller

Check if your local gym offers small group training classes. This type of training will spark your interest and revitalize your routine. Find out if your gym offers boxing, kickboxing, plyometrics, functional training, cycling, running and/or outdoor running, and other types. Whether you are a seasoned pro in the gym or have never seen the inside of a locker room, be sure you get what you pay for and enroll in a gym that caters to your individual needs.

Check out Down Under Sports& Fitness located on the third floor of the Blue Building at the VF Outlets in Wyomissing, call 610-376-0909 or check us out online at

Reading Eagle:

Owners of Wyomssing fitness center offer personalized, high-energy approach

"With a new year comes a new you."

That phrase, something of a cliché, will often be heard
as a resolution as the calendar changes to a new year.
But two Wyomissing personal trainers could help to
make that concept a reality when it comes to fitness
and weight loss.

​Samantha Donovan and Stephen D. Pradon III have

teamed up to open a new fitness center that offers
high-energy personal training in VF Outlet Center,
Wyomissing.  Unlike in other health clubs,
membership is not as simple as walking in off the street. Down Under Sports & Fitness has only about 100 members, and Donovan and Pradon say they strive to keep
membership low.  Membership comes from its personal training clientele or from recommendations from them. Down Under also offers corporate memberships and group classes. "We are not looking to compete with the larger gyms and health clubs in the area," Pradon said. "We offer training services which are personal. We know everyone by their first names. This is a smaller facility with a friendly atmosphere."  "We want our clients and members to reach their fitness goals, and we have no problem going above and beyond to help them reach higher," Donovan said. "Our goal is to get people started in the right direction. We want to see people succeed with their fitness goals. We do that by keeping our membership low and personalized.

"But if you become a client of Donovan and Pradon,
prepare to work hard and get results. "This is
definitely high-intensity training," Donovan said. "That kind of training takes people above and beyond what they want to achieve. We structure what our clients will do throughout the week. We always cross-train, and that is the key to success."  "We've set up our equipment like an arsenal of workouts," Pradon said. "Your body is always seeking change. The everyday exercise routines
become boring and your body adapts to them, which causes a lack of results." The same is true for structured exercise classes.  "The same formatted class gets boring," Pradon said. "We offer classes that offer a challenge to any fitness level, because the clients are always wondering what we have in store for them next."

Now if Steve and Samantha sound to you a little like Bob and Jillian from NBC's show "The Biggest Loser," you wouldn't be too far off base.  Pradon actually worked as a trainer on the

Discovery Channel's reality show "Buff Brides."  But while Pradon and Donovan say they motivate their clients with the same enthusiasm as Bob and Jillian, there is a difference.  "The Biggest Loser' is all about weight loss," Donovan said. "We are more geared toward conditioning and attaining a high
fitness level.

"Their high enthusiasm and energy levels, leave no doubt that Donovan and Pradon are enjoying every minute of their new business venture. "We love what we do," Pradon said. "We just want to make our clients feel good about themselves in a friendly comfortable and personalized atmosphere. If you possess the passion, will, motivation and desire to make yourself better, we have the tools to make it happen."  The locker room of Down Under Sports and Fitness uses furnishings reclaimed from the former Woolrich store

Contact David A. Kostival: 610-371-5049 or

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APRIL 2022