The Mandel JCC is one of the top fitness facilities in the region

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Membership at the Mandel JCC comes with two free orientation sessions with a personal trainer. Right from the start, they want you to feel comfortable. (Photography: Benjamin Margalit)

By Mimi Vanderhaven

This is how it usually goes: In mid-January, Mimi will put away the last of the holiday decorations, toss out the stale cookies and start thinking about fitness and weight loss. Then she’ll look into a gym or studio membership only to relive the intimidation and self-inflicted body-shaming she experienced when she last thought about getting fit.

Then she’ll go digging in the trash for those cookies. But not this year.

Utterly Un-intimidating
Right here in our own backyard is one of the top fitness facilities in the region. It’s cutting-edge, diverse, flexible, supportive, affordable, amenity-filled, results-focused and—more important—un-intimidating and welcoming.

The J—which is open to all ages, races, religions, and fitness levels—is a full-blown community center featuring a state-of–the-art fitness center, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, yoga studios, racquetball courts, an indoor walking/running track, basketball and pickleball courts, plus whirlpools, saunas, steam rooms, deluxe locker rooms, massages—and even onsite babysitting.

But the single biggest advantage is the continual motivation to succeed.

“That’s why our personal training, group fitness and small group classes are so popular,” says Kate Toohig, Director of Fitness, Wellness and Recreation.

“There is someone by your side, someone to motivate you—someone to miss you if you don’t show up.”

Comfortable and Confident
Membership at the Mandel JCC comes with two free orientation sessions with a personal trainer. Right from the start, they want you to feel comfortable.

“At the very beginning we teach you how to use our equipment and discuss your personal fitness goals,” Kate says.

“Our goal is to help you become not just comfortable but confident with all aspects of our fitness center and to develop a fitness routine tailored specifically to you and your goals.”

The best exercise is the one you’ll actually do and that’s what makes Mandel JCC stand out. Unlike boutique studios with a single answer to all fitness goals, there are so many options at The J for virtually every age, interest, shape, size and fitness level. This makes it easier to discover workouts you’ll do—and enjoy.

The fitness center is packed with state-of-the-art cardio equipment with built-in tech that allows users to watch Netflix, Hulu, check your email and even browse the internet while you exercise.

In addition to the kid-friendly basketball courts and indoor and outdoor pools, nearly all of the equipment in the fitness center is open to youth ages 10 and older.

Group Fitness Classes
The Mandel JCC offers over 85 different group classes (almost 100 if you count water aerobics) with so much flexibility that it’s easy to find a class that works for you. In addition to the Pilates Reformer Studio, the brand new Pilates Loft offers a variety of classes targeted to beginners, teens, athletes, seniors and men.

Other popular classes include Yoga, Spinning, Hip Hop Dance, Kickboxing, Tai Chi, Barre, Israeli Dance, TRX, Rowing, Insanity, Sculpt, Hardcore Strength and Rip and Ride (HIIT and cycle). Best of all most group classes are free with your membership.

For those who thrive in a smaller, more supportive setting, The J features some of the area’s most talented and highly-educated personal trainers along with small-group training classes, including Boxing, Chisel, Circuit Row, Obstacle Course Training and TRX.

In The Water
“We also have one of the most comprehensive swim programs in the region,” Kate says.

“From low-impact and arthritis exercise classes and the all-new Water Barre and Water HIIT classes [High Intensity Interval Training in the water]. We teach hundreds of kids and adults how to swim each year and we are known for our Red Cross-Certified swim lessons and lifeguard and Water Safety Instructor classes.”

Member Profile: Melanie Fletcher
Full-time Shaker Heights attorney and new mom, Melanie Fletcher, raises the bar when it comes to exercise.

Three days a week Melanie rolls out of bed at 5:30 a.m., jumps into her gym clothes and heads to the Mandel JCC for a 6 a.m. class.

“Sometimes when the alarm rings I groan, but I remember how good I felt the day before from my workout and want to feel that same high again,” she says.

Melanie, 35, joined the Mandel JCC soon after her eight-month-old daughter was born.

“I gained 50 pounds during my pregnancy and knew I had to do something to get back in shape,” she says.

After looking at big box gyms, Melanie followed her sister’s advice and checked out The J—and within minutes she was convinced.

“Nothing came close to The J in terms of cleanliness, class variety and programs for new moms and their kids,” she says.

With the goal of losing the last of her “baby fat,” Melanie began taking small group training classes like boxing, TRX, and chisel. Not only did she enjoy the workouts led by talented instructors, she began to build a community of friends within her classes.

“There is a sense of camaraderie and accountability in a small class,” Melanie says. “We count on each other to show up, to motivate each other, and to have fun working out together.”

The rewards Melanie has gained from her Mandel JCC membership extend to her baby daughter as well.

“We have so much fun at the Mom and Baby classes. And the Kid Kare babysitting service allows me to bring my daughter to The J while I go work out,” she says.

Having lost all the weight she gained during her pregnancy and then some, Melanie could not be happier.

“My only regret is not joining the Mandel JCC sooner,” she says. “Building muscle has made me stronger, and friends and family tell me how great I look. My mornings at The J give me the personal satisfaction of knowing I have carved out a portion of each day to do something special for myself.”

Child Care and Summer Camps
Fitness isn’t the only world-class experience at The J. Its childcare and preschool programs, for children ages 18 months to PreK, received the highest rating—Five Star Step Up to Quality by the State of Ohio.

And award-winning J-Day Camps and Camp Wise overnight camp (for kids ages three years old through grade 12) are second to none. From swimming, boating and playing sports to climbing the ropes course, parents are assured their kids will have fun, learn new skills, and gain independence and confidence at The J’s Geauga County and Beachwood camp sites.

As a non-profit community center, creating a healthy community for the entire community is their mission.

And that includes you and me.

The Mandel JCC offers month-to-month memberships with no contracts. The J is open 362 days a year to all ages, races and religions. Find it at 26001 South Woodland Road in Beachwood. For more information, call 216-831-0700, ext. 0 or visit to check out their affordable rates and to take a 30-second video tour.