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Judy Foreman: Suesan Lazarus Pawlitski Still Down with Tone-Up Santa Barbara

Longevity may be a strength, but all-women fitness studio’s real appeal is in the personal training

Suesan Lazarus Pawlitski is the founder and owner of the all-women Tone-Up Santa Barbara at 3006 De la Vina St. “This toning, sculpting and strength building helps improve the activities you take into your life outside the gym,” she says. “A bonus, of course, is you look and feel better about yourself as well!”
Suesan Lazarus Pawlitski is the founder and owner of the all-women Tone-Up Santa Barbara at 3006 De la Vina St. “This toning, sculpting and strength building helps improve the activities you take into your life outside the gym,” she says. “A bonus, of course, is you look and feel better about yourself as well!” (Judy Foreman / Noozhawk photo)

On a recent Saturday, I took a trip down memory lane and dropped in for a morning group fitness class at Tone-Up Santa Barbara. The all-women exercise studio founded by Suesan Lazarus Pawlitski was one of my old workout haunts after my last child was born.

Through the girlfriend grapevine, I had heard that the studio had been renovated but that Pawlitski’s place was still just as energizing as always. Located on Upper De la Vina Street across from Trader Joe’s, the surrounding neighborhood has been generating some serious buzz with the addition of Los Agaves and Our Daily Bread down the street.

Originally from New York, where Lotte Berk pioneered ballet by taking it out of the theater and into a gym, Pawlitski earned a degree in dance from UC Santa Barbara. She lives on a boat in the marina with her husband, Gary, and the couple raised two children, both of whom graduated from Santa Barbara High School, where they were varsity athletes.

The entire family is a fixture of the local social network and nonprofit community.

In 1996, Pawlitski’s was the first workout studio in Santa Barbara to incorporate the barre method in her workout exercises — long before it became the full-body, low-impact workout trend it is today.

“Tone-Up is not a franchise, or a big-box gym,” Pawlitski told me.

“Part of its long-lasting appeal is that I get to know all my clients well, which makes it personal and the clients accountable.”

In reflecting on her success, Pawlitski credits her strategy.

“My philosophy then and now is to build a community of women who share and support each other,” she said. “I want to guide a client to build resistance to injury while improving strength, tone, endurance, balance and coordination and agility.

“That philosophy still carries weight in 2016.”

Generations of women — once baby boomers and now grandmothers and their millennial daughters — have shared the Tone-Up experience. Women from 18 to 80 work out together in harmony.

Why only women? I asked Pawlitski.

Suesan Lazarus Pawlitski helps client Cathy Dowling pull her weight. Click to view larger
Suesan Lazarus Pawlitski helps client Cathy Dowling pull her weight. (Judy Foreman / Noozhawk photo)

“My experience as a personal trainer … helped guide my business plan from its inception that women like to exercise in a nonintimidating, less competitive, nondistracting environment,” she explained.

“New students may choose to have a 30-minute private introductory class, and those women who join in April get May for half-price to improve their posture, balance and energy, while building muscle strength, endurance and agility.”

A Tone-Up class, whether semi-private or group, is designed to work all your muscle groups while revving up your metabolism and heart rate and increasing bone density — all the elements that have been proven to improve and maintain fitness levels.

“This toning, sculpting and strength building helps improve the activities you take into your life outside the gym,” Pawlitski said. “Whether it’s hiking, tennis, biking, lifting a suitcase in the overhead compartment on an airplane, or putting a toddler child in a car seat.

“A bonus, of course, is you look and feel better about yourself as well!”

The spacious, newly remodeled one-room studio was inviting and stocked with all the latest exercise equipment . The semi-private group — which is small and where each client has her own individualized program — differed from my group of friendly devotees, some of whom had been Pawlitski’s clients for decades.

There was good music and congenial schmoozing going on between squats at the ballet barre, mat pilates, bicep and tricep curls, core work and down dogs. It was a comfortable but challenging experience after being absent for many years.

Afterward, I was tired and a little sore but happy to report after a 70-minute class, that Tone-Up is still delivering a well-rounded, challenging but fun workout experience.

Pawlitski is bullish on the future.

“I feel confident that while there are many modalities to achieve ‘fit for life goals,’ my program is still relevant,” she said. “I have developed an intimate atmosphere that feels safe, comfortable and fun, and with consistency gets results.”

While Pawlitski teaches a majority of the classes, she has recently added new format classes and instructors in Joanne Bolduc, Madalena Fossatti and Denise Simpson — all of whom helped inspire her and the new look and feel of Tone-Up today.

Tone-Up Santa Barbara is located at 3006 De la Vina St. Click here for more information, call 805.682.2736 or email [email protected].

— Judy Foreman is a Noozhawk columnist and longtime local writer and lifestyles observer. She can be contacted at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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