Pinecrest Fitness — where everybody knows your name

Mike Estevez, owner of Pinecrest Fitness.

If it’s possible for a sweat-inducing-gym to create such a comfortable environment that walking in the door gives the same impression one might feel while stepping onto the mythical set of “Cheers” with Norm waving a warm, welcoming hello, then Pinecrest Fitness has achieved that elusive balance.

Although Iron Man Triathlete owner Mike Estevez and his wife Ally, a former Miami Heat dancer, have spent 16 years in the business and created a state-of-the-art facility with their new Pinecrest location that competes deftly with any national franchise, it is the down-home southern charm that sets them apart.

“I was raised in Miami, but the years I spent in Atlanta and Tallahassee really ingrained that southern charm in me,” said Estevez. “When someone is insincere or fake, people can see right through you. In the fitness world you can be real and not be seen as weak because you are a nice person.

I get to help people make lifestyle changes and improve themselves, and I can still pick up my kids from school. The gym is like a big sandbox for our members, where they can come in and play and be totally accepted and welcomed as part of the family.”

And quite a sandbox it is. A 1,600-squarefoot boutique dance studio houses the same flooring suspension system used on Dancing with the Stars. The softly-lit, virtual spin room with 41 stationary bikes can take you along the courses of the Tour de France, the Appalachian Trail or up the mountain of Kilimanjaro while biking with your slowerpaced grandmother.

Treadmills with an up to 30 percent incline challenge the serious athlete, while a large selection of shiny, silver dead weights satisfy the old fashioned hard bodies.

Programs and equipment are available for every level of fitness and for special-needs athletes as well. Trainers are “rock stars with impressive elite national accreditations” says Estevez, adding that the staff is always on call to assist members in getting set up in any room, while offering a flirty smile or sincere encouragement.

“I was doing well in real estate before this, but I wasn’t happy,” said Estevez. “I was always the chubby kid in school growing up. I stumbled upon the gym scene while doing physical therapy for my knee in Atlanta right before the summer Olympic Games of 1996. I happened to meet and even train with some amazing athletes at the time and that’s how it all got started.”

Becoming enamored with the possibilities of this sweats-andtee- shirt business enterprise, Estevez learned the industry from the inside out. He changed lightbulbs, cleaned weights and was even taught the “grab-them-bythe- ankles-and-hold-them-down 19-hour sales day approach” some franchises employ. Embracing what worked and discarding what did not, Pinecrest Fitness was born six years ago and recently relocated to the new expanded facility at 9549 S. Dixie Hwy.

“I lost my brother about eight years ago and I realized that life is too short to not love what you do,” said Estevez. “I will never make a million dollars in this business, but I know I am as happy as any millionaire because I get to help people improve their lives and go to work every day with people I care about. We all need that, everyone needs a Cheers.”

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