Fitness the Right Way

by | Jan 8, 2020 | Business, Business Profiles, Hampstead, Neighborhoods

Coastal Fitness in Hampstead is focused on lasting lifestyle changes, not quick fixes.

Fitness centers can tend to be intimidating. Many such facilities focus on losing weight, building muscle and looking good in tight workout clothes. But Coastal Fitness Center in Hampstead is different — on purpose. The staff at Coastal Fitness is all about helping its members make lifestyle changes so that they feel healthier. They are eager to work with people of all ages, shapes and sizes in a family-oriented space.

Owner Brad Szem was retired and “definitely not looking for a business” when he found a good business opportunity in Coastal Fitness Center. He bought the center in January 2016 and changed everything. Szem reorganized the facility and hired quality trainers, including Kathia Purcell, who joined the center a month later. Membership has grown 400 percent since Szem took over, and the center now has more than 1,700 members.


Purcell emphasizes that the difference at Coastal Fitness is that it is not focused on quick fixes. While some fitness centers promise quick weight loss, Coastal Fitness teaches its members about healthy lifestyles, including eating habits, balance, posture and other aspects of being healthy in a specific way tailored to each person’s needs. “We teach fitness the right way,” she says.

In an environment where “everyone becomes family,” as Purcell describes it, members come from all walks of life and from multiple generations. There are programs for children and seniors and everyone in between. The center participates in the Silver Sneakers program and hosts in-pool training sessions for elderly members. There is also a quality childcare facility within Coastal Fitness that gives members the comfort of knowing their children are well cared for while the adults participate in fitness classes or work out on the floor.

About a third of the trainers at Coastal Fitness were once members themselves. Other staff members, at the front desk, the smoothie bar and in the childcare center, were also members before going to work for the center. All of them feel as though they are part of the family, and some of the staff actually are family. Children of staff members are eager to reach the age in which they can work at the center themselves.

Some members are inspired to participate in fitness challenges because of their progress at the center. Cecile Villalon is taking on the toughest part her training during the toughest part of year — the holiday season — to prepare for a fitness challenge held in April 2020. Medically retired from the U.S. Army, Villalon began training with Purcell in June 2019. She has since lost 20 pounds but, more importantly, has overcome a shoulder injury while working on very specific training at Coastal Fitness.


Villalon says she is now more confident, particularly since she has improved her dead lift weight from 115 in June to 180 in December. “It’s all about following the program and listening to your body,” she says.

Villalon and Purcell agree that food is not the enemy. “You have to feed your body for it to work,” Villalon says. She has moved to a plant-based diet, partly because of its impact on the planet but also because she feels that she is recovering faster because of it.

Coastal Fitness continues to support local students with sports-specific training at a discounted rate, a competitive swim team and the Topsail lacrosse team. Szem is also looking forward to expanding Coastal Fitness on its 3.5 acres in the next couple of years while maintaining that focus of lifestyle changes and family fitness.


2020 Transformation Challenge

Coastal Fitness Center is hosting its own fitness challenge, the 2020 Transformation Challenge, beginning in January. The 10-week body transformation challenge runs from January 13 to March 23 and promises to be motivational as well as a lot of fun for all the participants. Focusing on overall health rather than simply weight loss, the Transformation Challenge includes weigh-ins, healthy eating guides, boot camps and accountability meetings. Coastal Fitness will offer different levels of packages that can include 10 weeks of membership, group training and personal training. coastalfitnesscenternc.comIndividual winners and team winners will be announced at a prize celebration on April 3 at the Salty Turtle Beer Company.


Want to go?

Coastal Fitness Center
98 Quarter Horse Lane, Hampstead
(910) 270-4044

About the author

Pat Fontana

Pat Fontana

I am a business writer and communications workshop leader. My business, WordsWorking, and my recently published book, Talk to Me Like I’m a Human, focus on improving workplace communications, concentrating on the fundamentals of human interactions. I developed, write about and train on the concept of REAL Communications, encouraging others to communicate with Respect and Empathy, paying close Attention and Listening with intent. I can be reached at