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New fitness program surfs into Hays

By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

dobrien@dailynews.net

Her fitness facility in Overland Park is called Innovative Fitness and MMA, and Hays native Jen Werth and her business partner, Tristan Miller, have given a whole new meaning to the word innovative.

Werth, born and raised in Hays, and Miller are master trainers for the entire Midwest for the Surfset Fitness program that has swept the country in a huge wave of enthusiasm.

The duo was in Hays last week demonstrating the regimen, which is done atop a custom-made surfboard with aired up rubber tubes below called a RipSurfer X.

The plan was to give employees of Hays Medical Center's Center for Health Improvement an up-close look at the program during three different demonstrations Thursday. Staff is contemplating purchasing the equipment.

Throughout the day, several curious CHI members also got in on the action.

"They need to get these," said Terry Kinderknecht from Hays, a member of the center who works out several times a week. "I like to go through different exercises on different (machines) to change things up. This definitely is different."

The program allows people to perform traditional exercises on the board.

"Anything you can do on the ground, you can do here," Werth said. "(The program) really engages your core because you twist, turn, balance at the same time."

Most of the people who tried the boards Thursday raved about them.

"At first, I thought it would be something different for me," said Lindsey Dreiling, a physical therapist at HaysMed. "But now, I also can see this from a rehab perspective. We want (patients) to enjoy exercise, to keep with it. This is something different, something fun."

What really impressed Dreiling is people of any age can work on the boards, from well-conditioned athletes to patients rehabilitating after surgeries.

"You can modify it for any level," she said. "I like that."

"It's going to work on your core and your balance," said Lisa Shreck, an aerobics instructor at CHI. "It's cardio, it's strength. What's great about these its that it's a different dynamic."

"It involves so many different muscle groups," a sweating Lynn Fisher said after he completed a 10-minute workout on the board.

Fisher is a family medicine physician who lives in Hays and works at Rooks County Health Center in Plainville. He said he works out about five days a week at CHI and would welcome a change of pace.

"It's high intensity and also would help with your balance," he said of the surfboards.

Werth ran across the new fitness program while watching the reality series "Shark Tank" on TV one day. Werth lived in California for four years after college and "loves surfing."

"I knew I wanted to bring that type of workout to Kansas," Werth said. "Surfing really engages your core, and so do (the RipSurfer X boards), no matter what you do on them."

Werth convinced Miller they should buy some boards for their facility, and soon afterward, they attended classes to become master trainers.

"I've never surfed in my life," said Miller, who grew up playing athletics in Missouri and whose main fitness focus was strength and conditioning.

"I like lifting weights, doing a weight workout," he said. "Then when I tried this, it changes everything."

Werth, a multi-sport athlete at Hays High School in the early 2000s, said she was interested in health and nutrition even back then. She started taking nursing classes in college at Fort Hays State University but changed her major when she started teaching Pilates at CHI.

"I saw preventive things through health and exercise and nutrition," said Werth, who graduated from FHSU in 2006 with a degree in health and human performance. "I decided I wanted to be on the preventive side."

After a few years in California, she moved to the Kansas City area and met Miller while both were working at the same fitness facility. They decided to go into business for themselves.

When Werth heard about Surfset Fitness on Shark Tank, it immediately grabbed her attention.

"I loved surfing -- and the shape it kept me in," she said. "I thought it was a fun environment to get a workout in."

Now, people in Hays might get to experience that same type of workout.

"Physical therapy (department) does a ton of balance things, so we wanted to check these out," said JoDee Altman, group fitness manager at HaysMed's CHI.

"We're always open to new things," Altman said. "I like the stability; (it's) something to think about."