Bodybuilder Pete Moen traveled to Bemidji 26 years ago to take part in the Mr. North Country competition in the old high school auditorium.
He won that title, and in 1984 and 1987, he added the Mr. USA title to his resume. Little did he know that he and his wife, Nancy, would someday call the North Country their home.
The couple moved to the Nebish area more than 16 years ago after selling their fitness center, Minnesota Muscle. They purchased a hobby farm with several outbuildings.
Through circumstances of a business deal, the Moens got all the fitness center's equipment back, and rather than paying for storage, they moved the equipment up north.
The perfect building for a fitness center was a hog barn that soon was transformed into The Body Barn, a 4,000-square-foot facility that's fully equipped with free weights and cardio equipment -- two large rooms' worth.
The business started with family and friends, but has evolved into a popular fitness center tucked into the north woods.
"We started with mostly high school-age lifters, but today we have clients from 20 to 80 years old," Pete said. "It's hard to get the high school-age kids even though we have the Blackduck wrestling club coming out during the summer.
"We have the generation that wants to live longer and better quality of life -- they've realized cardio and weight lifting will give them this," he said. "Given the right routine, they can stave off aging."
Bob Paine Sr., 81, of Puposky has been using the facility for more than two years. He started lifting for therapy after a hip replacement. Paine works out three times a week, year round.
"I started lifting weights, but I pushed it too hard at the beginning," he said. "I do all cardio workouts to keep my heart rate up. It's only a short drive, a lot shorter than traveling to Bemidji."
The Body Barn is open year round, serving clients from Bemidji to Blackduck to Red Lake. There are no long-term contracts; clients pay by the month. Over time, the Moens have customized their hours to fit the lifters' schedules.
Pete uses his professional experience as a trainer to guide newcomers for the first two weeks to assure proper techniques on the machines.
"I'm lucky that Nancy has the background experience," he said. "The female clients feel more comfortable with her help.
"No matter what the age, we can match an exercise regiment specifically geared for their needs," Pete said. "Once they have that knowledge, we let them go."
The Moens have added a wood-fired sauna that has become very popular as winter has developed. A tanning bed is another warm addition.
So, what was once an old hog barn has become a family fitness center -- a business that has generated lifelong friendships for the Moens.
You may contact the Body Barn by calling 243-3347.