BY MELANIE BUCK –
Bringing health and fitness to others is the passion of Larry Wood, owner of Ouachita Wellness and Sports Center, LLC, located at 400 Crestwood Circle, in Mena. Larry, along with his wife, Sherry, purchased the business in 2010 and made it their mission to educate their clients about health and wellness.
Both Larry and Sherry grew up in Mississippi and married on Christmas Eve of 1984. The couple has two children, Rachael, a student at RMCC, and Daniel, who lives in Nashville, Tennessee. Larry attended the University of Southern Mississippi and received his Masters Degree in Exercise Physiology with an emphasis in Sports Nutrition and Biomechanics at the University of Memphis.
Following college, Larry worked in various coaching and training positions at such places as the University of Tennessee and six other universities. Larry admits that fitness has always been a part of his life. He fondly remembers going with his mother to her aerobics classes. “My mom was always into exercise and I was always into sports and it just went hand-in-hand,” Larry said. His dad wasn’t into as much but once they got him involved and he was able to get off of his blood pressure medicine, he’s now “on a 3-day a week program and he’s 80!”
In 1998, Larry got the opportunity to interview with Steve and Cathy Schulte, then owners of the fitness center, and was able to secure the job. “I grew up in the country and my parents had moved here and told me about the center so I thought I’d give it a shot.” The Schulte’s hired Larry and from there, the rest is history.
Expansions have occurred over the years and partnerships have been created with clients and businesses. Ouachita Rehabilitation that sits next door is owned by Mena Regional Health System and they work with their patients at Ouachita Wellness and Sports Center quite often. “We have a fantastic relationship with the hospital and the patient gets advice from both sides,” said Larry. He added that one benefit of the relationship is that when patients are done with rehab, the Sports Center is still there with a plan in hand to help them stay rehabilitated.
“I like to help people overcome obstacles,” he said. “There are people that come here from ages 12-94 and we have something for them all.” Larry and his trainers, Shane Medlin and Jackie McLellon, provide exercise programs to clients and offer special programs as well. “My mom teaches the Silver Sneakers and Silver and Fit programs for seniors,” he said with a smile. The senior programs are taught by Janice Wood twice a week, one at the Sports Center and one at the Mena Senior Center.
Larry is also into weightlifting and won his first title, Mr. Southern Mississippi Body Building Championship, in 1981. He has continued to compete and help train others for competition as well. His most recent accomplishment is holding the national record for bench press in the 50-54 age group/242-weight class. He claimed the record in Blyeville, Arkansas in late 2015 when he benched 410 lbs. His next goal is to train for the world record, which now sits at 511 lbs for that weight class. He said he has to bench 515 lbs. to claim that title.
You can stop by and see Larry and staff at Ouachita Wellness and Sports Center during their hours of operation, Monday thru Thursday 5:30 a.m. – 10 p.m., Friday 5:30 a.m. – 8:00 p.m., and Saturday 8:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m., or call 479-394-7979.
“You just don’t find this kind of facility in small towns. We can address any concern; athletes, parapalegic, COPD, severely overweight. We have a motivational and supportive facility.”