D.C. women gym owners thrive in otherwise fickle world of fitness

WASHINGTON (WJLA) - Tucked away off Connecticut Avenue in Cleveland Park is a neighborhood gym called City Fitness.

The gym is co-owned by good friends Dega Schembri and Lucinda Laree - though they like to joke that they are a married couple.

"We are married, I guess you could say! We've decided a business partnership is really like a marriage," jokes Schembri.

Schembri and Laree have built City Fitness into the longest-standing woman-owned and independently-owned gym in D.C. - which makes these ladied pioneers.

Schembri opened her first fitness business in 1983. Lareen was the lead trainer for supermodels Elle McPherson and Cheryl Tiegs in 1989.

The two friends say they've watched the trends come and go - but they've stayed consistent.

"We have the same passion for fitness - that's I think what drives us, and we like being entrepreneurs and being in charge of our lives," Schembri told ABC7.

Even now, the two like to push their limits. Laree, at age 50, is a master yoga teacher and says she's having fun challenging herself with pole dance fitness. Laree is always the oldest competitor.

"It was very challenging, because you're out there in booty shorts and a sports bra, and you're competing against 20-yearolds," says Laree.

Schembri didn't start doing triathlons until she was 57, and now she's completed five.

"It forced me out of my comfort zone and I think, especially as we get older, we should always do that," Schembri said.

The two say they are proud to have thrived in the often fickle, and often male-dominated, world of fitness.

"When I step back from it, I'm just so grateful that we've been able to do this," said Schembri. "I'm so grateful that we were able to mesh as partners, to create this amazing business."