“The workout doesn’t end when you leave the gym,” says Ken Zylstra, director of LifeCafe the casual eateries in Lifetime Fitness facilities. “What you refuel with is as important as what you burn off.” Zylstra, certainly walks (or, bikes) his talk. Sitting in a sunny banquet in the newest LifeCafe in Highland Park, Zylstra elaborates on his mission, using his hands to make points, hitting his stride. “Good food; good people. We are committed to health,” he says. The newest LifeCafe is open to the general public with access off the street, a model for future LifeCafes in the works. Though the cafes within Lifetime Fitness facilities have always been open to the public, diners have had to sign in at the front desk to enter. “At some point, we’ll build free standing LifeCafes.”
Serving a wide array of wraps, pizzas, burritos, salads, sandwiches, soups, shakes, and smoothies, the cafes beat nearby fast food joints in variety of offerings and on price. Take the generous, two-fisted Mediterranean egg wrap sparked with fresh cilantro salsa and roasted red peppers plus fruit cup for under $6, add a buck for a fair trade freshly ground joe. Monthly specials weigh in at under $3. On the run? The FastFuel smoothie is a meal in a glass (the peanut-butter banana will hold you past noon). Ready to go items such as a ginger-spiked tuna salad and fresh pesto corn-fusilli pasta can be grabbed on the run. A kid’s menu of favorites such as grilled cheese and chicken strips with fruit, Sun Chips, and organic milk or juice, make for a happy meal at $3. The menus are the same in all 84 LifeCafes nationwide with a few regional variations. Nutritional analysis appears with every item on the menu.
Zylstra joined Lifetime after stints at large operations such as Champps. But when he met Lifetime CEO Bahram Akradi at a bike race, he knew he’d met his match. “We worked as a team with our chefs and dietitians for optimum nutrition,” he says and adds, “Now we are making this available beyond our facilities, to everyone. What makes these places so unique, is that every dish that comes out of each LifeCafe kitchen is made fresh and from scratch.”