One year ago, Josephine Simmons opened Ladies Workout Express, providing local women a highly specialized workout in a community environment.

About 200 members later, the workout center, a franchise of a nationwide chain best known for 30-minute circuit workouts, has expanded to include an aerobic area, an abs and stretching area, and an assortment of classes such as aerobics, belly dancing, pilates and body sculpting.

To celebrate, Simmons and her business partner and longtime friend Mona Marek are offering free classes to both members and non-members all week.

According to Simmons, the business owes much of its success to the close bonds that have formed between members. “It’s a little community within a community,” she said. “Members see us as their support center,” she said, noting that members have found everything from babysitters to tutors for their kids through their friends at the fitness center.

Based on member feedback, she said, the decision was made that it was time to expand. “Our members seemed to be ready for some diversity in our workout,” she said.

The perfect opportunity opened up when Davis Tree Care and Landscaping, located next door, moved to the rear of the building, and Ladies Workout Express soon acquired the space.

Though in the past, Ladies Workout Express has offered belly dancing classes on Saturday mornings in the main circuit-training room, now that it has a separate room set aside for classes, its offerings have been expanded to include everything from cross training to table massage to hip hop aerobics.

The classes are taught by fitness experts from all around the western suburbs. “We’re convinced we have the best teachers available,” said Simmons, who grew up in Bellwood.

The company’s trademark circuit workout is designed to keep the heart rate high enough to burn 600 calories in a half hour using a series of 24 hydraulic machines and aerobic stations.

At the end of the current week of free classes, the classes will cost $3 each for members and $10 for non-members, according to Simmons.

For more information about class times and membership rates, call 366-1280 or stop in at 7744 Madison St.