Feature Article - April 2005
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Programming Your Pool

A closer look at aquatics facilities that used their successes and failures to grow

By Kyle Ryan

For a health club (albeit one affiliated with a hospital), HealthBridge Fitness Center has a large aquatics facility: a six-lane, 25-meter lap pool; a u-shaped, zero-depth-entry leisure pool and a warm-water therapy pool. Kids' swim lessons and group-fitness classes take place in the leisure pool. With so much space, HealthBridge is a busy place.

"It's actually going pretty much around the clock," Kozak says. Their programs earned HealthBridge a top-20 spot in 2003's USWFA's aquatic programming awards.

There are the usual exercise-based programs for group fitness (including choreographed classes and cross-training), but then there's water tai chi and prenatal classes. There are also a number of therapeutic classes for arthritis (two levels), multiple sclerosis, low-back problems and range of motion. Of them all, arthritis reigns as king.

"It's very popular," Kozak says. "In certain ones we're still turning people away."

Sometimes the programs can be victims of their own success. People who take the low-back class often fix their problems and thus don't need the class anymore.

"With other programs, we just keep changing the formats and keep it interesting so they keep coming back," Kozak says. "A lot of people have to work out in the water due to knee or hip issues, so that's why we offer a lot of these classes, but the general fitness classes, your Average Joe off the track just wants to change it up, so we make it fun and exciting."

To keep things fun and exciting, Kozak listens to member comments and keeps up on industry developments. She also likes to see what other clubs offer.

"If I'm out and about and on vacation or just visiting somewhere," she says, "I pick up schedules and read their class descriptions and see if it's something that I think would work in my facility."

In addition, she takes the usual steps: continuing education, lots of reading and attending various industry events. Staying current is key in generating good programming ideas.

"You just have to re-evaluate and take a look at current trends and adapt your program to what's going on," Las Vegas's Irvine says. "If you've got something good, don't change it."