Feature Article - November 2009
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Fit(ness) Designs

Meeting a Growing Need

By Jessica Royer Ocken

Meeting Diverse Needs

Meeting the needs of a diverse population can be more than a little challenging, and in some cases may prove impossible—as elite athletes will likely vacate your premises for a more performance-focused facility as you tailor your scheduling and programs toward those new to exercise. But as these experts have pointed out, your best bet for serving your community and your mission is to be as flexible as possible—beginning with the way you use your space. As the Kansas City YMCA has grown, "we made spaces multipurpose," Hulet said. "We didn't just lock down into a racquetball court or exercise room, we made the design open. We have a senior population in the mornings, then transition to a teen center, and we have overflow space for crowded childcare. The space transitions back and forth, depending on demand."

Another good way to provide what participants are looking for? Ask them what they want. "Really try to get member or participant feedback," McCall said. Experiment with a few changes, then find out what people like and dislike. "You can try things, then throw them out, or continue long term."

Also remember that no matter what expansive space or fancy equipment you have, your staff is still the face of your facility and the experts who are going to help link newcomers to the fitness they desire. "Do you have a staff with the education to provide these services?" McCall asked. "You may want to schedule some education so trainers feel more comfortable working with different groups," he said.

Ultimately, training your staff to build relationships and offer expertise to kids, teens, seniors and those new to exercise "may be a better investment dollar for dollar" than any design overhaul or equipment upgrade.