Feature Article - November 2010
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Finding Space

Making Room for Fitness Programming

By Wynn St. Clair

All for One, One for All

With space at a premium, an increasing number of recreation managers have turned to multi-generational classes to maximize the number of people that can be serviced by a particular program. This movement has lead to mother-daughter dance classes, father-son golf camps and family wall climbing clubs.

In Monona, Wis., recreation officials have begun offering parent-child yoga classes. It's an offshoot of the adult program, which was launched last year and was an instant hit, with more than 80 people registering for the class. Given its success, recreation officials knew it made sense to dedicate space for additional classes. When a community member suggested the class, it seemed like an ideal program for the community and for a recreation staff dedicated to combating the childhood obesity epidemic.

A typical class has about six to 10 participants in each age category, as well as their parents. The smaller setting includes basic yoga movements, with the instructors helping to move toddlers into poses. Classes—which include songs and games to engage young participants—are designed for children between the ages of 18 months and 5 years. Parents can join the class and get in their own workout.

"Parents are always looking for different fitness opportunities for them and their kids," said Jake Anderson, Monona's director of parks and recreation. "So it's important to us, too."

The classes take place in the lounge room, a smaller room in the 12,000-square-foot community center. By programming the classes there, recreation officials helped achieve their goal of maximizing their programming space. In addition to being used for yoga, Pilates and senior sit-and-tone classes, it also is home to Cub Scout packs, Girl Scout troops and city meetings.

"Space needs are such a huge issue in recreation management and especially in municipal management," Anderson said. "We're fortunate to have such a close proximity to Madison (Wisconsin) and access to all of their great instructors, we're just always trying to be creative. We joke that our motto is 'Pack 'em in.' "

Located on the shores of Lake Monona in Southern Wisconsin, the town is home to about 8,000 residents. It has more than 330 acres of park space, ranging from neighborhood and community parks to woodlands and wetlands. The community center houses a senior center, as well as a meeting room, lounge area and a large hall that can accommodate up to 200 people.

In fact, there's such a demand for recreation programming, Monona park officials schedule classes in a wide variety of places throughout the building and town. The library, city hall, the community center. If there's available space, recreation managers want to schedule a class there.

Before adding a class, Monona recreation managers weigh whether the class will serve enough people in the area and whether it can be located close enough to the city center. They also reach out to people in the community and encourage them to become instructors. They find it easier to attract participants when the instructor is a familiar face to local residents.

"You just need to look outside the box as to how a space can be used," Anderson said. "It's always a big decision when we add something to our umbrella of activities. We're maximizing community tax dollars by utilizing all of the spaces we have."