Feature Article - July 2012
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A Wealth of Options

Getting Programming Right for Multipurpose Facilities

By Dawn Klingensmith

Let's Get Physical

Boulder's emphasis on fitness programming is part of a national thrust to address childhood and adult obesity and overly sedentary lifestyles.

In its annual list of Health Club Trends for 2012, The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) notes that programming reflects the fact that "exercise is not one-size-fits all." As such, clubs are providing "age-appropriate and population-specific programming."

It is recognized today that as people age, strength, balance and functional training become even more important, so clubs are providing specialized programming and trainers who are specifically trained and certified to work with older adults. Since baby boomers often have the time, finances and motivation to exercise, this trend will only grow stronger over the foreseeable future, the program forecasts.

Youth programming also is a nationwide priority. In Boulder, feedback on evaluations and surveys led to the development of a "sports sampling program" for young kids whose parents wondered why sports like soccer and baseball weren't offered to 3- and 4-year-olds. The community boasts "huge soccer leagues" already, Olander said, "so we have no intention of offering that. But we can offer the instruction that leads up to and prepares players for the leagues."

The sports sampling program grew out of the realization that "this age group needs to dabble," Olander said. "We wouldn't have thought to offer it if we hadn't had the feedback from the surveys."

Due to the obesity epidemic among children and the White House's focus on children's fitness through the "Let's Move!" initiative, more training programs and equipment will continue to be designed around children's unique fitness needs. Gradually, "Facilities are offering more youth-specific exercise equipment," Turner said.

The demand for sports-specific training for children from elementary school on up continues to be popular.

At the same time, though, the National Fitness Professionals Association has found it necessary to develop a new certification for Youth Fitness and Performance Specialists, partly in response to the misguided ways folks have attempted to combat childhood obesity. Rapid-results regimens inspired by "The Biggest Loser" have people of all ages and fitness levels running stadium stairs and doing plyometrics, said NFPA president Dutch Burns.

However, "You can't train a preadolescent in the same way you train an adult," Burns warned. "Their growth plates aren't fused. They're still developing, and some of the plyo jumps just aren't good for them. You can't train them as if they were small adults. It puts them at risk."

Strength in Numbers

"Socially based exercise" is another trend identified in IHRSA's report. People want to have fun and socialize while working out, so clubs are offering a wide array of group exercise classes. Based on IHRSA's Member Census of 3,024 clubs, group cycling and boot camp-style programs are still popular, and group strength-training classes are increasing. Again this year, Latin dance and nightclub-inspired workouts are cropping up everywhere. Fusion classes that combine yoga, Pilates, ballet, dance and even surfing continue to grow in popularity.

Barre classes utilizing a ballet barre for isometric exercises and other movements are also gaining in popularity, Burns said, as are "extreme" or "insanity" cross-fit workouts designed to cause "muscle confusion."

"The military is adopting (cross-fit regimens) for soldiers. So you have to ask yourself, if you're a 40-year-old mom who's never exercised before, is cross-fit for you? I'm not saying it can't be, but it's not for everyone," said Burns, adding that results come fast but at the risk of stress fractures and other injuries. "I personally like it, but it's not for everyone. It's not Step One if you're just getting started."

Small group personal training continues to be popular as it offers the benefits and motivation of personal training combined with social interaction and lower cost. In Plantation, "We are seeing personal training in the parks like never before," Ryan said.