Feature Article - July 2012
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A Wealth of Options

Getting Programming Right for Multipurpose Facilities

By Dawn Klingensmith

IHRSA's fitness trends report notes that technology has merged with physical activity, whether on mobile devices or incorporated into a club's equipment. Technology tracks metrics such as mileage, speed, calorie burn and heart rate as well as delivering interactive workout programs. Tracking the effectiveness of workouts and a club-goer's progress over time is motivating. Many YMCAs use a Web-based program to customize workouts, track progress and generate meal plans.

Another noteworthy trend is the increase in "pick-up play" in team sports. In 2008, pick-up play exceeded organized or sanctioned play for seven sports: basketball, ice hockey, field hockey, touch football, lacrosse, grass volleyball and beach volleyball. It is believed that this is the result of folks "feeling the pinch" of the economy, Turner said.

Setting aside time for un-programmed use of facilities, including gymnasium courts and sports fields, is seen as important, particularly after school, Turner said. "Drop-in" programs remain popular as well.

In Boulder, the recreation department is offering more flexible programming because when people don't need to preregister or commit to a series of classes, participation "goes through the roof," Olander said.

People are willing to pay more per class if they can drop in when it's convenient for them, she added.

Have a Plan

Rather than fixating on what's trendy, rec departments would be better off focusing on what works, Burns said: "The problem with the fitness industry as a whole is they try to make everything trendy, but to get results the safe way, it's not really all that exciting."

Burns is calling for a return to science in fitness programming and instruction. A potential problem with military-style workouts, for example, is that "you're running them and gunning them," but not necessarily tapping into people's fat reserves. More likely, they're using carbs for fuel. "You have to have a game plan and not just run them until they sweat," Burns said.

It's important to have a game plan for programming in general, as Boulder's experience has shown. Available on the city's Web site to ensure "complete transparency," Boulder's Recreation Program Plan "makes communicating with the public so much easier," Olander said.