Feature Article - February 2017
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Workout 2017

Making Americans Fit Again

By Rick Dandes

One good example is Battle Fit, an almost logical extension of the boot-camp mindset. Designed by former British Army officers and based on the physical and psychological building blocks of military training, Battle Fit catapults functional training to a whole new level with its 16-week series of structured 35-minute workouts using specially designed training equipment.

Through functional training Warm Ups, Battle Workouts and Operational Fitness Tests, participants perform everyday movements at high intensities inside traditional military fitness obstacle courses, battle preparation workouts and team drills. This gym-based group training delivers quantitative physical results while forging mental toughness, teamwork and physical discipline in a safe, controlled environment.

"Battle Fit is for those clubs looking to foster camaraderie and offer an elite workout that improves athletic ability for members who crave novelty and want more," said Matthew Januszek, co-founder of a UK-based provider of fitness equipment, fitness flooring, design and training, and also the company behind Battle Fit. "And, unlike the intense military-style training popular today that sometimes can lead to injury, Battle Fit, with its targeted motivation, was designed for member safety while driving top-level athletic performance. This makes Battle Fit a good tool for member retention, as well as trainer development and motivation."

Meanwhile, Doerksen added to the mix of trending programs: "I've heard that boxing training, including virtual, will be big in 2017. You can also access live-streaming classes that people can 'attend' from anywhere. If your schedule doesn't really allow for you to get to the gym," she said, "a virtual class might be perfect."

Out-of-the-Box Thinking

At the YMCA, "We differ from other organizations in that we do not believe in chasing the latest fitness trends," said Beth Taylor Mack, director of health behavior and wellness at YMCA of the USA. "We would rather offer them as part of our cadre of offerings. We focus on the health seeker, the members who are right now struggling at the YMCA. These are people for whom the many established programs don't work. They try a boot camp and they are sore the next day."

YMCA, Mack said, "has taken the intentional step back to say, 'We want to be more of a help to the individual. We have so many different programs we're offering, but what are your goals? What do you hope to accomplish by being here? What are you interested in? How can we match you up with something at your interest level?' And that starts from the moment when we first give someone a tour of a facility."

If someone has no desire to get into a pool, Mack asks, "Why then are we going to spend much time talking about a pool, versus if they are really interested in group exercise? Not only are we going to show them the group exercise facility, but we are also going to introduce them to some of the instructors. We will offer them the chance to sample a class, and they wouldn't have to stay there for a full hour. We've tried to do a lot in the upfront in member engagement versus having these massive schedules of 120 group exercise classes."

As for trends and offerings, Mack said the YMCA has definitely established a "really robust active adult schedule. But at the same time, we also try to counterbalance that for those individuals who do want a little bit more of a challenge."

There are YMCAs that offer boot camps, small group personal training, HIIT and programs similar to the very intense P90X programs. They offer that because they understand there is a core population who are fitness enthusiasts, and YMCAs want to make sure they are being serviced as well.

"We don't see any of these programs as either/or," Mack said. "We like to offer a spectrum of services that appeals to a wide range of ages so that we make sure we are servicing the greatest population."

If people meet their health & wellness goal, they are more likely to stay on that health & wellness program.

At the YMCA, Mack continued, "we don't want someone to just be a number. We are taking a hard look at our member engagement strategies, and part of that is making sure that our member experience begins immediately, from the front door to the wellness center door or to the group exercise door or the aquatics door.

"We want to make sure that our new members are meeting people," she added. "Because we know that when people meet others they are more likely to stay. And if they meet their health and wellness goal, we know they are more likely to stay on that health and wellness program. It is really critical for us to get this right. The offerings are like the frosting on the cake. What differentiates us from others is we try to stay on top of those trends and try to serve our community by understanding our community."

How do you know what the community you serve needs? At the YMCA, they ask members what they like and expect. But, Mack said, "There are many other ways to determine what programs fit. An organization could do a needs assessment of their community or a focus group. Planning the questions strategically can yield extremely useful information. Also, understanding the demographics within the community and target population can help organizations get a head start on making offerings that will match up with your core clients."