Traditional fitness programs are very beneficial for students, but sometimes, trending fitness programs can add an extra spark to student engagement. Colleges all over are integrating unique, trending fitness programs to generate more interest in campus recreation.
F45 is the most unique and trending workout class at Clemson University; the University of Florida lets students twirl from silks in flying yoga classes; and the University of Vermont allows students to gain credit hours through Physical Education Activity Class (PEAC) courses.
Below, Jenny Rodgers, the assistant director of fitness and wellness at Clemson, Leah Shelley, the assistant director for fitness programs at Florida, and Shelby Smith, the senior associate director of programs at Vermont, share their experiences implementing and executing their schools’ respective programs, and how they benefit students:
It takes a great deal of foresight and planning to determine which fitness classes to implement, keep or remove. Any class — from a branded exercise like F45 to a class for credit hours like PEAC to a picturesque workout like flying yoga — should be evaluated on how beneficial they are for students and the feasibility of implementation.
Jenny Rodgers, Clemson: “Prior to bringing F45 to campus, we were in the early stages of planning an integrated fitness program intended to assess and improve the mental and physical health of our local first responders. Since F45 provides quick, efficient and safe workouts that can be modified for all fitness levels, we knew this was exactly what we were looking for. On top of that, we knew once the integrated fitness program ended, it would be a major attraction to our students and other members. Our students have responded extremely well to F45.”
Leah Shelley, Florida: “We actually call it ‘flying yoga’ instead of ‘aerial yoga’ because we have another class called ‘acro yoga,’ which is partner-based, acrobatic yoga — participants were confusing the words ‘acro’ and ‘aerial.’
“We had a student with a strong interest in aerial yoga and another student who had a circus background, so we capitalized on their passions and skill sets to create a ‘flying yoga’ small group training class. Individuals can pay to take part in a five-week class that meets twice a week for 60-minute sessions.”
Shelby Smith, Vermont: “The PEAC courses, graded for one credit, used to be required for graduation. During that time, the courses were managed through senior leadership in the athletic department. Once the requirement for graduation was dropped, our campus recreation department took over the management of the courses in order to continue the offering. In these structured opportunities, students can:
“We offer 20 to 22 different classes — some with multiple sections — per semester, which include a variety of yoga, dance, martial arts, aquatics, racquet sports, cycling, heart rate training and other courses.”
Planning is the first half of the equation — after that comes execution. Certain lessons can only be learned through the trial and error inherent with the execution of planned programs. All three schools have used learning lessons to improve their various offerings.
JR: “Be patient with the process. F45 is a large corporation that is growing rapidly, so bringing all of the moving parts together takes time, especially at a university. But in the meantime, make sure your members are educated on what F45 is, how it differs from other fitness programs and the overall benefits it offers.
“It’s also important to find a way F45 can fit within the general mission and goals of your department to make sure it’s enhancing your program and campus community as a whole, rather than it just being a franchise within your building.”
LS: “The certification for aerial yoga can be lengthy, costly and far away, so research will need to be conducted on how the instructors can obtain the proper skill sets to teach this format. This format and modality is very unique, so if most of your services are free at your facility, aerial yoga will be a great option as a revenue-generating program because most participants are willing to pay for this unique style of class.
“Also, you can purchase silks from an aerial company or from a fabric store. Fabric from an aerial company tends to be more expensive and usually comes with carabiners and pre-knotted silks/daisy-chains. Fabric from a fabric store tends to be cheaper.
“And for suspension, you will need a sturdy support structure for the silks; TRX A-frames and monkey bars tend to work well.”
SS: “PEAC requires knowledgeable instructors — we are fortunate to have had individuals with exercise science degrees. It’s also important to provide students with the knowledge and tools to effectively incorporate appropriate heart rate targets to work toward their personal fitness goals on their own.
“In our classes, everyone gets their own heart rate strap. We used to collect them after each class and wash them, but that’s kind of gross. Now we include the price of the strap in the course, and they can check out the monitor each class.”
The most important question to ask before adding a new workout is, “Will students benefit from this?” F45, flying yoga and PEAC courses have all proven to benefit students physically, mentally and socially.
JR: “We consistently have students express the variety, quickness and convenience of F45 has helped them stay accountable and find a fitness routine that works. The fact they can experience a new and challenging workout every day while getting in and out of the facility in less than an hour is an attractive component of the program. We’ve even seen a number of new friendships form between students who regularly attend the same class times.
“Considering this was our first ‘paid pass’ for group fitness — all other group fitness classes are free at Clemson — we weren’t sure how our student population would react. Since implementing F45, it’s been exciting to see how many of our students have decided to make that investment and commit to the program.”
LS: “First off, the aerial yoga class is just fun. It’s like 60 minutes of recess, and I think we all can appreciate what 60 minutes of recess can do for a college student, or any adult, for that matter.
“Secondly, traditional, mat-based yoga tends to include pushing motions that can be intense for our wrists, elbows and shoulders. Flying yoga can focus on intensifying our grip strength and utilizing more of our pulling muscle groups. The benefits of suspended inversions include the four R’s:
“Students also love this class because it photographs well — participants take many pictures performing flows and flips in the hammocks, and post the pictures to their social media accounts. This garners more interest from other students who want to play around in the silks.”
SS: “Students report taking PEAC courses to learn something new, to continue something they already enjoy and for general health/fitness purposes. These courses give students the opportunity to create and experience community, manage stress, achieve fitness goals, and learn something new.
“Despite the graduation requirement being dropped, these classes have remained popular. We have consistently had enrollment at 72 percent in the fall and 82 percent in the spring of our overall course capacity.”