The Basics of Functional Fitness

functional fitness

Functional fitness is a growing trend in campus recreation, with students seeking to improve their every day life and movements through exercise.

There are some challenges to effectively operating functional fitness in your rec center, however, from finding good instructors to proper class structure. It’s important to understand these challenges and the basics of functional fitness for your students to reap the benefits.

Here, Doug Hurley, the associate dean of students for student activities and campus rec at Pepperdine University, shares his insights on effectively running functional fitness programs in a campus recreation setting:

CR: What are some tips for bringing functional fitness programs to your campus recreation department?

DH: At Pepperdine, we can offer a great value by getting more exercises out of equipment we already own without purchasing specialty equipment. For example, our instructors employ medicine balls, dumbbells, jump ropes, and kettlebells, which we already have. The key is the instructor is certified and knows how to offer the type of workout (intense cardio combined with weightlifting) participants are looking for.

CR: How do you encourage participation in the functional fitness classes?

DH: Have a cool looking space. Our space is outdoors with a big shade covering and a “rig” in the middle with a rubber mat floor. It attracts the participant who has worked out in their basement or garage. We focus a lot on the cleanliness of our indoor facilitates, but the functional space is a little “grungy,” which is okay. One large wall is coated with chalkboard paint for instructors to write the workout on, and the various times or weights of the participants. People also write “shout outs” on the wall. Also, there’s a great sound system, which is important in all of our group fitness classes.

CR: Where do you find instructors to teach the classes or run the new programs?

DH: We have approached several people in our community with the idea. For example, one person already involved with CrossFit expressed interest, and we partnered with him to help pay for his certification. It’s very rewarding for the coaches. Our instructors know ahead of time they may not make what they can in a local gym, but they tell us they really appreciate working in the university environment, primarily with students, where the bottom line is student health and wellness — not profit.

CR: Any other advice?

DH: Classes of this nature might work best as special, instructional classes with a different fee structure and timeline. Most of our group fitness classes run all semester, and anyone can join anytime.

With CrossFit, we offer it in two sessions during one semester. There is an onboarding time where participants learn the method and movements, and then the class progresses together. People can’t just jump in the class mid-semester. We charge a separate fee, which is more than our regular classes, but still a much greater value.


Bobby Dyer
Bobby is a former staff writer at Peake Media.

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