The Basics of New Fitness Programs at Michigan

fitness programs

Beginning in Fall 2014, the fitness programs at the University of Michigan have experienced an unprecedented rise in popularity. In the span of three years, Michigan’s fitness programs have grown from just 20 classes per week in 2014 to roughly 100 now.

And after selling just 60 group fitness passes in Fall 2014, the Michigan rec department routinely sells close to 1,000 each semester. It took a lot of hard work, but Michigan’s fitness programs have developed into some of the school’s most regularly attended on-campus activities.

Below, Ellen Dixon, the assistant director of fitness and wellness at the University of Michigan, shares some of the basics she’s learned for building new fitness programs and keeping them successful:

CR: What are some of the basics of making a new fitness program successful?

ED: With building a brand new fitness program, it’s all about patience and taking things one step at a time. Don’t roll it out too quickly. Also, we make sure we’re creating an inclusive and fun environment, and when people are participating in these fitness programs, yes, they’re working on their physical well-being, but they’re also connecting it with other dimensions of well-being. We like to make sure as our staff is teaching, training or just working the floor, they’re promoting healthy lifestyles. And we also encourage students to engage in physical activity to empower themselves, keep a healthy and strong mind, destress, and build a community.

CR: How big of a role does the staff play in laying the foundation?

ED: Being successful comes down to having a great team and creating a great environment. In order to create that environment, we’re dedicated to working with our team, so they know they are supported in that role. We provide them with resources, and part of their onboarding and continued employment involves pretty extensive training and education assessment.

CR: How do you prepare your staff — and subsequently, your programs — for success?

ED: Our trainers are all nationally certified. And in the semester they’re prepping for their national exam, they’re also going through a mentorship program where they have six three-hour-long workshops that bring practical application to the book knowledge they’re learning for their national exam.

They also do shadow sessions with our other trainers already working with clients, and they do mock sessions, mock assessment sessions and programming on our fitness professional staff. That’s kind of their evaluation process before they ever get assigned a client.

Bobby Dyer
Bobby is a staff writer at Peake Media. Reach him at

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