Students are seeking more from their workout experiences than just a big room with weights. More often than not, they’re seeking community as well as the tools for greater wellbeing. To meet this need, more campus recreation departments are adding Group X programming to their offerings.
This story is the second in a three-part series exploring three aspects of offering Group X programming: planning and implementation basics, challenges to overcome, and why Group X is worth offering to students.
This week, we’re talking about overcoming challenges: how to hurdle any roadblocks you’ll encounter during or after the implementation of your Group X programming.
Once you’ve scheduled the class times, hired your instructors and placed all your equipment, you still have to get students through the doors. And when introducing a new type of exercise class, you’re certain to get feedback from potential participants.
“The fitness world is always changing, but sometimes you get pushback from people who have been doing a certain thing for a long time,” said Chrissy Strow, the fitness coordinator at the University of South Carolina. “Because people often get stagnant in how they’re exercising, it’s sometimes hard to push the program in a direction it needs to go that allows it to grow.”
But even for a Group X program that’s grown significantly over the last few years, like the one at the University of Michigan, there’s always an opportunity to grow. “There is still room for growth,” said Sheila Calhoun, the fitness and wellness program manager at Michigan. “Partnering with other campus departments and programs should help grow our program.”
In addition to forming good relationships with other campus organizations, Calhoun believes making Group X classes affordable for students is also important. “We know we’re competing with many options for exercise off campus,” said Calhoun. “But by keeping our semester pass fee very affordable, we attract students.”
There’s always the possibility of running into budget problems, no matter how many factors you accounted for in early planning. Unforeseen circumstances can force you to adjust your Group X programming expenses, especially with your equipment use.
“If your budget doesn’t allow, there are some classes that can be done with little to no equipment: Zumba or other dance classes, Tabata or other HIIT classes that mainly use body weight training, yoga, and cardio kickboxing,” said Calhoun.
“Managing schedules will always be a challenge since we hire so many students and they may not know their schedule far enough in advance to commit to a teaching schedule,” said Calhoun. “But we can typically solidify a semester group fitness schedule about three to four weeks before it begins. We also reward instructors who step in and sub for people who can’t teach.”
Strow has found one of her biggest challenges at South Carolina is handling annual staff turnover. “When you work at a university with mostly student instructors, you’ll have a lot of staff members graduating every year,” she said. “I have to train new instructors and make sure they have the right qualities to be long-lasting employees. Frequently having to rehire is a big obstacle for us.”
According to Calhoun, finding the right existing space to facilitate an engaging Group X class can be challenging. “Sharing a space for general exercise and group exercise is not ideal because class participants may be distracted by non-class users and often times feel uncomfortable when others are in their class space,” she said.
Obviously, your available space may determine where you’re able to host classes, but when finding the space and equipment pieces you’ll use, consider how conducive they’ll be to engaging students during Group X.