As campus recreation evolves into an encompassing exercise experience for students, the popularity of Group X classes is growing. In order to keep meeting the fitness needs of your students, Group X is worth offering.
For the next three weeks, we’ll be exploring three aspects of offering Group X programming in your rec center: planning and implementation basics, challenges to overcome, and why Group X is worth offering to students.
This week, we’re talking about implementation and how to make your Group X vision a reality by finding the most effective space, using the right equipment and hiring the best trainers.
The first step is finding the right space. According to Sheila Calhoun, the fitness and wellness program manager at the University of Michigan, you have a couple of options. “The question is creating a dedicated space for group fitness by closing a general use area when group classes are in session, or sharing an area for general use and class use simultaneously,” she said.
There are advantages to both choices. You can save time and money by using an existing general space for Group X classes. But by building a new dedicated space, you might have more creative liberties in layout and equipment decisions.
Whatever space your Group X classes are in, it’s important they facilitate a community for students. “Be careful not to impede the sense of community often created when people come together to exercise over time,” said Calhoun.
Depending on a variety of factors — budget, available space in your current facilities or available equipment — it may also benefit you to have a healthy mix of certain classes with dedicated spaces and others held in shared spaces.
“The only dedicated space we have at the University of Michigan is our cycle studio — a converted racquetball court — that is solely used for classes,” said Calhoun. “Our other classes use general exercise areas reserved just for fitness class programming.”
An essential component of successful Group X programming is equipment, as it benefits both your instructors and students. “Participants like to use equipment, and it offers the instructor more flexibility and creativity in planning a class,” said Calhoun.
Having a bigger variety of equipment pieces can enhance the experience of your Group X classes. Introducing new pieces can also provide a spark of energy to students during and after classes.
“In a shared use space, equipment that’s already there for general use could be used in classes,” said Calhoun. “It’s possible a class participant will use equipment like BOSU for the very first time and then feel more confident using it outside of class.”
It can also benefit your program, however, to have certain equipment that’s only used in Group X classes. Creating a dedicated Group X space can help with this.
“My recommendation is to purchase small equipment whenever possible just for use in group fitness classes, such as dumbbells, tubing, BOSU, med balls, yoga mats, jump ropes, etc., to prolong the life of the equipment and ensure it is available for classes,” said Calhoun.
Once you’ve found the right space, preferred equipment pieces and perfect layout for both, the only missing component is the right instructors. In all campus rec programming, not just Group X, you can hire instructors in-house — students or current staff — or hire instructors from the surrounding community.
“We generally try to give preference to hiring our own students in order to support their development,” said Calhoun. “But we do hire instructors from the community if they have good credentials and teaching experience.”
And at the University of Michigan, you’ll have room to develop your teaching skills if you haven’t had the chance to acquire much experience. “If someone is recently certified but not quite ready to teach on their own yet, we can set them up with a senior instructor for mentoring until they are ready,” said Calhoun. “Providing opportunities for continued skill development through resources like workshops is important too.”
Every instructor, no matter how skilled, can always learn more. Continuing education for your instructors will elevate the quality of your classes and experience for your students.
“We host a few certification courses each year — Zumba and Keiser cycling most recently, and we have an NAFC preparatory workshop this coming fall — and post the information in our facilities and on social media,” said Calhoun. “This is a good way to attract potential instructors.”