Since he was a kid, Sam Mendelsohn has been drawn to the outdoors.
“Green open spaces always called me to go outside and just go,” he said. “As far back as I can remember, I’ve spent as much time as I could outdoors. As a kid, I was allowed the freedom to be outside until dark … In adulthood, one of my greatest joys has been spending time in the mountains, from camping to hiking to climbing.”
So, when he saw the opportunity to bring fitness to spaces outside, he dove in and Greenfields Outdoor Fitness was born. “As a result, we have been able to positively impact the lives of hundreds of thousands of people daily,” said Mendelsohn. “Outdoor gyms have become heavily used public amenities, and especially now with the pandemic, they have become necessary.”
Based out of Orange County, California, Greenfields offers various outdoor equipment options that have been time-tested in environments from Alaska to Miami. The mission of Greenfields, “Promoting Wellness and Fighting Obesity One Community at a Time,” drives everything the company pursues.
In fact, Mendelsohn said Greenfields offers a larger spectrum of outdoor fitness units than anyone else in the industry. As such, the company is able to provide exercise opportunities to a university’s entire student body. Any background, any fitness level, it doesn’t matter — Greenfields can meet it.
While functionality, variety and durability are all key to Greenfields’ success, at the core is the company’s desire to make fitness accessible to all. That heart, much like the campus recreation professional, drives everything Greenfields does.
“Our goal is not primarily to make and sell a product — it is to serve people and help make their lives better,” said Mendelsohn.
That focus, however, requires changing to the evolving needs of the culture and community of fitness. For example, Mendelsohn shared in the past you would find simple exercise stations placed alongside trails outdoors. They typically provided exercises like pull-ups and dips. However, he said as society grew more sedentary, less people were able to use the traditional outdoor fitness units.
“The very fit will take a park bench and turn it into a gym; we need activities that challenge these users and provide an environment that is welcoming, accessible and unintimidating to the uninitiated,” he said. “There are many students who come onto campus with experience in high school sports, and for these, the gym and rec center will be an inviting place. However, there are also those with little to no athletic background, for whom venturing into an indoor gym may carry a sense of apprehension.”
And Greenfields has been up for meeting that need of greater accessibility. The Legacy Series is a good example. Mendelsohn described it as a “gateway” to an outdoor gym. It works off bodyweight leverage assistance and has a playground-like feel. The intimidation factor is low, allowing users to build confidence to one day try more challenging activities.
But Greenfields isn’t just making fitness accessible to the new-to-the-gym types. The company also has its patented Signature Accessible line that debuted in 2012. Mendelsohn said those with physical disabilities are often challenged to find exercise units to suit their unique needs; their goal with this line is to meet the fitness needs of those with mobility impairments. In fact, Paralympian Jennifer French is the line’s spokesperson and partners with Greenfields to develop more units for those in wheelchairs.
“Greenfields has taken the lead in creating fitness apparatuses for those with disabilities, allowing them to exercise not just in the same area but on the very same units as those without physical disabilities,” said Mendelsohn. “In the case of those campuses with a disabled population too small for adaptive team sports, this is a great way to facilitate physical activity without the separation that team sports usually entail.”
With the various options available, Greenfields is reducing roadblocks to exercises. Mendelsohn said they look to specifically hurdle over barriers like a lack of motivation, the intimidation factor, the indoor environment, cost, exercising alone and fear of injury.
But, Mendelsohn said they recognize there isn’t a one-size-fits all. As such, they offer customized and unique fitness areas to meet the needs of each project. The Greenfields team prides itself in providing tailored solutions based on demographics, budget, spacing and more.
Plus, they adapt to the ever-changing industry. Mendelsohn shared they started to develop fitness rigs for functional fitness workouts after CrossFit took off. And in 2020, they launched the obstacle and X-TREME NINJA courses, complete with challenges like cheese walls and peg boards.
Going above and beyond is worth it to Mendelsohn. That includes doing the same with his team. He said while Greenfields indirectly makes lives betters by helping campus rec professionals help those they serve, he works to directly make his staff’s lives better as well. Whether it’s monthly employee appreciation luncheons, or the annual employee appreciation day — the staff gets a paid day off and does a fun outing — he looks to show his team they are key to Greenfields’ success.
“In the end, it’s all about valuing people and using your talents, abilities and resources to make the world a better place,” he said. “We have a tremendous team that does great work and is a pleasure to collaborate with on a daily basis. To me, the perfect job is pursuing a goal you can truly get behind with your whole heart and being able to pursue that goal with people who are not just your colleagues but also trusted friends.”
Mendelsohn said he’s spent a decade serving the industry via Greenfields Outdoor Fitness. And they have been the most fulfilling years of his professional life. He is humbled, excited and grateful at the opportunity Greenfields has provided him every day.
“To see faces light up when they try out a new unit and realize it’s genuinely fun, to hear stories of people who didn’t have anywhere to work out until a fitness zone was installed nearby, to see customers coming back over and over because of the quality product and great service they receive, these truly make every day rewarding,” he said. “There is no greater calling than building something that helps communities become healthier.”