As campus rec teams around the world are digging in and planning which fitness programs they will offer once open — and if these programs will be virtual, in-person or both — the future of functional training and its extremely social nature poses many questions and concerns.
Currently, Tarleton State University Campus Recreation is able to offer functional training through live classes with Zoom and through utilizing the Trainerize app to provide customized functional programming created by certified personal training staff and designed based on the criteria of individual students.
“We are offering bootcamp style classes that focus on full body functional movements and have even got creative with incorporating things like textbooks and laundry soap as additional resistance,” said Shanna Moody, the assistant director of Campus Recreation at Tarleton State. “We have seen our students get their whole families involved by gathering everyone around the Zoom camera or by having them all follow the Trainerize workouts.”
At the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Kyle Anderson, the assistant director of Fitness, said his team is knee deep in the planning process of virtual programming with functional fitness as a cornerstone. Set to launch in June, his team will be offering online personal training, streamed group classes and what they are calling Studio 7 online.
“Studio 7 online is a small group training programming that utilizes Precor’s Studio 7 infrastructure and pairs it with direct live classes and social support network through social media,” described Anderson. “As part of the program, individuals will be able to access workouts live from their desktop, workout live in a streaming group or workout on-demand from the recording streams. The social groups provide added support and connection during a disconnected time.”
Anderson said once they are open, Studio 7 will be offered live and virtually with the live version utilizing Queenax, suspension, bodyweight, kettlebells and other equipment to provide progressive, goal-oriented programming.
Elaborating on the social nature of functional training, Anderson pointed out the 18 to 24-year-old demographic in recreational facilities craves social interaction, and this type of workout fulfills that craving.
“Think about your functional training space. These spaces tend to have an inherent culture — people just talk more there,” said Anderson. “Training for activities performed in daily life is cool. Flipping tires, throwing medicine balls and pushing sleds is just cool. Those functional training spaces are like the new basketball courts — they are places for you to meet new friends while participating in informal or formal activity.”
While you want to provide this social and physical opportunity for students when they return, you also want to do it safely, a main concern Moody expressed when discussing her team’s plan for reopening. Currently, Tarleton State plans to continue offering Zoom and Trainerize options as well as create on-demand programming and slowly introduce functional group fitness programming on gym courts to ensure adequate spacing and ventilation.
While equipment use will be limited, Moody said the equipment they will use, such as JumpSport Fitness trampolines, barbells and BOSU, will help to space out participants without having to put markers and signage on the floor, alleviating the constant reminder of the pressures of the pandemic.
When it comes to cleaning used equipment after classes, equipment will stay in place and staff will perform thorough cleaning before the next class begins. Back to back classes will not be held to ensure proper cleaning time between sessions.
“We will also not be using any porous equipment that cannot safely be cleaned between uses,” said Moody. “Any equipment that is pulled from a location for use will be put in a ‘dirty zone’ by members. From there, staff will properly clean and restock the item to its original location.”
As social distancing and quarantine guidelines begin to allow facilities to re-open, Moody foresees more hybrid offerings moving forward and functional fitness becoming more popular as the fitness world encounters the challenges of using equipment and music in virtual classes.
This is why Tarleton is planning to implement an equipment request form where students who want to participate in functional fitness programs but don’t want to, or can’t, come to the facility can request things like resistance bands that can be shipped to them and provide guaranteed equipment they can use in classes.
“I think we will see a mix of some people really eager to get back to face-to-face programming and to interact with their peers again for the social benefits, and we will still have those who are concerned about the spread of the infection or who have compromised immune systems and do not feel safe re-entering these types of settings,” said Moody. “As facility operators and programmers, we must be flexible and adaptable in our roles to provide services to both ends of the spectrum.”
Anderson agreed being creative and blending a digital environment into functional training programs will be necessary coming out of the pandemic. “Even prior to COVID-19, more individuals were working out at other places in addition to their recreation spaces,” he said. “To engage members, bring the social parts of your physical, functional training space to your online space. Functional training is simple by definition, but it is the social environment that makes it successful.”