Burn, Baby, Burn; Ponying Up to Rehab; A Fitness Gallery

Innovative programming ideas aimed at motivating members to exercise with all featured programs submitted by readers.

Burn, Baby, Burn Personal Fitness, Syracuse, N.Y.

Have you ever seen what 1pound of fat looks like? Or, better yet, ever wondered how many calories it actually takes to "burn off" that pound of fat? Members at Personal Fitness got a lesson in just how many calories it takes during the fitness center's 35,000 Calorie Cardio Challenge, which ran from January to May 2005. According to Director of Personal Fitness Dennis Dewane, the challenge was great because of the education factor: "35,000 calories is equal to 10 pounds of fat. Clients realized that a little cardio each week alone would not help them lose those extra pounds gained during the winter."

Participants registered for the event and indicated who their motivator (one of the trainers) was. They were then divided into three age groups: 34 and under, 35 to 54 and 55-plus. The challenge began with each participant tracking their progress toward "burning" 35,000 calories. All cardio work had to be performed in the gym, and participants had to use a minimum of five different cardio pieces with a minimum of 500 calories expended on each. A 3-by-4-foot bulletin board with a calorie graph hung in the cardio area, and each person had a flag next to their name to track their progress.

As of this writing, a total of 52 members participated, and a total of 410,172 calories had been expended, says Dewane. Trainers were rewarded with UnderArmour shirts for getting clients to sign up for the challenge and for keeping participants going. "Every finisher received a finisher T-shirt, along with losing a few pounds," explains Dewane. And, "first place in each age group receive gift certificates for dinner at local restaurants and personal training packages."

The 35,000 Calorie Cardio Challenge is just one of many similar types of programs held at Personal Fitness. "We've done Quadatholon, Extreme Cardio Challenge, etc.," says Dewane. "Everyone in the gym really enjoys them, and they encourage each other ... like a family or team atmosphere."

Ponying Up to Rehab Georgetown Healthcare Cardio Rehab, Georgetown, Texas

When rehab ends, so does exercise, for most patients. But Georgetown Healthcare's Cardio Rehab staff created a fun incentive program that it hopes will keep cardio patients exercising long past their rehab. To celebrate heart month in February, staff began Pony Express: Ride Into Good Health. For every minute of aerobic exercise, participants earned 1 mile. In addition, bonus miles could be earned by stretching and drinking eight glasses of water a day.

Fifteen of the 25 Georgetown Healthcare Cardiac Rehab phase III members signed up for the program. Each week, they filled out an exercise log, and staff tallied their miles and moved their horses along the trail. "Phase III participants typically work out for 45 minutes and split their time between the treadmill, Air Dyne bike, NuStep and light weights," explains Nicole Chase. "Participants design their own program, but [they] can consult with our staff at any time if they want to change their workout."

The participant who traveled farthest on the Pony Express route won. According to Chase, participants went from working out two days a week (Tuesdays and Thursdays when the fitness center is open to Phase III participants) to an average of three to four days a week. Some participants even increased the duration of their workouts from 45 to 60 minutes. The winner of the contest was working out five to six days a week, earning a total of 1,100miles. Prizes consisted of T-shirts, workout bags and pedometers.

"Participants enjoyed the program so much that they requested additional incentive programs," says Chase. "They said the program was fun, and the sense of competition was a great motivator. Many said having a concrete goal to work for gave their workouts more purpose."

A Fitness Gallery Fitness Express Manhattan, New York, N.Y.

For many smaller fitness centers without large budgets, one of the biggest challenges can be design. How do you decorate your facility without spending a lot of money. Or, as in the case of Fitness Express Manhattan, no money at all? Owner Sylvia Clement found a way that benefitted not only her facility and members, but also a local artist. Rather than making her fitness center look like a gym, she chose to make it look like a "gallery" -- just what you should expect in Manhattan.

Clement explains that when she opened her women-only fitness center in October 2004, she looked at similar facilities and decided to just "do it myself." She spent six months renovating the space, and, opting for no mirrors, had large white walls to cover. So, she asked an artist friend, whose paintings she currently has on her walls at home, if he would allow her to decorate her facility with his artwork. The artwork is colorful and large, and is mostly of women, which is appropriate for a women-only facility. In turn, she would sell his artwork to clients, if interested.

Now, says Clement, her members "have something wonderful to look at while they work out. In some parts of the circuit, they are literally inches away from it, so they can actually see the paint brushstrokes and use of glitter, and [can] marvel at the detail." While there is no financial gain from selling the artwork, it did help Clement save on her bottom line without the upfront costs of acquiring artwork. And, it makes the facility look lively and keeps her members motivated.

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