Placing a Premium on Education

At the University of Arizona Student Recreation Center, proof of its educational ability and ensuing success may be found in several places.


Tucson, Ariz.; 520 621-9577;

It seems natural that the University of Arizona Student Recreation Center, Tucson, Ariz., should excel at educating its participants -- after all, it is part of a university. But, simply being affiliated with a university doesn't mean that a fitness center will succeed at education. However, at the U of A's Rec Center, proof of its educational ability and ensuing success may be found in several places.

* Check out those lines. If you have equipment collecting dust from lack of use, you may be stunned to hear that U of A has to deal with lines of users waiting to use the weight room. "Our facility is extremely popular on campus. We have about 4,000 to 5,000 members use the facility daily. During the semester, we typically have lines of participants waiting to use our weight room, as we routinely reach our maximum capacity," says Mark J. Zakrzewski, U of A's director of fitness and assistant director for the Department of Campus Recreation. Zakrzewski says that all full-time students (35,000) are automatically eligible to use the center. And they sell additional memberships to faculty/staff and university affiliates, which averages about 2,400 members annually. Memberships are not available to the community.

* Certifications required. Both the group exercise and personal training programs at U of A are prospering, and Zakrzewski points to his certified staff as the reason why. "What makes the group fitness program so popular is the variety of class offerings [55 classes per week] and the quality of our instructors. I think most fitness directors will tell you that your fitness class participation and revenue can be directly correlated to the quality of your instructors and the ownership they take in the program. We've got a great bunch of high-energy, knowledgeable, caring instructors on our staff who have really helped build a great program," says Zakrzewski. All of the 25 group fitness instructors have national certifications.

And, U of A's 10 personal trainers are all certified through ACE, NSCA or AFAA. In addition to training, they also offer body composition, blood pressure, flexibility, muscular endurance and cardiorespiratory endurance testing. "I think what has made our personal training program so successful is our philosophy of educating the client. As opposed to trying to drive up sales by convincing clients they really need the trainer, we train our trainers to teach clients about what they are doing and why it works. I want our clients to leave us with the confidence and knowledge to be able to work out on their own. With this approach, our clients report a high level of satisfaction, and recommend our services to their friends, colleagues, etc. This word-of-mouth advertising has made our program grow at a very rapid pace," Zakrzewski says.

However, excelling at educating and serving facility users can come at a price: "Our biggest need is more space. The lines for the weight room seem to grow each semester. We are looking at the possibility of expanding the facility. We hope to get approval to do so this fall," says Zakrzewski.

Facility Stats

* Date facility opened: 1990
* Fitness center size: Weight/cardio room 12,000 square feet, entire recreation center 130,000 square feet
* Facility features: Weight room, 25- by 50-yard pool, indoor running track, five basketball courts, eight racquetball and two squash courts, retail pro shop with locker rental and towel service, four multipurpose rooms, outdoor adventures center, two sand volleyball courts, intramural program
* Number of members: 35,000 full-time students, plus an average 2,400 faculty/staff and university affiliate members
* Strength equipment: Free weight equipment from Samson, Cybex, Iron Grip and Hammer Strength; selectorized and plateloaded equipment from Cybex, Hammer Strength and Hoist
* Cardio equipment: Six Woodway Treadmills, 20 Life Fitness cycles (10 upright and 10 recumbent), 16 Precor ellipticals, five Concept2 rowers, 16 Tectrix steppers
* Specialized equipment: One upper-body ergometer
* Group exercise classes: 55 classes per week during academic year: yoga, Pilates, core, bootcamp, cardio kickbox, Spinning, Muscle Pump, Power Step, PiYo (combo of Pilates and yoga, very popular!), Hip Hop, Aqua Challenge, tai chi; semester fitness pass costs $75 and allows unlimited access to all classes. An individual class costs $6.
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