From a subtle head nod on the trails to online tip-sharing forums to full-blown events supporting various causes, one thing I've always loved about being part of the running community is that it brings together people from all walks of life. The shared interest is what creates the running community's tightly knit fabric. It's the commonalities that bring people together, which is why inclusive programming in our industry is so important in this day and age. That means creating new programming for marginalized groups, as well as analyzing and adjusting your current programming — and the facilities in which they're hosted — to ensure it's accessible to everyone regardless of age, race, ability, income or sexual orientation.

Inclusive programming is so powerful because it highlights the commonalities among people of different backgrounds and abilities.

Serving the youngest and oldest members of the community can be as simple as creating special programming for those age groups. The formative childhood years are crucial in establishing habits that last a lifetime. Developing beginner-level programming not only encourages physical activity among children, it also provides space for them to enhance social skills and form friendships with other children in the community.

It's a terrible reality that isolated seniors are at a high risk of suicide. (According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the highest rate of suicide in America is among people age 45 to 64, with isolation being a common risk factor.) Something as simple as a weekly water aerobics class or game night to look forward to can help seniors forge relationships and boost morale.

Additionally, improper training of staff or inaccessible facilities can completely deter people with disabilities from participating in programming. Start by growing awareness among your staff and provide training opportunities for teaching and programming modifications. Ensuring that your facilities are ADA-accessible is equally important, and you should take any necessary steps to meet ADA-defined standards of design.

Cost to participate in programming can make it unattainable for low-income families. One way to overcome this barrier is to create a scholarship program for families who are unable to afford programming on their own. Making programming accessible for all income levels can reduce the disparity between socioeconomic groups and can help to level the playing field later in life.

Finally, ensuring facilities are accepting of all gender identities is crucial in determining whether or not those of marginalized gender identities will participate. Bolstering acceptance among your staff and making sure they're trained to handle situations of harassment based on gender identity or sexual orientation is also paramount to fostering feelings of inclusion and continued participation.

To get in-depth training on how to ensure that your programming and facilities are set up to be inclusive, attend AB Show 2018 (Nov. 8-10 in New Orleans). You'll hear case studies, troubleshoot challenges with peers and learn from industry experts. Register at abshow.com/mag.


This article originally appeared in the September 2018 issue of Athletic Business with the title "AB Show: Creating a Stronger Community Through Inclusivity." Athletic Business is a free magazine for professionals in the athletic, fitness and recreation industry. Click here to subscribe.