Fitness on request: Virtual workouts at Rec Center proving popular
In the multipurpose room of the Mitchell Recreation Center, a group of women gets instruction from America’s most famous fitness trainer, Jillian Michaels. Mats and dumbbells are arranged around the exercisers, who all face a large screen on the wall, where an instructional group workout is being projected. Gray privacy panels line the sides of the workout area, separating the trainees from the rest of the room filled with weight machines, treadmills and other exercise equipment. As soon as Michaels’ workout is over, a new group moves in and selects a different workout with a different trainer, whose high-energy program soon fills the screen.
It’s called Fitness on Request, and it’s one of the newest programs available at the Rec Center, said Thomas Gulledge — and it’s already a hit.
Gulledge, fitness coordinator for the Rec Center, demonstrated how the program works: Requiring a staff member’s thumbprint scan for activation, a gleaming touch-screen kiosk, similar to an ATM or Redbox movie-rental screen, provides users with dozens of workout options.
There’s Zumba, a popular type of dance aerobic exercise, spin classes, yoga, pilates and Fusion — a combination of pilates and yoga — to name a few. From there, users can select further what type — upper or lower body, etc. — the length of time, and the intensity of the workout.
“Pretty much any option you can think of, we’ve got on here,” Gulledge said.
Set up in the multipurpose room, Gulledge said the moveable privacy panels offer some separation between the Fitness on Request users and the rest of the people in the room without permanently making the room smaller. A day later, the panels are pushed back against the walls, leaving the entire center of the room open and available.
In a place where it can be difficult to find enough qualified fitness trainers to meet the needs and requests of Rec Center members, Gulledge and Rec Center Director Rob Marchand said Fitness On Request helps bridge that gap.
“It’s something we really wanted to do for our adult members,” Marchand said. “This really fits the bill.”
Most exciting for Gulledge is that the program is free for Rec Center members to use. Installed a couple of weeks ago, he said there are already about 20 people who use it on a regular basis. He and other Rec Center staff said the feedback has been hugely positive; the only regret is that Mitchell didn’t get the service sooner.
“We love it,” said Tammy Fuerst, who said she and Dawn Swenson have been using the kiosk since it was installed. The Mitchell women work out every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon together, and noted the convenience of being able to pick their own time, rather than waiting on a trainer.
“It gives us variety, but instruction,” Fuerst said.
Several people said the program provides more motivation than at-home workouts, citing the environment — there’s more space, and easy access to equipment like weights and mats — and the accountability of fellow exercisers.
“I’m not motivated at home,” said Brooklyn Dertien, a Mitchell Technical Institute student, explaining it’s easier to let up or stop entirely early during a private DVD workout at home.
She and fellow MTI student Joslin Nelson said they use the program every day, often selecting different options. It provides a more comprehensive workout than a single machine, Dertien said, because “you’ve got a variety of everything,” since many of the workouts combine free weights, cardio and stretching exercises.
“It’s just really fun compared to running on a treadmill,” Nelson added.
That’s precisely the point behind the program, and it goes hand in hand with the Rec Center’s desire to help individuals achieve their fitness goals, Gulledge said. He offered Fusion as an example, a combination of yoga and pilates, saying the Rec Center has not previously been able to offer yoga or pilates at that level.
“We’re trying to meld technology with exercise,” he said. “We want to exercise smarter, not just hard. This is kind of a cog in the wheel in that.”
As Fuerst and Swenson’s group near the end of their workout, others are already lining up, waiting to see what sort of sweat they’d like to break into.
“If you want to bike through Seattle, you just wheel it up there,” Jamie Henkel, recreation coordinator, explains to an interested member.
Gulledge said one of the most popular options is the spin classes, an indoor cycling workout. He highlighted the Virtual Active workouts, a first-person, forward-motion video that takes people through locales like Seattle, the California coast or even lush New Zealand during a workout.
“It’s not just putting a DVD in and doing it over and over again,” Gulledge said. “It’s getting your mind off the fact that you’re on a bike or you’re doing something.”
And, the vast array of programs will automatically update over time, preventing members from getting bored.
“You’re constantly getting new options. “You couldn’t do all of them before they update,” Gulledge said. “We want people to take advantage of it and push themselves to the next level. This really fills the gaps for us.”