During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of Americans turned to green exercise to meet their fitness needs and goals.
Now, as some exercise facilities reopen, people across the U.S. continue to be drawn to the numerous benefits that green exercise has to offer.
The Moving Together Outside campaign helps certified exercise professionals like you take their structured exercise classes and programs to shared outdoor spaces in their community. Doing this can maximize your impact as a fitness professional and also help grow your client base long-term.
Follow these six steps to secure a shared outdoor space for your exercise classes and become more involved in the community at large.
Step 1: Scout out all potential options
Public parks are by far the most popular public locations to hold exercise classes or sessions. But there are plenty of other accessible, community-centric options too. Be sure to also consider:
- Local schools—fields or courts
- Shopping malls
- Places of worship
- Community center locations
Step 2: Thoroughly research those locations
Once you have a list of ideal locations in your community, find out everything you can about each of them. Some of the locations may already have shared-use agreements (SUAs) or permitting processes in place. Others do not. Consider the following when doing your research:
- What is the mission/purpose of the location?
- Are there other types of classes or services held there? (Note: If so, there is a good chance that an SUA already exists)
- Do you have any contacts at that location you could connect with?
- Are there existing policies or permitting requirements listed that need to be followed?
- What are the general surroundings? (i.e.Is the area safe? Is it near public transportation or within walking distance for many community members?)
Step 3: Understand what the shared space and the community need
Once you’ve done your research, think about what it is that community members and your local municipality may require to hold classes in those shared spaces.
For example, if your potential location is in a popular area, there could be a need to monitor overcrowding and noise levels. Keep in mind that less popular locations might actually be more accessible and welcoming to the community members you’re trying to serve.
Step 4: Reach out and introduce yourself
Reach out to the potential locations’ contacts (usually listed on the website) as soon as you can. Make a friendly introduction, let the person know what you are interested in doing, and ask as many questions as you need to feel informed and confident to get started.
Step 5: Follow the SUA guidelines to the letter
If your location of choice has an SUA or permitting process already in place, you can demonstrate you’re an industry professional by following all set parameters, including:
- An application process
- A fee-for-permit (Note: these are generally funds allocated for things like usage wear and tear)
- Proof of your professional liability insurance
Step 6: Be prepared to advocate
Some municipalities may not have SUA or permitting policies in place that allow for structured outdoor exercise programs in shared spaces.
If that’s the case, you can always meet with park or city officials to explain your goals and how they will benefit the community. Here are a few ways to do this:
- Plan to attend a city council or public parks committee meeting (many of these meetings are still virtual). These meetings are often open to the public, but you’ll need to get on the agenda to speak about your topic. Be sure to contact the group ahead of time to do that.
- When you meet with public representatives, you’ll want to be as informed as possible about the potential shared-space locations you have in mind. Consider doing the following prior to your meeting:
- Create a professional or Google Slides presentation to outline your goals, objectives, and why these will benefit both the community and the municipality. This shows professionalism and commitment.
- Get letters of recommendation from allies. The support of community members, other certified exercise professionals, local non-profits, and fitness industry authorities can go a long way to help your cause.
- Always go back to how the work you want to do will benefit the public. Try think of what obstacles to SUAs administrators might see, and have potential solutions in mind.
- Be flexible and friendly. Come to the meeting prepared to negotiate and see both sides of the situation.