Vi Calvo by Vi Calvo

We’ve all been there. You’ve completed your studies. You’ve passed the tests. You’re ready to begin living your passion to improve lives through physical activity. The only problem? You don’t have any hands-on experience.

ACE is working to change that. We are collaborating with other nonprofits to provide up-and-coming fitness leaders with real world experience in working with community members to change lives. 3 WINS Fitness, headquartered in the San Fernando Valley in Southern California, is one such example.

3 WINS Fitness

3 WINS Fitness is a free community fitness program led by kinesiology students and held in low resource communities at public parks. The program began in 2011 with a handful of California State University Northridge kinesiology students and a professor seeking to demonstrate the link between kinesiology and public health. What began as a single effort at one park grew into a larger movement that celebrates 3 WINS:

  1. Students gain job-related experience in community leadership roles;
  2. Participants get access to free, community fitness classes not otherwise available; and
  3. Community health improves as residents become more active.

Today, with ACE’s support, 3 WINS Fitness has engaged nearly 100 kinesiology students and expanded to 10 new sites in low resource communities. 3 WINS Fitness has sister programs in several California counties including San Francisco, Stanislaus and Los Angeles that provide hundreds of residents with weekly fitness classes. Together, ACE and its partners are getting people moving, three wins at a time.

WIN #1: Students gain experience

Celeste Alcala, a third-year CSU Northridge student who recently earned her ACE Group Fitness Instructor Certification, has been volunteering with 3 WINS Fitness for nearly three years now. Though she was a little intimidated at first, she soon became more comfortable leading groups.

“I have definitely grown a lot as a person. It’s a good learning experience.”

Celeste is also excited to apply what she’s learned in school to her fitness classes. “It is a lot different when you read something and when you see it in person.”

To ensure the 3 WINS Fitness program remains sustainable, all students receive class credit for their volunteer hours instructing group exercise classes in lieu of monetary compensation. In turn, students gain much-needed experience in class facilitation, leadership and business skills.

WIN #2: Participants get access to free community fitness classes

3 WINS Fitness serves low resource communities where individuals can’t afford gym memberships, are not comfortable in a traditional gym setting or have limited access to low cost exercise options.

Most 3 WINS Fitness participants are Latino and have never exercised regularly before joining the group. Participants span multiple age groups and life stages, from young parents with toddlers in tow to new retirees who are curious about what is going on in their park. Several participants also have diabetes, high blood pressure and other chronic diseases.

Though initial community engagement can be low due to concerns about park safety, accessing hard-to-reach neighborhoods and individuals, and other barriers, once residents get moving they are inspired to continue being active. As one participant states, “I’m not an exercise person, but [3 WINS Fitness] has really encouraged me to keep in there and build up my strength.”

Other participant wins include weight loss, replicating exercises at home to stay active and the ability to stand up without assistance (a senior participant). Wins like these mean being better able to keep up with family. Feeling healthier. Living independently for longer. They can be life-changing.

WIN #3: Community health

As individual participants’ health improves, so too does the health of the community. Public parks in low resource communities are typically underutilized or only provide classes geared toward youth. With 3 WINS Fitness, park use is increasing as 3 WINS participants complete their boot camp sets and as other community members begin to view the park as being safe to use. In addition, through health provider partners, 3 WINS Fitness offers community members biometric screening and education to prevent or manage chronic conditions such as diabetes.

3 WINS Fitness has transformed under-utilized parks into hubs of health in communities of need. 

“3 WINS brings people back to the parks,” says Esteban Campa, program director for 3 WINS Fitness and CSU Northridge alum, who has seen the transformation firsthand. As an individual who grew up in San Fernando, he’s excited to see the parks of his youth now bustling with physical activity classes.

Let us know how your work embodies the 3 WINS spirit or learn more about the 3 WINS Fitness program by emailing us at