Fitness is not just for athletes. In a time when more and more of us spend our working days sitting down, we need to actively pursue fitness just to have enough energy to get through the day.
For the fitness industry, the focus has shifted from providing traditional weightlifting equipment to dedicated athletes to finding new ways of keeping non-athletes engaged in fitness activities.
The Southwest Minnesota State University weight room is an example of a well-equipped gym in the traditional style, full of free weights and weight machines.
Photo by Steve Browne
Kylie Rochel wiles away the time on the treadmill recently with some TV at Anytime Fitness.
Freshman football player Nathan Meyers estimates about 75 percent of the student users are college athletes.
"There's not a whole lot new," Meyers said, "just the regular stuff that's been in here."
The problem for most people is, if you're not a professional or amateur athlete, exercise can be boring or soon becomes so. In order to encourage people to keep exercising, fitness studios must continually come up with new ways to keep people interested and engaged in fitness programs.
Next week, the Marshall Area YMCA is getting 37 new aerobics machines with some new features.
"We made the decision around October that we needed to upgrade," said Curtis Boelter, marketing business director at the 'Y.' "The machines we have are about four years old, and in our industry that's about the lifespan of the machines that are on 17 hours a day."
The new treadmills, ellipticals and cycling machines will have their own TV screens with cable hookup and headphone jacks.
"You're trying to appeal to the people and encourage them to work out," said LaVae Anderson, YMCA health and wellness director. "Everything in the industry changes every six months to a year. Somebody will come up with something and it's, 'Why isn't my machine better than your machine?'"
As a fitness trainer, Anderson said it's a trade-off. Ideally, people should be concentrating on their body when working out, but realistically we're not all athletes and just need to get moving to feel better, have more energy and be able to better cope with depression and stress.
"It makes it easier, makes the time go faster," Anderson said. "People have different needs and wants. We're trying to reach more of the population. We're doing it in December, which is perfect timing because New Year's resolutions are coming."
The YMCA is a family-oriented activity center that serves a large segment of the community with a wide variety of interests.
In contrast, Anytime Fitness serves a clientele more narrowly focused on working out. Anytime has had machines with TV screens for a while now.
"There's no fighting over TV channels and creaking your neck," said Zach Kasper, manager at Anytime Fitness. "It kind of takes the boredom out of exercise."
Anytime Fitness has also introduced some new exercise equipment such as battling ropes, portable dip bars, TRX suspension trainers and a rip trainer.
The suspension trainer is basically a set of straps with loops for your hands or feet you can suspend from the ceiling or hook to a door.
"You can take them anywhere," said fitness trainer Shanda Kirkeide. "You can do a full body workout and your core is engaged in the movement because you have to keep your spine aligned."
The rip trainer is a rod with an elastic cable attached to one end hooked up to a wall.
"It's similar to the suspension trainer," Kirkeide said. "You can do a full-body workout with it. It gives a workout because it's only pulling on one side."
Fitness trainers agree, if your exercise needs are not sports specific, it's a good idea to try new exercises, equipment and routines to avoid boredom and keep all parts of your body engaged in exercise.