People, Partnerships, And Approaches

By Lise Kruse

With 23 recreation centers throughout the city, it’s no wonder the Cincinnati Recreation Commission (CRC) can offer a bevy of advice on how to improve a fitness program. Here are a few tips on what works as the city provides fitness opportunities at the 16 facilities that house fitness centers and 17 that offer a variety of classes, including, but not limited to, cycling, Pilates, aerobics, line dancing, and Zumba:

People And Partnerships Make It Work
For starters, it’s the personal touch—the grassroots camaraderie between staff members and customers—that makes the difference between a CRC fitness program or facility and a large commercial gym. Whether the fitness area is housed in a center’s common space or in a separate room, conversations and shared information among exercisers is common. Daryl Harris, a personal trainer at the College Hill Recreation Center, is always available and spends most of his time “talking workouts” with participants. “Here, it’s all about the people. We help each other and give each other pointers. If someone has a question about heart rate [for example], I sit down and talk with them.”

One way CRC maximizes fitness opportunities is with community partnerships. For example, the Over the Rhine Recreation Center houses a boxing program for youngsters and adults. The program stresses life skills, such as fair play, sportsmanship, responsible conduct, and for the students a commitment to schoolwork, as much as the sport of boxing and its fitness-related benefits. Each young boxer must maintain at least a C average (2.0 GPA) or be suspended from the program. Each boxer, regardless of age, is required to sign a code of conduct that emphasizes positive behavior and responsibility.

This program gives young people a strong foundation for a healthy body and provides positive activity to keep them out of trouble. LaRosa’s Pizzeria (a regional chain) sponsors the OTR boxing program and provides support in all aspects—including pizza!

The CRC’s annual outdoor adventure—RiverTrek—is another example of a partnership that encourages a journey of self-discovery that brings teens together from diverse backgrounds. Pairing with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and a grant from the Charles H. Dater Foundation, this 5-day, 75-mile trip along the Scenic Little Miami River teaches RiverTrekkers camping, canoeing, kayaking, leadership, and teamwork skills—all while getting a powerful workout each day.

Additionally, the people and neighbors of the Sayler Park community come together with CRC to offer the annual Sayler Park Run—a 5K run/walk that travels through the tree-lined streets of this riverside Cincinnati neighborhood. McDonald’s, Verizon, local bank Warsaw Federal, and local restaurant Cabana on the River combine with the healthy running/fitness aspects of completing the run/walk to make the event a success.

CRC also partners with the United States Tennis Association (USTA) to offer National Junior Tennis & Learning to teach youth tennis players (ages 7-14) the basics of a healthy lifetime sport during an 8-week summer program. The program has 500 participants at nine locations throughout the city.

Another tennis partnership, with the USTA and their Fresh Courts program, has upgraded and resurfaced tennis courts at two centers—offering tennis players a quality place to play, learn, and get healthy.

Different Approaches Make It Work
No matter what type of fitness a person is interested in, CRC has a program or opportunity to match:

  • Weight rooms for those who want to strength-train
  • Zumba classes for those interested in getting fit with choreography
  • Six golf courses and 95 tennis courts on which to learn and play a lifetime sport
  • Group cycling classes for participants who want to stay in shape while staying indoors
  • Aerobics classes for toning or losing weight by maximizing flexibility and cardio exercises.

And that’s just a small sample!

Make It Work In Three Steps
People, partnerships, and different approaches work for CRC. Now it’s your turn! Achieve the same success by keeping a few items in mind:

Equipment includes business start-up costs and regular maintenance fees. In addition, keep in mind the cost to the consumer.

What resources are available? Is there enough space for a fitness area? Is it possible to secure a certified class instructor? Will participants provide their own tools, such as exercise mats and free weights?

Have ADA requirements been met? How will the programming and/or fitness center be promoted and marketed? Will group-exercise classes (Zumba, water aerobics, running/walking groups, etc.) be offered? How will the audience be identified (i.e., is the community predominantly high-income, middle-income, or low-income)? 

After considering all options, customers will realize the care and quality with which the fitness program is backed, and they will begin to trust that you will support them in beginning and/or maintaining their healthy lifestyles.

Lisa Kruse is a Communications Specialist for the Cincinnati Recreation Commission. Reach her at