Grooming Kids for a Life of Fitness

by Sean White on Feb 01, 2003

Personal Trainer Profile

Subject: Mark Rullo, IDEA member since June 1999

Location: Monroeville, Pennsylvania

Company: Oxford Athletic Club (OAC)

Education and Experience: MS, exercise physiology; CSCS; 10 years in club management; director of personal training, fitness and wellness, OAC

Bridging the Gap: Have you ever encountered parents who use their kids as an excuse to stray from their fitness regimen? Mark has rendered that excuse unacceptable in his facility. Although some family-oriented fitness centers provide childcare services for kids as old as 10, most don’t allow children to use gym equipment until they’re at least 14, forcing preteens and their active parents to work around this dilemma or avoid it altogether. To solve this problem, Mark developed the Youth Exercise Safely (YES) program for family members of OAC.

Just Say YES: In eight 90-minute lessons, YES teaches children ages seven to 13 the basic principles of a balanced exercise program. Lessons include classroom lecture and practical applications in areas such as nutrition, body mechanics, hygiene and fitness center etiquette. After completing YES, children receive a 12-week personalized exercise program that requires three additional 1-hour sessions with a personal trainer near the 30-, 60- and 90-day marks.

All students must pass a written and practical final exam administered by OAC staff to receive a badge of completion, which they proudly wear while exercising in the gym. Occasionally, children may have to repeat lessons to ensure that they are physically and emotionally ready to exercise on their own. YES teaches youths to value their health while grooming them to be respectful fa- cility members.

“What’s more valuable than teaching skills that will allow your kids to take care of their health for the rest of their lives?” Rullo asks. Parents certainly see the value in YES: In its first year, the program passed more than 100 students.

Rullo is also considering a partnership with school districts. “[Whereas] P.E. class teaches team sports, YES teaches kids how to take care of themselves,” he notes.

The Payoff: Mark’s confidence that children can be taught to exercise has been rewarded. The classroom fee of $125 (less than the price of a Sony PlayStation) yields a 47 percent profit; trainers generate additional revenue from the three follow-up sessions. Furthermore, both member retention and new membership sales have increased, and OAC has received lots of publicity for addressing youth fitness. Rullo is even copyrighting his lesson plans and hopes to sell the YES model to fitness centers around the world.

Reported by Cynthia Roth

IDEA Personal Trainer, Volume 2004, Issue 2

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About the Author

Sean White IDEA Author/Presenter