Strength in Numbers
"I enjoy conditioning as a team," says Fecteau. "This way you know where you're at on the team and you have people cheering for you and motivating you to do your best."
Team motivation starts once Fecteau returns to campus before the fall semester. Her and her teammates' physical training centers on building endurance. They start "fall ball" focusing on conditioning and drills. Preseason begins in January where conditioning and physical training is still a large focus in the beginning. As soon as spring arrives, the team works on plays for the upcoming season. Through the school year, the team dynamic keeps Fecteau on track with her physical training.
Fecteau is not alone. Nation wide, an increasing number of people are turning to group training sessions to get fit. The "New York Times" cites a survey taken by the IDEA Health and Fitness Association tracking the increasing popularity of group personal training. The survey shows in 1999 50 percent of personal trainers had two or more clients per session. By 2005, 71 percent trainers had that number.
Tom Blaney, manager of Salve Regina University's Sulliven Fitness Center, noted this trend in the conditioning programs sports teams at Salve Regina University follow. He explains that Salve Regina's fitness center writes specific training plans for many of the sports teams including football, men's and women's lacrosse, and the basketball teams. Blaney said in Division 3 coaches cannot require team members to exercise outside of practice, but to keep up with the team fitness is important.
Where there is interest, the fitness department will write a specific program for the team; a service provided free of charge. In a team setting, Blaney prefers to work with groups of ten or more. He says these programs are tailored to the needs of the players. For example, if the line backers need to work on upper body strength, he can tailor the program to isolate specific areas to work on. Usually, a sports team's program focuses on strength training using weights and lots of repetition in cardio exercises.
Outside of a team setting, Blaney says there is a distinct lack of interest in group personal training specifically. However, group exercise programs, such as spin classes, aerobics, and yoga, are very popular. Blaney says students usually bring ideas for classes to the fitness center. Theses classes are then offered based on interest. Fitness classes like these can be offered on a larger scale because they are not tailored to the individuals. Blaney says these are likely to be more popular because of their size. The more people in the group, the more comfortable many participants feel. They can also be offered at an even cheaper rate than group personal training. Of the fitness programs offered, group personal training was not taken advantage of by students or faculty.
"We have … at least published group personal training, up to three people in a group," says Blaney. "No ever took advantage of it, so we stopped offering it."
Unlike at Salve Regina University, the national trends show an increasing people taking advantage of group personal. Many are attracted to group training because it is less expensive. Salve Regina's website prices a single personal training session at $35. Blaney says in a group of three, a session would cost only $12.
Dawn Gardner, a personal trainer at the Newport County YMCA, says a big contributing factor to the new trend is the discount price-tag. "Personal training can be very costly, but when you do it with a group the price drops significantly," she says. "So now you can afford to do it and you might even be able to afford to do it twice a week."
Gardner's training groups have ranged from couple to parent-child teams. Most often, her clientele is groups of girlfriends who get together to get fit. Like at Salve Regina, fitness programs are tailored to the needs of the participants. For example, one group was a mother and her 13 year old son. The mother was looking to shed a few pounds while her son wanted to buff up for sports.
Gardner notes the positive accountability the group creates for the members, similar to a sports team. A marketing brochure for personal training at the YMCA notes 80 percent of people who try to start exercising on their own quit after approximately 30 days. In a one-on-one trainer setting, clients are more likely to cancel when they are busy or tired. With a close group of friends, the dynamic changes; the others can motivate one who is discouraged. Consequently, one uninterested member is far less likely to cancel when they have two friends cheering them on.
Possibly the best advantage of group fitness, according to Gardner, is the motivation of training together. Even with her background in exercise science, she finds that she does not push herself as hard when she is working out alone. She feels the group energy makes working out much more successful and fun. "I love it, and I prefer it that way," says Gardner.