Whenever I travel, I try to find somewhere to get my fitness fix, be it a quick pre-session morning run or a regular fitness class. But it can be hard to schedule fitness in, especially when conference days start at dawn and end, well, let's just say a lot of us stay out way later than we should! And while my favorite fitness obsession—Zumba®, a Latin dance-inspired sweatfest that's more fun than people should have—is easy enough to find in most major cities around the world, it can be a little intimidating to take a cab to a strange YMCA, gym, or dance studio in a strange town to shake it with strangers.
So I've been really happy to see more conference organizers working a fitness opportunity or two into the schedule lately, usually in the form of a pre-dawn fun run/walk or yoga class. But I was downright ecstatic when the Professional Convention Management Association added an early morning Zumba® class right in the hotel at its 2012 Convening Leaders conference in San Diego so I could stumble down for a little 6 a.m. samba (since I am most definitely not a morning person, it helped being on an East Coast time zone lag.).
As part of a story we're working on for the April issue of our new magazine app (what, you haven't downloaded it yet? Oh dear, just click here and let's rectify that now), I've been looking into including Zumba® and other relatively non-traditional forms of fitness breaks organizers can use to energize attendees. It appears I didn't have to look much farther than my own backyard.
I'm lucky to have two of the, in my humble opinion, best-ever fitness instructors running exercise classes just a seven-minute drive from my home office at a place called Rise and Shine Fitness. I have never been a gym person—yep, I was that person who used gym class back in high school to jog as far as my car, which I'd hop into and drive to McDonalds for breakfast, at least until I got busted by the teachers and had to take gym twice a day, five days a week, in the last quarter of my senior year. But I digress.
When I heard about Zumba®, I figured, I love to dance, what the heck. I had to give it a chance. Turns out it was my gateway fitness drug, and I've now escalated to kickboxing, strength classes, step, and all manner of other sweaty stuff. Which makes me get all kinds of antsy now when I don't get my fix at conferences, to circle back to the beginning of this post.
Anyway, Rise and Shine's owners/instructors, Anne Zimmer and Erica Donohoe, also cater to the conference and corporate crowds, which I didn't know until pretty recently. So I asked them a little about what's involved. Here's what they had to say.
What benefits are there for corporate groups to include a fitness session like Zumba® or yoga or other physical activities into a conference or other event?
Anne and Erica: Not only are fitness breaks during corporate events great exercises, but they also help to stimulate blood flow and re-energize meeting attendees. Zumba® can be lots of fun for most any group as steps can be kept very simple to encourage mass participation. The music alone will grab everyone’s attention!
Incorporating yoga and breathing exercises as part of the itinerary helps attendees to better manage daily stresses at work, thus improving concentration and productivity.
What considerations should an event organizer think about before including a fitness session?
Anne and Erica: The event coordinator would want to consider the attendee demographics, the size of the group, the space available, and the corporate meeting goal or theme. Remember that a corporate event fitness class can be tailored to suit the needs of the group.
Are there any liability concerns that need to be addressed?
Anne and Erica: The providers of the meeting's fitness break should be certified fitness professionals who hold liability insurance. Participants would need to complete medical information sheets and waivers prior to joining the activity.
Are there ways to include those who have physical disabilities in group fitness activities?
Anne and Erica: Activities can always be modified to accommodate attendees with physical disabilities. For example, the fitness professional(s) can demonstrate “chair” versions of the activities.
How can you accommodate for the different levels of fitness that are likely present in any corporate group?
Anne and Erica: The purpose of the fitness break will be more to get the group moving and re-energized. Recognizing that participants likely will be in a wide variety of fitness states, the instructor can show participants how they can modify the fitness activity to increase or decrease the intensity.
Are there specific types of activities that are better for certain types of groups than others?
Anne and Erica: It really depends on the group, and the goals of your event/meeting. If you want to energize and move your attendees, then perhaps Zumba® or kickboxing would be appropriate. If you want to de-stress and strengthen your attendees, then perhaps a pilates or yoga class. Again, the instructor should be able to tailor a class to suit your needs.
Are there size limits to how many people ideally should participate?
Anne and Erica: Size limits will depend mainly on your space. If it is a very large group, it is best to have a stage/platform so instructors can be more easily seen by all of the participants.
I'd be remiss if I didn't add just a little plug for these hard-working, always-motivating women entrepreneurs who inspire me to keep pushing myself to meet my fitness goals. Anne Zimmer and Erica Donohoe are AFAA-certified fitness instructors who are also licensed in Zumba®, Zumba® Kids and Zumba® Gold. Anne is a certified personal trainer and Erica is a Yoga-Alliance registered yoga instructor. Rise and Shine Fitness can offer a variety of fitness classes for groups, though the best offerings for corporate groups include those with little or no equipment such as Zumba®, yoga, pilates, or kickboxing. They of course would be glad to tailor any class to fit your needs. So if you're holding a conference in Massachusetts and want to try adding a fitness class into the mix, e-mail Anne and Erica at email@example.com, or call them at (978) 433-0176 or (978) 758-9493.
If perchance your meeting is taking place outside of the Rise and Shine range, you can go to zumba.com's Find a Zumba Instructor section to find someone in the area who could lead a Zumba® activity at your event. I'd suggest surveying your audience first to see what the interest level may be, and particularly if you have a lot of attendees coming from different time zones, find times that will work to their favor—early morning isn't always the best time for everyone. Actually, I'd love to see a mid-afternoon fitness break to help us beat the post-lunch doldrums, but due to the sweatiness factor, that would likely limit the options to yoga and other, more gentle forms of exercise.
Is this something you incorporate into your events (or would like to)? If so, I'd love to hear how it works (or doesn't) for your attendees. Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below. Thanks!