Outdoor activities go indoors to nurture participants and offer fitness

Indoor fitness activities aren't just a way to get in shape to go outdoors. They can also be a way to promote participation in an outdoor activity or to cross-train for the activity when a person can't get to it.
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Indoor fitness activities aren't just a way to get in shape to go outdoors. They can also be a way to promote participation in an outdoor activity or to cross-train for the activity when a person can't get to it.

It's no secret that indoor cycling has increased sales of cycling footwear, apparel and accessories to indoor enthusiasts. And it's no secret that some indoor enthusiasts decide they can supplement their indoor program by heading outdoors too. And that has also promoted product sales and helped boost participation numbers. The programs became a win-win for health clubs, outdoor cycling groups and events, as well as manufacturers.

Now, kayaking, tennis and even Nordic walking want to get on the indoor bandwagon -- be it to help boost outdoor participation, offer a new way to get fit, or both. With the growth in fitness activities and participation on the upswing, promoters of these see that wave as a way for them to hang 10 and take a long ride to increased numbers and product sales.

Kayak Fitness
Getting tossed around and into cold water while battling it with a paddle may not seem that appealing to the public looking in, and it may look pretty difficult too. But paddling not only isn't that hard to figure out and enjoy, it can also be a great way to get in shape.

That's what Confluence Water Sports, a manufacturer of paddle gear and boats, decided earlier this year. With participation in paddlesports not growing as much as management (all mostly paddle enthusiasts) thought it should or could, they decided to reach out themselves to fitness enthusiasts with a program called Kayak Fitness.

Launched unofficially to the trade in August with an intended public launch this fall or winter, Kayak Fitness was the brainchild of Kelly Woolsey, Confluence's vice president of sales and marketing.

"The primary goal is to make people aware, if you are paddling, you're getting exercise," Woolsey told SNEWS®. "I see us as the next Spinning."

Actually, the mission is multi-fold: To introduce non-paddlers to the concept of paddling in a safe environment such as indoors and couched as a fitness activity, to perhaps interest them enough to have them consider paddling outdoors, and to develop a program that could bring new people to the sport to grow paddling.

The Confluence-funded program includes an indoor conditioning program that can hone strength and flexibility for paddling, as well as in general. It includes stability balls, medicine balls, jump ropes and suggests exercises for conditioning. The exercises can also be used in conjunction with an indoor kayak trainer as a circuit workout. The company will also sell a kit that includes the balls, tubing and educational materials to help someone get started. An instructional DVD was expected to be out this month.

The next step after individual fitness programming is group classes in gyms, Woolsey explained. In addition, the company is working with the national governing body for paddling to start a partnership so junior paddlers use the program for conditioning.

To support all of the above, Confluence has also launched two boats it called "fitness kayaks," designed by Tony Lee. He explained the boats are more stable, have no hatches, and track in a straight line without a lot of work, allowing someone to focus strictly on going fast, paddling hard and getting the heart rate up for a good workout. In addition, it has a slot designed to hold a heart rate monitor directly in front of the paddler, instead of forcing a paddler interested in a workout to use duct tape on the hull, as Lee said he and others have done.

"This boat makes you feel as if you're going somewhere," Lee said about the line, that includes the Rhythm for larger paddlers and the Cadence for smaller builds (MSRP, $1,600).

"My expectations are, it'll be successful," Woolsey said. "Not overnight. Nothing happens overnight."

Cardio Tennis
When your brand is nearly 100 years old with a flat trend in participation for the last three years, what do you do? That was the dilemma facing Jim Baugh, president of the Tennis Industry Association, as he puzzled over how to transform the image of tennis and grow the sport. Going back to his manufacturing roots, he decided the sport needed a "new product."

"I saw that there were some major trends going on very quietly with the growth of fitness activities, like Spinning, yoga and elliptical machines, while traditional sports were declining or flat. The only growth area is in fitness," Baugh told SNEWS®. "I said, 'Wow, this is pretty scary for traditional sports, so what can tennis do?' We can promote the fitness benefits of the sport. Let's develop a new program -- a 'third way' to play the game. A way that gets people active and having fun in a fitness environment."

That third way to play is Cardio Tennis, which was introduced to tennis facilities in the spring and officially rolled out to consumers in September. Similar to interval training, the association is touting the program as a full-body workout with the goal to elevate a person's heart rate into the aerobic zone -- a viable alternative to visiting a fitness center for a cardio workout. It was developed by TIA in association with the U.S. Tennis Association.

After studying more than 25 existing and similarly focused programs, they were re-packaged into the Cardio Tennis concept. Participants bring their own tennis rackets, and sessions typically last 45 minutes to an hour with five to 10 minutes of warm-up drills, 30 to 50 minutes of cardio, and five to 10 minutes of cool-down drills. Instructors are certified tennis professionals and challenge participants based on their ability and fitness level. The concept behind Cardio Tennis is to take the focus off of skill development (forget chasing little green balls around) and focus on moving and getting participants' heart rates up.

Since it is in the pilot stages, the association is starting in public and private tennis facilities initially and has registered 750 to 800 sites, but hopes to expand down the road. Baugh envisions programs being run in gyms, schools and other fitness facilities that have the extra elbow room to set up a net, play some music and get people moving. "Ultimately," he said, "Cardio Tennis can be delivered anyplace."

Baugh estimates that there are 15,000 to 20,000 consumers that are presently in Cardio Tennis programs since it began just last month. With the potential of attracting some of the 56 million weekly fitness participants, Baugh is optimistic. "If we get even 5 percent of 56 million to come over to Cardio Tennis, that's a major boom to our sport."

A consumer website (www.cardiotennis.com) lists locations, and a website for the trade (www.partners.cardiotennis.com) delivers information such has how to get involved.

Indoor Nordic walking
Now only taught in a small selection of clubs in Austria, Italy, Benelux and Germany, indoor Nordic walking (walking with poles, for those who still need an explanation of the activity) has only recently been introduced by pole-maker Gabel.

As explained to SNEWS®, it seemed more like a ski-conditioning or cross-training class using poles, including incorporating activities done commonly in outdoor Nordic walking classes for strength and flexibility. The exercises were both for partners and singles and included using the poles for stability in some exercise such as lunges.

Whether the program will gain broad acceptance is yet to be seen. However, it adds a new twist to an indoor workout for those looking for it. It also could help Gabel, which is re-inventing itself, according to a company spokeswoman, gain one hook upon which to hang its hat that no other pole company has.

SNEWS® View: Whatever the reason for the development of these programs, they can only be a positive addition to the choices available not only to current exercisers to keep up their interest, but also to non-exercisers as additional choices and intrigue that may entice them to a healthier lifestyle. It is also clear once again what SNEWS® has preached all along -- that indoor can't do without outdoor and vice-versa. Working together can only bring the two industries more participants as a whole.  

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