Outdoor Fitness Classes Face Regulation in Santa Monica

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Trainers and club operators hoping to take advantage of nice weather might soon need to think twice before offering an outdoor class in Santa Monica, CA, where the city council is considering new rules for fitness classes in parks.

Spring is here, and with warmer temperatures, outdoor fitness classes are becoming more common.

But trainers and club operators hoping to take advantage of nice weather might soon need to think twice before offering an outdoor class in weather-friendly Santa Monica, CA, where the city council is considering new rules for fitness classes in parks.

After regulations were proposed banning classes in several parks, including Palisades Park, one of the city's most popular spots for outdoor classes, small business owners formed the Santa Monica Outdoor Fitness Coalition (SMOFC) to work with the city council and develop a solution that would work for trainers, clients and the city.

The SMOFC agreed that regulation was needed to ensure trainers using the park were certified and insured but were concerned that parts of the original regulations, such as limiting class sizes and requiring trainers to pay 15 percent of their revenue to hold classes in parks, could hurt small businesses and increase the cost of classes for clients, says Angela Parker, owner of Body Inspired Fitness, Santa Monica, CA, and a member of the SMOFC.

Last week, the city council decided to re-evaluate the proposed regulations after speaking to the coalition and hearing stories from people who have benefited from outdoor classes.

"These groups are way more than fitness programs," Parker tells Club Industry. "Being able to exercise outdoors has completely changed how so many people look at exercise and how they look at themselves and their community."

The revised regulations will likely require fitness trainers to get a specific business license, ban the attachment of equipment to park property and establish guidelines for how heavy weights used in parks can be, Parker says.  

Santa Monica is not the first city to crack down on outdoor classes. City officials in Washington, DC, and Austin, TX, proposed similar regulations last year, and many cities already require trainers to obtain permits to teach classes on public property. Other cities have banned trainers from conducting classes in public parks.

Parker says that as more trainers and businesses take to the great outdoors, cities have an opportunity to regulate outdoor fitness in a way that can be profitable to both trainers and communities, and fitness professionals have a chance to change how they are viewed by people outside of the industry. 

"We unfortunately have to work very hard to get away from the meathead, gym rat stereotype that's been there for so, so long," Parker says. "There's a bad stigma out there with fitness trainers. Anyone who is dealing with this across the country has a unique opportunity to show that we are educated, we are certified, and we run great businesses."

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