Outdoor programming is on the rise at university recreation centers, but according to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA), helping members get active off-site also is a growing trend at for-profit fitness facilities.

In a recent report, IHRSA highlighted cross-promotion of non-club activities as one of the industry’s key trends for 2011. This can include everything from running clubs to conditioning clinics designed to help members get in shape for golfing, skiing or other off-site fitness activities. Some clubs also are offering their members ways to take advantage of the fitness opportunities afforded by the great outdoors.

Clubhaus, in Fayetteville, AR, has offered various types of outdoor programming since it opened about 18 months ago. In fact, Lisa Ostrom, the club’s fitness director, says proximity to a bike trail that wends throughout the city was one of the reasons Clubhaus chose its location.

Members and nonmembers can borrow bikes from the club to set out on rides that can go from urban areas through secluded wooded stretches and even out to a local lake. The club charges just $5 a month for the bike privileges, which covers their maintenance fees.

The club also offers a number of regularly scheduled outdoor group events, such as its Friday Night Fun Run. Members meet at the club, then set off on a 1-, 3- or 6-mile run and are treated to complimentary beer at the club on their return.

Clubhaus also has offered outdoor yoga classes in a local park and will soon kick off an outdoor boot camp training program.

Everything is open to nonmembers, but there is a fee for some of the group training activities.

Ostrom says that offering off-site activities helps the small club serve more members. Events such as the Friday night runs help capture nonmembers’ attention.

The outdoor program helps keep members involved during the summer when they might otherwise stay away from the club, she says.

“When it’s warm out, no one wants to be on a treadmill, but everyone likes getting outdoors,” she says.

Getting members outdoors is the main objective for Colorado Athletic Club’s (CAC) John Gillingham, too. Gillingham has coordinated the Club Outdoors program at the CAC’s DTC location, in Greenwood Village, CO, for 14 years.

Gillingham works with a small committee on a bi-monthly basis to plan the program’s schedule, which regularly includes activities such as trail running, mountain biking, hiking and snowshoeing. The club recently launched an outdoor boot camp-style training program, which takes place in a local park and is designed to condition members for outdoor pursuits.

The events are open for CAC members only, and there is no additional charge, although participants are responsible for providing their own equipment. Gillingham stresses safety and ensures members are aware of what skills they need for trips but also has each participant sign a waiver.

An average of 20 to 30 members attend each Club Outdoors event, but Gillingham says he once had a group of 54 members show up for what may have been the program’s most popular regular event–a 90-minute stair-running workout at nearby Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre.

In addition to promoting the events in the club calendar and newsletter, Gillingham also sends out a weekly bulletin via e-mail to 130 members, about 65 of whom he considers to be core participants.

Gillingham says he thinks the outdoor program helps promote a social connection between other members that they may not always get just from working out in the club. And that, in turn, leads to increased retention rates.

“Some of [the Club Outdoors participants] have been with me for 14 years,” Gillingham says.

Outdoor pursuits are great club offerings because they can be tailored to different levels of fitness and can turn into lifelong activities for participants, Gillingham says. And although he admits that CAC’s location is particularly good for outdoor pursuits, any club can offer some sort of outdoor activities, such as circuit training in a local park.

“Just get outside and have fun,” he says.