By Liz Gnippe, Marketing Specialist with Gurnee Park District
Successfully reaching any fitness goal, whether it be personal or community related, takes time, effort and dedication. Gurnee Park District (GPD) knows that well. For the past few years, the District has been taking steps to be the health and wellness leader for the Gurnee community. Those steps quickly turned into a multi-year journey and goal for the entire District.
It all began in 2012 when GPD sent out a community-wide survey to all residents to evaluate their needs from a parks and recreation agency. The overall consensus showed patrons wanted and needed more fitness options close to home.
Gurnee Park District took this request seriously, and in 2013, they purchased Gold's Gym located in the heart of Gurnee. They revamped and rebranded the facility to create FitNation, a 75,000 square foot fitness center. The purpose behind purchasing this building was to create a dedicated space where residents could workout, have safe and affordable childcare as well as reach their personal health and wellness goals.
The District set the bar high and went out to impact the lives of at least 6,000 people. They outlined a timeline to achieve this goal by 2015. Reaching this enrollment number did not come without a lot of hard work. The GPD team put in all their energy and efforts into this project. They prepared the building for the grand opening, consulted with experts and utilized the below steps to reach their objectives.
After opening the facility and surpassing their membership goal by over 400 members in only 18 months, GPD knew it was time to "Step It Up" once again. They made it a priority to provide not only revenue generating fitness opportunities to the Gurnee community but affordable experiences as well. In the spring of 2016, GPD created GO GURNEE, a free and accessible walking movement encouraging Gurnee residents to move for at least 30 minutes each day. This program was inspired by the U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek H. Murthy. He encouraged everyone in the nation to take the necessary steps to support and improve the health of our entire country. GPD was confident they could play an impactful role within their community by following the Surgeon General's example and expanding upon it.
Before they could get started, they needed a plan. Embarking on a new fitness journey is not always easy, as they learned with FitNation. It takes the right mind-set and strategy to conquer the many obstacles or challenges that may arise along the way. GPD followed these tips and tricks to be sure they could adequately support their community:
TIP 1. SET A GOAL
Goals are the key to success. It is important to establish "why" it is necessary to accomplish this objective. The easiest place to start is with a SMART goal plan. SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.
Clearly state the goal. Make it simple and sensible. Decide what needs to be accomplished and how the plan is going to be put into action.
Gurnee Park District wanted to be the community-wide leader in health and wellness to positively impact as many residents as possible. Thus, they created GO GURNEE, an accessible and affordable opportunity for all residents.
Assign a number to your goal. Make it meaningful and motivating.
GPD asked residents to walk for at least 30 minutes every day in support of the GO GURNEE movement.
Set short term goals, build a positive environment to ensure goals are met and celebrate success along the way.
GO GURNEE planned free and fun walking, running and strolling events throughout the year as well as free bootcamp and yoga in the park for those looking to mix up their workouts. These activities helped build an environment that created excitement around health and wellness as well as were an enjoyable way to celebrate and measure success.
The objective must identify how willing and ready the individual/community/agency is to reach the goals outlined. If a realistic timeframe is not set, chances are much progress will not be made.
Gurnee Park District was more than willing and ready to take steps to build the GO GURNEE movement. A committee of key staff members were put together to start leading the way for the entire District.
Every goal should have a timeframe surrounding it to ensure you are on target. This creates a sense of urgency and motivation to all parties involved.
The GPD team was provided with three months to build GO GURNEE. It was important that there was enough time to build a solid plan, but not too much in order to create a sense of urgency and motivation for the team.
TIP 2. MAKE A PLAN AND FOLLOW THROUGH WITH IT
GO GURNEE and FitNation would not be here today to support the residents of Gurnee if GPD did not set a plan and follow through with it. The inspiration from the U.S. Surgeon General spearheaded the GO GURNEE movement. However, Susie Kuruvilla, Executive Director with GPD, lead the way for staff to create an impactful and important movement. "Inspiration is important, but teamwork, motivation and dedication are the building blocks to success," stated Kuruvilla. "As a District, we needed to create a plan and follow through with it for the community. Our residents were and still are relying on us to pave the way for them," she added.
TIP 3. FORM HEALTHY HABITS
It all started with the Gurnee Park District team. Under the direction of the District's Wellness Committee employees, the District was encouraged to step it up and set the example for the entire village. In 2016, Gurnee Park District Board of Commissioners approved all GPD team members receive a free fitness membership to FitNation. "By providing our staff with affordable and accessible fitness options, they can be the leaders and set the example for all. It is important to the board as well as myself that we all support our community through every outlet available," Kuruvilla explained. "We want to encourage our team to live healthy lifestyles – just as much as our residents."
TIP 4. FIND YOUR MOTIVATION
Dig deep and find motivation. Gurnee Park District found that the community drove them to reach their fitness goals. The residents were relying on them to set the example and lead the community to better health. "It will be a long but meaningful journey. We are confident our team will be able to impact a myriad of people in Gurnee and hopefully one day the entire Lake County," stated Kuruvilla.
TIP 5. BE ACCOUNTABLE
It is important to establish accountability. At Gurnee Park District, both the staff and community held them accountable to their goals. GO GURNEE showcased their employee champions on their Facebook page to show that the staff are leaders in the community's health and wellness. "It was great to see all the faces of GO GURNEE. It was another way our community members could connect with our team and see that we are truly laying the first stones for them. As a team, we are holding each other just as accountable as we are our residents," stated Kuruvilla.
TIP 6. GET SUPPORT
Teamwork makes the dream work - that is true regardless the goal. "We are only as strong as our team. This was so evident when we brought FitNation to the Gurnee area and built GO GURNEE from the ground up. Our dedicated team always came together to support one another," Kuruvilla explained. It is important to note that GPD also relied on other community agencies for support in creating excitement around the GO GURNEE movement. One supporter was Warren-Newport Public Library. They partnered with Gurnee Park District to present the community with Stories and Strollers, a free GO GURNEE event geared towards families with small children to encourage exercising both the mind and body.
TIP 7. HAVE FUN!
"In parks and recreation, we are all about having fun. If we are not the leaders in fun, who can be?" Kuruvilla asked. If an activity, goal or opportunity is selected that is enjoyable for all parties involved then they are more likely to accomplish the goal.
Please note, it won't always be easy, but it will be worth it. Follow these seven tips, dream big and achieve it! "Gurnee Park District prides itself on setting the bar high, taking the necessary steps to support our entire community and accomplishing great goals. We could not support the residents of Gurnee like we do without our amazing team. I am so grateful for the support, motivation and accountability our team provides me professionally and personally every day. Together we can be a FitNation," explained Kuruvilla.
It is never too late to make a positive change. Why not start today?