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Can USA Fit Do for Inline Skating What It Has Done for Running?

Group Founder Says Goal Is to Grow Inline Skating

By Robert "Just the Factoids" Burnson

When the International Inline Skating Association closed its office a few months ago and handed off its responsibilities to USA Fit, it left behind a few unanswered questions.

Aside from the obvious one about why the trade association had suddenly gone belly up, there was the riddle of why it chose USA Fit as its successor?

Finally now, the answer is beginning to seem apparent:

USA Fit, it turns out, has a plan, based on a successful model, for how to grow the sport of inline skating. And that's something that has been painfully lacking in the slumping inline world.

So what is the plan?

USA Fit's plan is to create a marathon training program for inline skaters, similar to its successful training program for runners and walkers.

At first blush, that may not sound like a big deal. After all, Zephyr Adventures already has an online marathon training program for skaters.

But consider the numbers. In the last 15 years, USA Fit has put 100,000 runners and walkers through its training program.

(By comparison, Camp Rollerblade is likely to attract no more than 150 students this year.)

The USA Fit Model

USA Fit is a membership organization with chapters in about 60 U.S. and Canadian cities. (It is just beginning to expand into Europe.)

Each chapter takes the name of the city in which it is based. So, for instance, the chapter in Seattle is called Seattle Fit.

To drum up membership, chapters conduct advertising campaigns before the start of new training sessions.

Fliers are posted. Ads are placed in the local media. And anyone with an interest in running or walking a marathon, especially couch potatoes (USA Fit's slogan is: "Change your life"), are encouraged to sign up.

"About half of our members each year are either never-evers, basically couch potatoes, or they are very casual walkers and joggers," says USA Fits founder Denis Calabrese.

Members pay $95 to join. Then, six months before the target event, they start attending weekly training sessions, usually on Saturday mornings.

Instructors divide the future marathoners into groups, depending on ability and experience, and teach them everything they need to know to successfully complete a marathon.

"Then at the end of it, you have an actual event, and the person completes the marathon and gets the reward and satisfaction of that achievement," Calabrese says.

"In our experience, that person often becomes a permanent member of the athletic community and starts to be someone who comes back and does different or greater challenges, or becomes an assistant coach, or brings their friends back the next year."


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Copyright © 2005 by Robert Burnson