How to stay competitive with the newest equipment, flooring and locker room features.
Look around your facility. All fitness center operators want to keep pace with advances in our industry and, in doing so, operate a diverse facility that appeals to a broad demographic. Establish your facility as a unique place to work out by making available the newest amenities—specifically in the areas of equipment, flooring and the locker room.
Offering the most innovative equipment goes a long way in promoting retention and attracting new members. When it comes to your cardio and strength training equipment, it’s essential to stay on the cutting edge. It’s time to go beyond the big three—treadmills, bikes and ellipticals—and consider unique options to impress exercisers.
Before purchasing new equipment, analyze the needs and desires of your members and monitor the use of all equipment. Then you can prioritize your next purchases (Peavey 2008). First, have members complete a survey about what types of equipment they would like to see added and what kinds of features they desire. Second, take space and cost considerations into account. Determine a specific budget for new equipment and get an exact measurement of the available space.
Once you have completed these steps, let the fun begin! Cardiovascular equipment now exists that offers choices for each member with regard to entertainment while exercising. The newer cardio models on the market offer options such as personal viewing screens, on-demand movies and television shows, podcasts, full cable options, personalized Web-based workout tracking systems and virtual reality cardio programs.
Excellent examples of facilities that have gone the extra mile in terms of equipment are 24 Hour Fitness and LA Fitness®. 24 Hour Fitness has locations nationwide, and most of them offer one or more of the following: basketball courts, a swimming pool, racquetball courts and tennis courts. LA Fitness®, with locations throughout the United States and Canada, provides these amenities as well. This company goes a step further, continually involving members by organizing tournaments, leagues and camps year-round.
Basically, the more equipment you offer, the more competitive your club will be—because you are able to meet the fitness needs of a larger target audience. Pieces of equipment are certainly not inexpensive additions, but they are worth the investment.
Your club's flooring should project an image of style and durability. This tells your members that you have two priorities: first, you care that your members have an aesthetically appealing workout environment; and second, you provide the best-quality products.
As you know, the different areas of your facility have different flooring needs:
Group Fitness Classrooms. These rooms experience a significant amount of pounding, so the flooring you select should be designed with a cushioning effect. The ideal type of flooring has honeycomb-shaped pockets on the underside of the floor tiles; these air pockets decrease impact on an exerciser's joints. Floors designed for the group fitness area may also have an antislip coating that enhances safety by preventing falls.
Weight Room/Area. The flooring in your weights area must be very durable to handle the impact of dropped free weights. This area is also one where a great deal of sweat is left behind on the weights. When weights are dropped, the floors (and the club members) are exposed to an array of germs. Thus, the weights area is a great place to install newer antimicrobial flooring that protects against mold, fungi, bacteria and algae growth.
Childcare Area. The flooring in your childcare room should be soft to the touch and easy to clean and sanitize. This area in the facility will experience the most spills and stains. Using a nonporous rubber flooring product can help prevent the spread of bacteria and eliminate odors. Have fun with this type of flooring! Consider bright, colorful tiles or create a colorful floor design.
The amenities offered in your locker room can make a significant difference in the overall impression your facility creates. The locker room is the first place members head to when they enter your club and the last place they go before leaving. For this reason, it is important to design a locker room that offers privacy, comfort and a variety of amenities.
Instead of thinking of the space as a locker room, think of it as a “spa area.” By providing spa-like amenities, you make clients feel they are in an upscale club. Start by offering private dressing rooms stocked with hangers, mirrors and an array of high-end products, including body lotion, hairspray, shaving cream and disposable razors. In addition, create separate makeup areas with bright light bulbs for illumination in the women’s locker rooms and similar areas for shaving in the men’s locker rooms. Why not also offer an area with ironing boards, irons and handheld steamers? Towel warmers located near your showers are also a nice touch. If you have a large budget to work with, consider adding a steam room, sauna, whirlpool or hydrotherapy tub. Another idea is to create a private area of the locker room for stretching and abdominal work (Kufahl 2003).
Bally Total Fitness®, with locations nationwide, now offers whirlpools, steam rooms and saunas in almost every location. The Athletic Club of Overland Park in Overland Park, Kansas, has created a lounge atmosphere in its locker rooms by providing couches, televisions and chairs for members to use when they gather and relax.
As manufacturers push more boundaries with innovative product lines, fitness facilities must become more creative in finding ways to incorporate these new lines of equipment and amenities into their facilities. Doing so makes a positive impression on both current members and potential clients, increasing both retention and new business sales. Everyone wins.
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Valerie Applebaum, MPH, CHES, is a certified health education specialist with a master’s degree in public health from the University of South Carolina. She currently resides in Connecticut, where she is a health writer for a variety of trade and consumer magazines. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Kufahl, P. 2003. Your locker room may be extinct. Club Industry (May 1).
Peavey, H. 2008. Beyond the “big three.” Athletic Business (Feb.).
© 2011 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.
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