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The Business of BOSU

Examining storage, programming, staff training and a list of mechanical and business points for this multipurpose programming tool.

Functional balance training has permeated all aspects of fitness, sports and elite athletic training. BOSU, which stands for “both sides up,” is a functional balance training tool that can best be described as half of a stability ball secured to a solid platform that can be used with the dome side either up or down. Your members may ask for BOSU, but you must weigh many factors in deciding whether or not to invest in this addition to your facility’s equipment tool chest.

Program Diversity

Many facility owners and department directors agree that BOSU is multidimensional. It can be used in most fitness arrangements (group, individual and personal training), complement other fitness programs or serve as a standalone training tool. Carol Scott, national director of group fitness for Equinox Fitness Clubs and president of ECA World Fitness Alliance, says that part of what initially attracted her to BOSU was its versatility: It’s a core board, stability ball and step rolled into one product.

Although BOSU-only classes are in demand, the product appeals to many fitness managers because it dovetails with many types of programming. For example, BOSU movement sequences can be combined with and complement circuits; traditional resistance training regimens; and step, total-body, mind-body, cycling, sculpting, and core and sports conditioning classes. BOSU’s versatility can also meet the needs of various types of participants, including entry-level, the deconditioned, the very fit or special populations.

Purchasing Considerations

Owners and managers have to weigh many factors when making new equipment purchases. For example, Scott notes, “Space requirements in the group exercise studio are becoming a huge issue. There is only so much room, so
a product must be diverse, offer something new in terms of training and be priced competitively—a tall order.” Like many owners and program directors, Teri Bothwell—corporate director of group exercise for Sport & Health Clubs in the Washington, D.C., area—feels that it is important to stay with
or ahead of fitness trends that management believes to be permanent.

Kari Anderson, co-owner of Pro-Robics Conditioning Clubs and Gold’s Gym in Seattle, adds that part of the basis for purchasing new equipment rests on whether or not one believes that it will increase membership. She says of herself and her partner, “We loved the all-encompassing potential of BOSU. I saw right away that it is ideal for cardio, strength, flexibility and all types of mind-body work. I saw so many ways to incorporate it immediately into the schedule and draw a whole new group of people into our studios and clubs.”

Practical Considerations

Even if you’ve decided that purchasing a BOSU is a sound business decision, you have to address several physical and practical factors to make it a successful part of your business.

Workout Space. Each participant should have enough space to lie prone, supine or sideways on top of the dome and move or step off the dome safely
in any direction. This requires about
12 to 16 square feet of space, similar to the space allotment for a step platform in a group exercise setting.

Floor Surface. The BOSU can be placed on any level surface. Low-pile carpeting, rubber flooring or a wood surface works well. A mat or folded towel can provide padding for those performing exercises on a hard surface with their knees or hands in contact with the floor.

Safety. Sweat makes the BOSU surface slippery, so exercisers need to wear appropriate athletic footwear to help minimize slippage. If necessary, a hand towel should be used regularly during their classes or training sessions to wipe off the dome and surrounding floor. A dry BOSU not only provides a safer and more effective training environment but also minimizes hygiene issues. When necessary, water and a mild soap can
be used to clean the device.

Footwear. Although not required, athletic footwear with adequate lateral support should be worn during BOSU workouts; dynamic movement on and off the BOSU could result in damaging foot contact with the rim-platform. Generally, footwear is recommended for all BOSU workouts, but Pilates, yoga, other mind-body-influenced programs, and balance and proprioception training in the home can be exceptions. Many instructors and trainers want clients to experience the BOSU barefoot during less dynamic movements to develop the small intrinsic muscles of the foot and lower leg. A policy that allows participants not to wear athletic footwear while using a BOSU may be established one day.

Apparel. Comfortable clothing that does not slip or slide allows safer and more effective movement, especially when one is seated or lying prone, supine or sideways on the dome.

Storage. As many as four BOSUs can be stacked along a wall. Mary Jayne Johnson, PhD, southwest regional health and fitness manager of Wellbridge Health Clubs, stores the units under
existing shelving; others use closets. Bothwell prefers to stack BOSUs
pyramid-style along the walls in her club’s 29 locations.

Tracey Carr, group exercise supervisor of Edward Health & Fitness Center in Chicago, purchased inexpensive (about $60) stainless steel racks with casters for her facility. “The BOSU sits in them nicely, can be moved around the room easily and looks crisp and clean,” she says. Peter Twist—president and CEO of Twist Conditioning Inc. in Vancouver, British Columbia, and conditioning coach of the National Hockey League’s Vancouver Canucks—likes to leave some units on the periphery of workout areas and, once members are trained, encourages unsupervised
member use.

Durability. Twist says, “The BOSU has proven very durable, and we have tested it aggressively at elite athlete camps with daily use.” BOSU’s high-quality vinyl has been confirmed to be burst-resistant at 2,800 pounds, and proper care, storage and inflation will extend its lifetime. Units stored in a club environment should be stacked away from direct sunlight and any
heat source.

Failure. Club owners indicated that a very small percentage of units did not hold air initially or that some domes split at the base seam. Fortunately, in these instances, the manufacturer replaced the defective units immediately. According to Norris Tomlinson, director of fitness services for Bally Total Fitness Corporation, his facility received replacements quickly and without any hassle. Nonetheless, both manufacturing issues have been mostly absent in newer generations of BOSU.

Cost. As with all equipment investments, the cost of BOSU is of paramount concern among new purchasers. Most buyers justify the expenditure by emphasizing the tool’s diversity and their belief that it can either integrate programming components or stand alone. After the initial purchase of 12 BOSU units at $109.95 each (plus shipping), additional four-packs can be purchased for $99.95 each (plus shipping). Packages vary; for instance, some include pumps and educational materials such as the manual and instructional video. Study the different package details at www.BOSUPro.com.

Fad or Staple to Be?

Those who use BOSU and its programming continue to be pleased with its versatility. Twist projects that BOSU
is here for the long run. “A portable, low-cost product that can be integrated into a variety of programs is exactly what we need,” he says. “It improves the way people train and should be with us for years to come.”

Anderson, Bothwell and Twist believe that the continued success of BOSU will depend largely on having formally trained instructors who believe in and understand functional balance training. In turn, their passion and knowledge will filter down to willing consumers and athletes.

Carr says that her staff “can make or break a class with their endorsements alone.” Her BOSU programs are extremely successful because her instructors understand and are passionate about what they teach. They find it easy to excite others about the benefits of balance training.

Instructor Training and Programming Options

BOSU Integrated Balance Training workshops are conducted not only nationwide at major fitness conferences but also in some locations outside the U.S. To find a trainer in your region, visit www.BOSUPro.com and select “Instructor Training.” For information and schedules of workshops conducted by Douglas and Candice Brooks, go to www.MovesIntFitness.com and select “Workshops.”

To help guide instructors on their programming options, BOSU has released six new instructor videos (available at www.BOSUPro.com) to complement the introductory video and manual. Additionally, STOTT PILATES has released the BOSU Pilates series, which includes “Essential BOSU Pilates for Sports Training” and “Intermediate BOSU Pilates for Athletic Enhancement.”

Many facilities have utilized the initial manual and video in conjunction with having key staff members attend a BOSU Master Training or certification workshop, which includes a complete training kit and slide show that help prepare staff members to conduct in-house training. Another popular choice for a facility is to host a BOSU training seminar on site. See www.BOSUPro.com for a list of qualified trainers.

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