Feature Article - March 2007
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Running the Trend Mill

The ever-evolving workout world

By Emily Tipping

A 40-year-old woman walks into a fitness center, climbs on a treadmill and walks for 20 minutes. A 12-year-old baseball player signs up for personal training with a Pilates instructor to help prevent injuries. A new mom goes to a gym that specializes in circuit training, works out for 30 minutes and goes back home feeling fitter and more confident. An 80-year-old man stops by the recreation center for a one-hour yoga class with participants of all ages and backgrounds.

What do they have in common? In one way or another, they are all seeking to boost their fitness level, improve their health and enhance their overall quality of life.

"Consumers are looking for one-stop shopping," said Chris Palumbo, COO and general partner of Elements for Women, a boutique fitness club for women with more than 25 clubs across the United States and 40 more in development. "They look for convenience, a higher quality than they have in the past, and I think they're more educated in general about health. I don't think you have to sell them on the benefits of being a member of a club."

Your fitness facility can't be everything to everyone, but by carefully considering what's driving people to work out these days—whether they've never picked up a dumbbell in their life or they can bench 300 pounds—you can ensure your facility will work out for your particular clientele.

You obviously should offer your patrons the tried-and-true fitness options that they'll expect to see on your gym's floor. These include typical cardio machines like treadmills, upright and recumbent stationary bikes, and even elliptical machines and stair-steppers. Also par for the course are options for strength training, including selectorized machines and a range of free weights and benches. Programming options like cardio dance, step classes and even kickboxing and even Spinning have become fairly common in fitness facilities.

Fitness facility clients know they'll find these options at just about any gym they check out. To really attract new patrons, you need to go beyond their expectations and really offer some "wow" ideas.

Design Time

Obviously, there are some differences in design issues between a private, for-profit fitness facility and one run by a park district or nonprofit organization. Budget issues will be of much greater concern for public entities and nonprofits. What should you take into consideration if you want to build a fitness center for your community?

Frank Parisi, an architect with Williams Architects who is involved in designing recreation facilities that include fitness centers, said that some programming types create unique challenges when it comes to design.

"Spinning is particularly challenging because a lot of community centers or fitness centers try to do Spin as an auxiliary, as in you can double up on a room, and they really need to dedicate a space for Spin classes," he said.

One way to deal with the budget crunch, Parisi said, is to design with longevity in mind.

"The way we tailor to that, considering the fact that market trends come and go, is to design more versatile spaces. So a space may be dedicated to Spinning, but then could be converted into a program room over time."