Feature Article - May 2017
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Fitness Forever

Fitness Facility Design to Meet Changing Demands

By Rick Dandes

Fitness Gets Personal(ized)

The wellness aspect of healthcare merging with fitness centers is absolutely huge, Fabiano said.

"That is the tiger lurking behind the bushes," he noted. "It has always been here, but the ability to deliver strategic wellness and preventive wellness is really going to make its mark in clubs. And in the context of our current national dialogue right now about healthcare, wellness is going to become even more relevant."

Fabiano believes hospitals will start to borrow mainstream health club programming sales mechanisms, while mainstream health clubs are going to start borrowing wellness ideas, and preventive wellness.

As the population gets older, "… as we are trying to stay fit and not get hurt I think there is going to be a big move for mixing wellness and fitness. There seems to be this movement as we get older to stay active. Not having to be CrossFit trained, but to incorporate fitness into our daily lives."

That's one aspect of the wellness-fitness movement in clubs, Fabiano said. "The second aspect is recovery. This is something that mainstream clubs are starting to look at, how to offer a recovery space. There is a relaxation aspect of fitness that has been ignored by clubs in the past. No more. Clubs are recognizing that there is a recovery element of getting healthy. As designers, we are starting to experiment. Everyone is putting in quiet rooms. That is where lighting plays a role. It can be calming after a heavy workout."

Clubs are hiring fitness program designers whose job is not to work hands-on with a client, but to personalize workout programs, all with the intention of providing a healthy workout regimen.

This marriage of wellness and fitness is illustrated through the work of former Texas Rangers, Pittsburgh Pirates' strength and fitness trainer Frank Velasquez Jr., director of sports performance, Allegheny Health Network, Pittsburgh, Pa.

Contacted in Los Angeles, where he had been hired to work with the World Baseball Classic's USA team, Velasquez said, "The whole industry of medical insurance, health insurance is changing. Less and less is being covered, fewer visits for physical therapy and the industry of strength training has evolved to where it is not so much just pushing and pulling iron anymore. It is very functional. There is more science behind it and the art of approaching people has changed."

Velasquez started out in the medical field before venturing into the strength and conditioning. Strength fixes a lot of things, although not everything, he believes. But if you can correct muscular imbalance, you can get stronger. "Certain areas are more flexible," he said. "Fitness programs can sometimes contribute to repairing a physical problem. And do it faster."

Velasquez works for a company owned by an insurance company "… and I work for a network of hospitals. The company I started after getting out of baseball was a multi-disciplinary facility with strength and conditioning, physical therapy, therapeutic massage and nutrition. We found that we were getting people better faster and what insurance company doesn't like that? And that leads to client satisfaction, word of mouth and a nice little business model."

The company started by Velasquez was bought out by the Allegheny Health Network, where he built their sports performance department and helped integrate physical therapy.

It is a growing trend in fitness facilities, he said. "I am aware of facilities that cater to the high-end athlete—someone preparing for a professional sports career. These facilities are partnering up with the Mayo Clinic, for example, with different hospitals throughout the country. That's where we're going. To integrate strength training and conditions along with the medical side of things. Meshed together for an awesome product that is helping people get better faster."

It's also a money maker, Velasquez said, "a cash-based business. Insurance is reimbursing less and less for different services. Now we have a service where people may start out in physical therapy, and they'll stay on with us as strength training clients and pay cash. Or get therapeutic massage. Or cryotherapy. These clients will pay $30 to $50 a session for the services, cash. It is another avenue of revenue for health care facilities."

It's a win-win situation for the client as well. "What you can offer clients is a high level of service, the same that elite athletes get. Active adults, who physically are starting to break down, will need a high level of care to get them back to what they want to do. Those are the people who need these kinds of meshed services, even more than the elites. And for a business perspective, there are a lot more of them."