Feature Article - March 2019
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Select Your Surface

Sports & Fitness Flooring Fundamentals for Your Facility

By Rick Dandes

On the other side of the fitness spectrum, Hayes said, you'd have a space for aerobics, yoga and spin. Studios usually have a wood floor. "They might have an individual mat that they utilize for a yoga class. What manufacturers can do with a wood floor in a fitness studio is make it with high levels of shock absorption and resiliency. That's not to say we don't do that when involved in a court activity area. It's just that we look at different performance levels we want to achieve in a fitness studio versus in a court space."

Meanwhile, Thornton said, from time to time you also run into one big room where you have weights in one area and another area for floor exercise. "In that situation, you want a floor made of synthetics. The two biggest things you would use would be either cushioned vinyl or some type or rubber. Rubber is good for longevity, appearance and maintenance. In today's design, everybody loves the wood look, like maple or oak, and you can get that look with vinyl. Rubber tends to be more expensive, but it just depends upon the type of rubber you are looking for."

There are two different types of rubber flooring, he said. Rubber that has a high amount of recycled content and then vulcanized rubber, where the surface is more solid in color. Both are popular options.

Years ago, Thornton said, you'd see a lot of more black rubber flooring in fitness spaces and recreational facilities. But in today's world the science of rubber surfaces has grown by leaps and bounds. "There was a time, 10 or 20 years ago, when recycled rubber did not have a lot of color content without being overly expensive, but there are new processes today where you can have a lot of color and it's not breaking your bank. We're seeing more and more color in the recycled rubber market. Which is fun. It's a lot more fun to design when you have more color options."

Vulcanized rubber surfaces are easy to maintain and last a long time, Thornton explained. There are good color options, but they are more limited than recycled rubbers because recycled rubbers are using colored chips and you can mix and match custom colors. "What you can do with recycled rubbers," he explained, "is increase the thickness of the surface and gain quite a bit in cushion. Traditionally, vulcanized rubber tiles are pretty hard, extremely durable and about 10.5 millimeters thick. Recycled rubbers will start at about 8 millimeters in thickness, but then you can go all the way up to 22 millimeters in thickness.

"What does this all mean to the customer?" Thornton asked. "As you gain thickness you are gaining performance enhancements. Not only do you increase in cushion (and cushion equates to comfort), but also as you get that thick surface it can take quite a bit of abuse, from big weights, for example. We see this surface in university and pro athlete weight rooms with big barbells. Those thick recycled rubbers can be used for indoor walking tracks as well."

Functional and Group Fitness

"When we do a fitness studio," Hayes said, "we suggest focusing on shock absorption. As a facility you want that floor to flex because we want the end user to have an enjoyable experience, where they are not beating their body up because the floor is hard."

As for material in that environment, you might opt for some kind of vinyl product with a polyurethane wear layer, which is easy to clean, and does not need aggressive maintenance, suggested Bo Barker. "These surfaces are also non-porous, and tend to be easy to clean up and keep clean. What happens in group fitness is we are moving to a lot more women as participants, and they want a clean environment. They want to feel like they can interact with the floor and not feel like they are picking up all the germs and sweat from whomever was there the session before.

"We've moved away from that Gold Gym's image of a bunch of guys lifting weights," Barker continued, "but even so, we're having to create floors that are still very durable, very robust and handle all the challenges of a fitness or strength environment."

Cushioned vinyls are a good option in fitness spaces, Thornton noted, "because they are the easiest to maintain. You can have a wood grain look and several color options with vinyls. There are backing systems that are now used, where you get more force reduction per millimeter of thickness with a cushioned vinyl than you do with any other synthetics."

Thornton also noted that there are blended surfaces gaining in popularity. "This is an option in a fitness room where you might have specific activities in one part of the fitness area and other activities going on in another section of the fitness area. You can blend the two, having both rubbers and vinyls, where weight equipment would be on the rubber side and aerobics would be on the vinyl side."