From Design to Technology
Individualizing the Fitness Experience
By Curtis Moody
Today's society is progressively productivity-driven: From increasing your company's ROI to maximizing the amount of time you spend with friends and family, an emphasis is placed on both the quantity, quality and outcome of a person's performance. Having permeated every aspect of our increasingly busy lives, this input-versus-output mentality is following people to the gym, as well.
Whether training for a race, following doctor's orders to get fit and lose weight or just finding tranquility at yoga class after a long, stressful day, motivations to exercise are plentiful, and steps to achieve individual fitness goals can be just as varied. To effectively serve a diverse membership, fitness facilities are expanding their offerings to help people personalize and establish their exercise routines. From facility design to innovative fitness monitoring technology, there are more items on the market today than ever, allowing fitness enthusiasts to not only customize their workouts, but also individually monitor how far they've come—and how far they have left on the road to their personal fitness destinations.
The majority of cardiovascular equipment—treadmills, steppers, exercise bikes and elliptical machines—has built-in monitors that predict and display how many calories the exerciser has burned in his or her workout, average and target heart rate, and time and distance traveled. Above and beyond these basic features, some technologies have advanced to incorporate personal entertainment choices with TV screens in each individual machine.
The Hadley Park Community Recreation Center in Nashville, Tenn., which serves pre-schoolers through senior adults, is just one facility that features these technological attributes. Cardio machine users can plug in their personal headsets and step in time to their favorite rhythms or spin their way to health while watching a much-loved show on a bank of television sets mounted on the surrounding walls.
Offerings such as these greatly increase a facility's competitive edge, encouraging current members to continue visiting, while attracting new members to join. However, although well developed and as precise as possible, monitoring technology that is shared among multiple users is difficult to personalize to an individual's age, height, weight, athletic ability and other variables. Because of this, personal tools to monitor fitness programs are taking the gym by storm. Some of these technological innovations can fasten easily to a person's body via a strap, and can be personally programmed and calibrated to an individual's specifications. Not only do these solutions enhance the accuracy of calculations, but they also allow the exerciser to monitor his or her body's reactions regardless of the activity or location.
Just as this trend of personal monitoring systems is growing in popularity, so is the movement toward integrating free weights into workout routines to further personalize one's workout. Surpassing the usual clanking barbells and selectorized equipment so often thought of in reference to a weight room, the recently expanded Baldwin Wallace College Student Fitness Center in Berea, Ohio, is an illustration of this development.
With high ceilings and large windows, the workout room provides an abundance of natural light and open space between the cardio and weight equipment, giving members room to breathe and space to stretch, use free weights, resistance bands, and balance and medicine balls. Breaking down the walls of a previously male-dominated activity, these open fitness areas encourage guests to leave self-consciousness at the door and step into spacious areas where members of all physical capabilities can find their comfort zones and take part in a collective journey toward personal health.
Research has demonstrated that health issues such as osteoporosis may be staved off with simple weight-bearing exercises. With a focus on strengthening core muscles, significant effort is being dedicated to reduce health risks and strengthen muscles and bones, and female participation in fitness programs has subsequently increased.
Structured programs, classes and clinics are another popular addition to a workout regime—in addition to building strength and endurance, participants can build camaraderie with classmates, trainers and instructors. For community participants who prefer walking for their cardio workout, the Cincinnati Recreation Commission's College Hill Community Recreation Center and Hadley Park Recreation Center, for example, incorporate open walking tracks and exercise areas above and overlooking the fitness rooms below.
Regardless of whether members are following a strict diet and fitness schedule or exercising just for pleasure, options are essential for facilities to help members find the workout routine that works best for them. Fitness areas should be designed to allow for an array of fitness equipment, classes and focused one-on-one personal training to be offered, allowing individuals to tailor exercise routines to fit their physical aptitudes. This, combined with the influx of personalized technology, allows a fitness regime to be truly customized and tracked every step of the way—from the treadmill to the bench press to Pilates class.
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