Mr. Green

Spas, Health & Wellness

Fitness Matters: Tailoring the Fitness Amenity

By Bryan Green, Founder & CEO, Advantage Fitness Products

A common mistake made in hospitality as it relates to the fitness amenity, is trying to offer a "health club" look and feel within the confines and constraints of a hotel or resort. Unless you have 40,000-60,000 square feet available, achieving health club levels of scope and segmentation are simply unrealistic. A more-tailored approach in terms of exercise consolidation, functionality, and aesthetics are both advisable and reasonably expected by your guests. The solution is to provide your guests what they need while they are with you versus what they expect from a membership level facility they frequent at home. This then is our foundation for effective planning & design for the hospitality-based fitness amenity.

Although there are logical constraints to how extensively the fitness amenity can be developed, there are also very distinct advantages to a more-specialized environment - one that is tailored around efficiency, convenience and relevance to your customers. What are these advantages and how are they achieved? Let's begin by focusing on what not to do:

The "DON'Ts"

  • "Variety is not the spice of the life of your fitness facility"

Having it all may sound good, but that's hardly the case with the fitness amenity. Not only is offering a smorgasbord of equipment from different suppliers generally not recommended, it can also be incredibly unsightly. The varying heights, shapes and size profiles, varying color schemes and other aesthetic details or design features can make it look like you went shopping at a garage sale for your fitness equipment. The significantly larger expanse of a health club is much more conducive to this type of variety. But such is not the case with the more-limited confines of the typical hotel or resort-based fitness center. Equally, if not more important is maintaining a level of simplicity that ensures a shorter learning curve for your guests. This is critical, because these transient users are typically trying to fit a myriad of activities into their limited stay. Therefore, they need to easily and comfortably get into and out of their workouts. Limiting the equipment offering to one or two specific brands develops user-friendliness. Many operational features are similar across varying pieces within the same product line or from the same manufacturer. Electronics across varying types of cardiovascular equipment (e.g., treadmills, ellipticals, and recumbent bikes) are an example of this. Same goes for strength equipment and consistencies in the systems for weight load and seat adjustments throughout "the circuit."

  • "The Essentials of Entertainment"

Don't provide a one size fits all entertainment offering. Facilities that put up a lone TV monitor in the corner with the sound blaring at a level that may be audible across the room, but is flat out annoying in closer proximity and will surely alienate guest that don't appreciate the current channel. Today's consumers are use to having personal preference and choice. You can bet on any given afternoon, one guest wants to watch Oprah and the other CNN. Today, "personal" entertainment is essential, which is why personal viewing screens have become the norm. Another consideration is the fact that those who are dedicated to working out while on the road are far less likely to visit the fitness facility seeking socialization. Rather, listening to music or watching their choice of programming is important to them staying focused on the business of exercise and will leave them with a far more satisfying experience. Let's face it, it's harder to self-motivate for exercise when on the road, so the last thing you'd want to do is provide further impediments for your valued guests.

  • "Flooring is a part of Fitness"

Don't select a floor covering that would be conducive to your lobby, but only serves to create an unsafe foundation for fitness. Within a fitness environment, safety concerns outweigh those of style. Rubber flooring is essential for a non-slip cushion surface that supports any form of exercise. And remember, it's the 21st Century. Safety and style can coexist. A plethora of choices exist today in rubber flooring, some that even replicate the look of wood floors. From a hygiene and maintenance perspective, you will also reduce the growth of bacteria, odd smells, and save considerable long-term costs associated with carpeting that needs more frequent replacement.

  • "Hours of Operation"

Don't limit the hours of exercise unreasonably. If there's an amenity other than food and beverage that requires availability outside the margins of "prime time," it's fitness. The fitness center must be available late for those that can only squeeze in exercise time after longer business dinners. Naturally, the same applies for insuring the doors open early so that you can be best prepared for the morning rush. Fitness is commonly something even the most ardent exercise enthusiasts try to "squeeze in" before or after the brunt of daily business or vacation activities.

The "DOs"

Enough about what NOT to do. Here are things you CAN do to best tailor your fitness amenity to be reflective of, and relevant to, the specific needs of your guests:

  • "Cardio, cardio, cardio…and more cardio"

Typically in the commercial health club environment, roughly 60% of usage revolves around cardiovascular equipment, while the balance of usage resides with strength equipment. The needle shifts dramatically in favor of cardio while traveling, because hospitality-based fitness environments rarely afford the plethora of space and variety guests experience at their local health club and they typically adjust their workouts accordingly. Not only are guest expectations fewer in this regard, but with limited time, most travelers will opt for the overall conditioning benefits of cardio training rather than a significantly abridged version of their usual strength training regimen. We estimate nearly 80% of what is desired by guests revolves around cardio. Therefore, plan accordingly with the requisite balance of equipment.

  • "Stretch the Space"

Smaller rooms challenge us with an inherent sense of confinement, and therefore, we need to have some tricks up our sleeve to overcome this obstacle. The answer is found through an emphasis on proper lighting and mirror placement. The space needs to feel alive and bring a spirit of vitality and energy. Every effort should be made to utilize natural light if windows are an available feature or option. In addition to using natural light, or in situations where natural light is less available, emphasis must be placed on your lighting selections. Much can also be accomplished through strategic placement of mirrors that will make the facility feel more spacious. Functionally, mirror placement is also an essential element of any balanced offering in fitness.

  • "Capitalize on Color"

After you have selected the proper balance in equipment categories and limited the number of brands to achieve the consistency and efficiency I previously described for your guests, tie it all together with attention to upholstery and frame color selection. Equipment upholstery is a cost-effective way to affect a significant upgrade to the look and feel of the fitness environment. Beyond equipment colors, accessories such as stretching mats and stability balls can be coordinated to insure a complementary aesthetic while also enhancing exercise functionality and generally rounding out the fitness offering. These details should not be neglected. Take a smart and strategic approach, working closely with a qualified equipment provider to insure congruency and flow both functionally and aesthetically.

  • "Take Care of Your Investment"

It makes little sense to complete such due diligence in careful planning on the front end, only to squander the achievement through equipment neglect once established. Make the commitment to daily, weekly, and monthly care procedures that not only extend the useful life and operational consistency of your equipment, but reduce the liability of someone being injured on poorly maintained machines. Partner with the right service provider that will ensure the essential peace of mind for what are often non-supervised hospitality based fitness facilities.

It's likely your guests have chosen your property for their stay based upon an overall desired experience and proposition of value. It makes little sense to step outside of these parameters when it comes to the fitness amenity. Emulating the traditional health club is certainly not the answer. When away from home, guests often seek new and different experiences. The fitness amenity is no exception.

Bryan Green is a wellness industry entrepreneur and fitness facility design expert. He has overseen the development of training facilities for Fortune 100 companies, global hospitality flags, health clubs, specialty studios, universities, and professional sports teams. Mr. Green founded Advantage Fitness Products (AFP) in 1997 to meet the growing demand for consultative support and supply of non-traditional wellness facilities beyond the larger health club chains. Mr. Green established FitnessDesignGroup® in 2001 to serve as a specialized consultancy for early stage planning and design for commercial fitness facilities of all types. The company has since evolved to provide project management services, and today foundationally supports both AFP and the Aktiv Solution divisions towards their client facility design requirements. Mr. Green can be contacted at 310-559-9949 Ext: 110 or bgreen@afproducts.com Extended Bio...

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