Keeping Facilities Fit for Users

December 14, 2015

By Mary Helen Sprecher

We’re getting near the first of the year, so it’s time for fitness facilities to start getting ready for the onslaught. And for college facilities, we’re creeping up on spring break season, which means kids will be hitting the gym in order to get in shape for bathing suit destinations.

Making sure the place is ready for all those newcomers isn’t rocket science, but it does have to become a regular item on the to-do list. So in a way, it’s sort of like exercise: if done routinely, the place stays in better repair – healthier, if you will.

The best way to start is to walk through the facilities on a daily basis to look for potential problems. It sounds easy enough but again, setting aside the time to do it, and then actually doing it without getting sidetracked, is what makes it an effective tool.

Heavy Lifting
Weight rooms are one of the most common, and one of the most popular features in any fitness facility. However, because free weights aren't subject to the mechanical breakdowns that occur with electronic cardio equipment, they—and the area around them—often wind up getting the least attention.

If you don’t already have them (and you should), put up containers of disinfectant wipes, and add signage about wiping down weight benches, mats and other equipment before and after each use. Oddly enough, keeping the mirrors clean and smudge-free adds an overall look of cleanliness that makes users want to follow suit with the equipment.

Stairmasters, Ellipticals, Rowers and All Cardio
On your walk-through, stop and listen. No matter what form of equipment your cardio area takes, the machines should stay quiet. A noisy machine is a machine that is headed for a breakdown, so address that in advance. Take a look around the facility and see if there are machines people routinely avoid. If so, they may be broken or malfunctioning. (As much as we want our users to tell us when something goes wrong, the fact is, people often just move to another machine and figure the problem will take care of itself.)

Debris, such as grass, mud and rocks, can destroy cardio machines. The amount of dirt and muck that can be found on the back side of a treadmill would surprise most people. A good entrance with appropriate matting will take care of the problem; devices placed near the entrance that brush the sides and the soles of shoes also do wonders.

Out of Harm’s Way
When users place their gym bags, cell phones, jackets or equipment on the floor next to the weights, the machines or in the walkway, accidents are more likely to happen. Provide hooks, cubbyholes or lockers to increase safety. Make sure lighting is kept in good repair and there are no wrinkles in carpeting.

Classroom Space
Many fitness facilities also have recreation rooms that can be used for social activities, classes or gatherings, as well as for athletic purposes including yoga and aerobics. Whether the floor is wood or synthetic, seek advice from the installer before using any harsh cleaning products.
Keeping your facility fit requires regular attention. A running to-do list can help you stay organized, save time, save money and will lead to more efficient operations.

Mary Helen Sprecher is a technical writer for the American Sports Builders Association, a non-profit association helping designers, builders, owners, operators and users understand quality sports facility construction. Visit for more information.

Photos courtesy of CHA, Concord, MA


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