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Entries in Robert Bishop (5)


Are there specific standards for lighting of an outdoor parking area at a health club?

Robert Bishop discusses guidelines for lighting of an outdoor parking area in this week's Best Practices.

Q: "Are there specific standards or "good practice guides" for lighting of an outdoor parking area at a health club?"

A: As far as I know, there are no guidelines specific to health clubs when it comes to lighting for parking areas. A few years ago, we added a parking lot as part of an expansion project. Our local township planning commission required us to submit a lighting plan for the parking area but there were no "requirements" for specific light levels. Our electrician used "best practices" for general parking areas to design our lighting plan. I would first check with the planning commission or zoning board in your city or town to see if they have specific requirements for parking areas. Then talk with your electrician (or architect, if you are building a new club). You may also decide you want to go above and beyond any requirements and increase the light levels in your parking area for extra security/safety.

Robert Bishop
Elevations Health Club


This post is a part of our weekly Best Practices series. We post a new question and answer every Monday morning. If you have a question you'd like our Industry Leaders to answer, submit your question today.


How to Ensure Your Business Runs Smoothly When You're Not Around

With just a few steps, you can ensure your club doesn't get rusty when you're not around. (Photo: Kamal H.)Mark Stevens and Rob Bishop discuss how to ensure your club runs smoothly, even when you're not there in this week's Best Practices.

Q: "As the owner of a small club, I can't be present every hour of every day we're open. How can I make sure my club runs smoothly in my absence?"

A: Create a Manager on Duty (MOD) position. A MOD typically utilizes the club’s department directors and managers or employees that are considered the senior leadership team of the club. They are then trained to be an extension of the owner or GM. The MOD should know each and every aspect of the Club and its operations, including membership, programs, emergency procedures, service standards for each department, HR procedures and a host of others.

We utilize our GM and AGM during the hours of 7am – 5pm each day. From 5pm to closing we utilize our MOD program with each of our managers on a rotating schedule to cover the Club. They are not to be in their offices doing work, but rather on the floor and visible and available in the club to members and employees. They are managing by walking around the club, saying hello, greeting people, assisting staff and being the first responder in emergencies.

In our situation we build this in to their job description and they are not compensated differently for those hours and coverage. The rotation covers, nights, weekends and holidays so the club is never running without a senior manager on site.

Mark A. Stevens, Regional Director
The Houstonian Health Clubs and Spas

A: There are two things you can do ensure that things are being done the RIGHT way when you aren't at the club. 

The first is to spend more time training employees, specifically training them to handle problems. Keep track of things that happen in any given month (no hot water in the women's locker room, where do you keep extra disinfectant, that woman downstairs was rude to me, etc.). Then role play these situations with your staff going over not only what to say, but how to say it. Each time something new happens, use it as a training tool for your staff.  

Second, make sure you have systems in place for everything that happens in your club: how to give a tour, how to answer the phone, how to present prices, how to schedule a personal training appointment. No detail is too small--shake hands and smile when you introduce yourself before giving a tour. Again role playing, even if it feels awkward or silly, is a very valuable tool. Every staff person should receive training. You never know when they might have to answer the phone or cover the desk for someone else.

Rob Bishop, Owner
Elevations Health Club


This post is a part of our weekly Best Practices series. We post a new question and answer every Monday morning. If you have a question you'd like our Industry Leaders to answer, submit your question today.


Choosing a Location for a New Club

Bryan O'Rourke, Rob Bishop, Brad Wilkins, and Chris Evans discuss how to scout locations to grow a health club chain:

Q: “I work as a GM in a 4 clubs company, I’ve been in charge of the pre-opening and the first couple of month of operation of three of them. We are planning now open the 5th club, in a different location (all 4 actual clubs are in different cities) all 4 clubs are doing fine. What should I look for in the next location? I have tons of demographics and marketing statistics, besides analyzing this info, is there any advice I can get form the experts in expansion?”

Bryan O'Rourke, CSO & Principal

A: A great location may depend on the type of club you have and how much you are willing to pay for that location. If a given location is known for driving traffic to your door, then the lease is going to reflect that.

A large, multipurpose club can require thousands of members so you may need a busy area in town. If you have a small or mid-size club that relies on word of mouth marketing, you may not need the busiest area in town.

Demographic data is important (population density, household income levels, etc.) but nothing can replace your eyes. Get to know the neighborhoods around a proposed location--drive 10 minutes in every direction at rush hour. Talk to a real estate agent. They will know the demographics but they will also have a good "feel" for the area. Is there retail shopping? Are they building new schools (is the area growing--will your club appeal to families?). Is it a retirement community? Are there a lot of storefronts for rent? This might make it easier to negotiate a lease but it might also indicate that the local economy is struggling.

You location doesn't guarantee success, but it can make things a little easier.

Rob Bishop, Owner
Elevations Health Club

A: My advice is to not reinvent the wheel. By the sound of it your company is having success with a business model that is working. My question back to you is…Do you have a good understanding of why it is working? Are they working for the same reasons (same type of customers and similar types of locations?), or are they four unique types of businesses?

If you look at all the successful club chains (e.g. Life Time Fitness, Curves, Gold’s, 24-Hour Fitness) the two things that all these businesses are very confident in is who they serve (current customer demographics/identity) and where to find them; because, the goal in any new business opportunity is to eliminate as much guessing as possible.

If you haven’t done so already, look at the company’s four successful clubs and gather all the information that identifies your customer type. Then use the demographic and marketing research you’ve gathered to determine the best location(s) for your type of club. Finally, create a business plan and/or pro forma to help you decide which area(s) give you the best chance(s) for success.

Brad Wilkins, Vice President & General Mgr.
Cooper Fitness Center

A: You look to have done your homework on the new city you plan to open another club in. If you have a site (or specific area) selected and you have completed a comprehensive competitive analysis then you may be getting close to pulling the trigger on the project.

Debt financing can be very hard to come by in the current economic climate, and even more difficult to secure without in-depth projections that have as an integral part a proven, existing cash flow in your business plan's model. That being said, before building a new club or leasing a new space, consider the potential of buying an existing club that fits or can be relatively easily retro-fitted into your particular type of operation. You would be buying a known cash flow and it is possible that you could finance the project largely from the existing operation's future cash flows versus the long ramp-up and capital intensive nature of a build-to-suit.

Chris Evans, Partner
The Atwood Group


Group Exercise Space

Rob Bishop, Larry Gurney and Gary Klencheski discuss how many square feet per person are necessary for group exercise:

Q: “What is the ideal per-person square foot allowance needed for a group exercise room? I'm trying to estimate room size vs attendees?”

A: A lot of factors go into deciding how much space per participant to allow for in a group fitness room. The type of class will be a big factor.

A yoga mat might take up 8 sq ft and the person using the mat may need an additional 1-2 feet around them in each direction for various movements. A step might only occupy 5 sq ft but a member will require a great deal more space around the step for movement. Also, you have to allow for some degree of "personal space" between participants.

When deciding on room size, don't forget to plan for space for equipment storage (steps, mats, exercise balls, etc.). You also need to allow for the instructor who often requires more room than a typical participant--usually taking up most of the front of the room. As a point of reference, a 1,500 sqft room, with equipment, can accommodate 20-30 members depending on the type of class being offered. In my opinion, if you plan to make group fitness a focus for your club, and you are good at it, the room can not be too big.

Rob Bishop, Owner
Elevations Health Club

A: The ideal per-person square foot allowance for a GROUP -X- ROOM is approximately 45sf per member.Industry standards consider a room that is 3,000 to 4,000 a BIG ROOM and below 2,500 to be small. When designing a room for SPINNING, the ideal per-person square foot allowance is approximately 25sf per member.

With the ever growing popularity of GROUP EXERCISE, it is always better to have a room too big than too small. Comparable to the number of parking spaces you have at your club, it's a terrible thing when you lose business because someone can't find a space.

Larry Gurney, CEO/President
The RUSH Fitness Complex

A: According to the Health/Fitness Facility Standards and Guidelines published by the American College of Sports Medicine, group fitness studios/exercise classrooms should be designed to provide 40 to 50 square feet of space per expected user. The exact space requirements are dictated by the program activity conducted in the exercise classroom.

Gary Klencheski, President & CEO


Is There A Standard Temperature In A Club?

This week, experts Rob Bishop and Bonnie Patrick Mattalian reveal the most comfortable interior temperature for different areas of a health club:

Q: "Is there a health club standard as to the temperature of the general area of a health club? Is there a standard for the temperature in an enclosed aerobic room?"

A: According to the American College of Sports Medicine's Health/Fitness Facility Standards and Guidelines, the "ideal" air temperature range for a health/fitness facility is 68-72 degrees. Locker rooms, hallways and lobby areas will feel comfortable at 72 degrees. These areas can be maintained at an even slightly higher temperature, without complaints, to save on cooling costs in the summer. Members will prefer exercise areas to be closer to the 68 degree range. I have been in facilities that set their AC temperature at 60 degrees in the summer so their members wouldn't sweat! It can never be too cool for some members. However, below 68 degrees would not only be extreme but an unnecessary waste of energy. An air temperature above 72 degrees can be very uncomfortable in an exercise area. Members will complain profusely.

...the "ideal" air temperature range for a health/fitness facility is 68-72 degrees. Humidity and air movement can also play an important role in how members "perceive" the temperature. High humidity will cause the room to feel stuffy and members will report that the room is "hot" even though the air temperature is in a comfortable range. Fans will make members feel more comfortable as the moving air will speed evaporation of sweat from the skin.

Rob Bishop, Owner
Elevations Health Club

A: We utilize the ACSM Facility Standards when setting guidelines for temperatures in a Fitness Center. Based on facility design, usage, programs and demographics, these ranges may vary significantly.

Most active fitness areas would have a temperature range of 68-72 degrees, based on the heat generated by amount of cardio equipment and usage patterns. Humidity levels, air flow, and outside air exchanges are also important factors to consider, depending upon the climate of your location and the physical plant of the structure. Include strategically placed fans on ceilings or around the room for optimal air circulation, lessening the load for cooling or heating.

Setting a standard for a group exercise room is more of a challenge, given the fact that different programs may present different temperature needs. Yoga, stretch, and some mat-based classes require warmer temperatures of 70-74 degrees (or higher in the instance of Hot Yoga), while high intensity classes at high room occupancy levels may require settings of 66-68 degrees. Temperature settings should be adjustable for this purpose in class settings.

Individual participants have different comfort levels and needs. According to Hervey Lavoie of Ohlson Lavoie Collaborative, the best approach is to employ a professional mechanical engineer who is experienced in the design of health clubs and the specifics of the facility programming needs.

Bonnie Patrick Mattalian, President
The Club Synergy Group Consultants