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4 Things to Consider When Reconfiguring Your Gym’s Layout

In the current environment, laying out your gym’s equipment can be a challenge—but there are some best practices to keep in mind.

As reopenings progress and members return in greater numbers, there is a need to reconfigure your floor plan. You need to consider social distancing and sanitation, but those aren’t the only factors that go into the layout equation. Other subtle issues, like how members are positioned during exercise, come into play.

If there is one issue that trumps all others right now, notes Bruce Carter, president of Optimal Design Systems International, it’s safety.

“Prior to COVID, clubs sold fitness,” he says. “Now, you’re selling safety first and fitness second. The tour path for showing a potential new, or existing member coming back, needs to tell a safe story. For example, one of the keys is that in most clubs, no matter the spacing, people feel safer if everyone is wearing masks. Even if equipment is placed further apart than the recommended 6 feet, say 10 or 14 feet, if people are not wearing masks, many will still be uncomfortable.”

“Prior to COVID, clubs sold fitness. Now, you’re selling safety first and fitness second.”

Bruce Carter, President

Optimal Design Systems International - Port Saint Lucie, FL

Best Practice Food for Thought

We spoke with Carter about key considerations for layout. Bear in mind that these are suggestions for best practices and not requirements set in stone. For example, guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend social distancing at 6 feet (about two arms’ length), the World Health Organization (WHO) puts the number at approximately 3 feet, and state and municipalities have their own distancing requirements, so your needs may vary.

As a result, clubs have been tasked with making spacing decisions that best meet regulations and their own needs. At Sports Academy & Racquet Club, members keep 10 feet between them; Basic-Fit errs on the side of caution by limiting capacity and removing some cardio machines to create more room; and Little Rock Athletic Club has members working out in 12' x 12' spaces.

The following list can help guide you in configuring equipment and, possibly, give you some ideas for rethinking your layout.

Facilities Sports Art selectorized machine N900 column

1. Social Distancing

The CDC guideline of 6 feet apart is a solid baseline, Carter says, but state and town/city distancing requirements, and what works for your members’ safety, will ultimately drive your decision. Other considerations include:

  • Equipment type. “With strength equipment, consider placing the machines back to back so people are facing away from each other while using the machine,” Carter relates. “With cardio, do not have a machine directly behind another being used. Stagger them so that the person on one cardio piece is looking at an empty piece in front of them."
  • Weights. The same staggering approach applies to free-weight benches. “Dumbbell racks are typically spaced close together, so some clubs are working with fewer dumbbells and keeping them farther apart on a rack,” he says. “Also, usually there are at least two benches in front of a rack, and many clubs are shifting to just one.”

2. Sanitization

Whatever you had for wipe-down or sanitization stations prior to COVID-19, you’ll likely want to double or even triple that amount.

“Another good idea is to have two sanitization stations next to each other, so when one is empty, another is immediately available,” Carter says. “And include signage asking members to let staff know when a station is empty.”

Another hygiene-safety precaution clubs are employing is floor-mounted or ceiling-hung plexiglass panels between cardio and other machines.

“Some clubs like clear panels for a more open look while others prefer an opaque panel, which conveys more privacy,” he says. “Whatever is used, these panels must be kept clean from sweat, so more attention by staff is needed.”

Among the other things that more spacing has improved is access to equipment for cleaning purposes.

3. Traffic Flow

Some issues have actually eased over time. Directional signage, for example, has become less prevalent.

“Initially, we saw floor signage, but it seemed not to have that much impact on flows, except at check-in, where 6-foot intervals need greater enforcement,” says Carter. “New equipment layouts have been better at directing flows. Having a clearly defined circulation path is critical, either by using tape and/or through equipment layout.”

4. Future Layout Considerations

“Overall, going forward, gyms will have less equipment. Spaciousness will be perceived to be more desirable and safer for now and quite some time in the future,” Carter advises. “If you’re equipping a new club or renovating and you want to have 30 pieces of cardio, wire for 30, but only place 15 to 18 in the space now. Flexible conditioning spaces, such as turf areas, will become more popular for a wider variety of uses and can be better for flexibility if social distancing were to ever happen again. Consider prepping outdoor spaces for the same reason.”

Equipment for Now and the Future

Facilities Sports Art two selectorized machines N900 column

If you’re looking for equipment that meets current needs and can carry you into the future, you might want to consider SportsArt’s new N900 series, which encompasses a complete line of selectorized strength equipment.

Designed to complement the company’s Status Cardio line, the series is geared to creating symmetry and consistency in design and style for a facility’s strength and cardio sections.

“Together, the two lines provide customers with biomechanically sound, efficient, and elegant cardio and strength-training products,” asserts SportsArt product manager Matt Thorsen.

The N900 series also happens to be the right equipment at the right time.

“The line, first and foremost, provides users and gym owners with quality resistance training products,” he says. “Within the product’s framework, however, the fully enclosed weight stacks and plastic shrouds create a natural barrier and a sense of privacy. The efficient footprint allows facilities to easily position products to provide adequate distancing.”

In addition, the design of the series naturally lends itself to sanitizing. The machines feature less exposed surface area, which results in less area to clean.

“With the use of plastic shrouding, there is simply a smaller area that can come into human contact,” Thorsen says, “creating one larger, easier to reach area to wipe down as opposed to lots of little tubes, cables, belts, etc.”

Like the S900 series from which it’s derived, the N900 series makes use of Kevlar belts, in place of cables, marine-grade double-stitched upholstery, high-gauge steel frames, and ABS plastic shrouds.

“And, like the S900 machines, the series features proven, effective equipment that offers unilateral training capabilities, diverging/converging motion paths, incremental weight adjustments, and multi-point seat or brace adjustments,” says Thorsen. “It’s all just part of an elevated design platform.”

To learn more about the N900 series, visit SportsArt.

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Jon Feld

Jon Feld is a contributor to IHRSA.org.