Fitness Space Design Geared to Outcomes

The crux of successful program-driven design lies in the ethos of the facility and—most importantly—the end user’s experience.

It may seem counterintuitive, but, for Bryan Green, founder and CEO of Aktiv Solutions, the most effective functional fitness spaces are based largely on reverse engineering. As opposed to starting with equipment direction and placement, he says, starting with a thoughtful approach to how members and participants will “interact with each other, the space and the equipment communally, safely and socially produces optimal outcomes.”

Put more simply, Aktiv Solutions begins the design process with the end-user’s experience in view and then layers results-driven programming, brand, and other theming to “design the exercise experience,” as they term it.

“There are so many factors—both tangible and intangible—that affect this, and we break it down systematically, using what we refer to as a ‘Design, Build, & Program’ approach,” says Green.

Here’s how the platform works.

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This phase involves assessing the space through the lens of its opportunities and its limitations,” explains Lauren Holle, director of design at FitnessDesignGroup, Aktiv’s sister company and well-known fitness facility design firm. “How will the space appeal most widely to the members or guests it seeks to serve? Does the client and facility model have certain specializations or themes or branding that drive more emphasis on certain modalities?”

Aktiv seeks to understand all of this prior to putting pen to paper.

“As we then begin to build the footprint, we look at how energy zones work and flow,” says Holle. “The spaces that Aktiv, in particular, is focused on require important transition from one energy zone to the next. These zones are the building blocks for determining a sense of how people will move through the greater space.”

When considering a space as a whole, Holle typically starts with a “zoning diagram.” The goal of the diagram is to help clients visualize the spaces within the space and how the transition between them will flow and enhance the guest experience from the start. For example, in a full-service club, you likely don’t want members to immediately step into a high-energy zone upon arrival; you want to ease them in and transition them through the facility journey.

Ultimately, the transition and flow through the club’s zones should be intuitive and uncomplicated and chart a path for that day’s goals, Holle adds.

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“In this case, we’re thinking about the requisite supply, not construction,” Holle says. “It’s never relegated to just equipment. It’s flooring, color, customization, wallscape, lighting, and the many other elements that bring the area to life and create guidance for members. It’s the environment itself.”

Naturally, this can vary greatly depending on the facility type, specialization, location, and the end user’s demands. This step takes careful and thoughtful planning and design reference to ensure both fluidity and function are met. Certainly, esthetics will play a dominant role here, but function is the foundational element of setting the stage for exercise.


This is what brings the environment to life. What will guide movement in the space? What will power the facility toward providing dynamic and varied workout experiences? Are we designing for live instruction, digital guidance, or both? It’s important to balance trending workout modalities, flexibility for varied usage, and ultimately the client’s vision and ID elements in stride.

“There’s a lot that takes place in between those lanes,” states Green, “but that’s the basic thinking behind how we create user-centric functional spaces.”

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In late 2019, intending to implement this repeatable approach in a more efficient and turnkey way for certain clients, Aktiv Solutions introduced ACADEMY Studio, a functional training environment that includes digital guided programming, tailored equipment, and rigging and floor coverings, all geared to fostering effective workouts within a balanced space.

Powered by the AktivTV digital learning platform, ACADEMY Studio programs guide varied and balanced workouts by preset duration. Facilities can determine the level of progression or challenge for each exercise, time of interval, and several other session variables. Alternatively, the Aktiv Education team can curate a preset schedule of published workouts in conjunction with its delivery of new and fresh ACADEMY programming throughout the year.

“ACADEMY basically takes a lot of the developmental work—the guesswork and re-inventing the wheel—out of our process with a customer,” says Green. “The templates for the areas can scale and drop them into almost any space.

“But whether we’re building spaces from scratch or utilizing the ACADEMY design to meet client needs, we don’t stray from the Design, Build, & Program recipe that has helped make Aktiv true experts in functional training,” asserts Green. “Our clients trust us to put their members in the right space—safely—and equip them with the right tools to undertake the programming that defines those clients’ space.”

To learn more about Aktiv Solutions' functional fitness area design, visit their website.

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Jon Feld

Jon Feld is a contributor to