Your Gym is Louder Than Ever, and It Could Cost You

Excessive noise and vibration from today’s high-energy fitness trends can have a negative impact on your business. Here’s what to do.

Health club owners go to a great deal of effort to keep up with fitness trends. Over the last few years, fitness programming has expanded to accommodate a wide spectrum of training modalities that usually start in studios before expanding to a general population.

The most obvious example is CrossFit, a branded version of functional training. But you’re likely aware of other trends that have taken hold over the last few years:

  • HIIT (high-intensity interval training)
  • Heart-rate training
  • Specialized cycling classes (e.g., SoulCycle)
  • Boot camp
  • Virtual group training (classes led by an instructor on a monitor)
  • Augmented Reality
  • Performance training (often geared toward obstacle races)

There is an assortment of group training programming known as “group-X classes” that recently moved up to second place in the ACSM’s top fitness trends. These include variations of a number of workout styles, including unique versions of dance fitness, core training, boxing, HIIT, and other innovations. In some ways, mainstream clubs are embedding the studio concept into their fitness programming.

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Regupol continues to innovate with new flooring.

These are undeniably positive developments. More variation brings in more members and wider demographics. But keeping up with these trends can be financially challenging to club operators. Not only do you have to invest in more equipment and specialized instructors, but you have to ensure your club has the space to accommodate them.

That much seems obvious. Less obvious is the changes these new fitness programs have on the overall gym environment. The ambient sounds of clubs with their clanging weights and hum of cardio machines have given way to high-decibel soundtracks for cycling classes; weight slamming from functional training barbell and kettlebell lifts; class instructors, live or on monitors, shouting encouragement and instruction. There’s even a drum fitness class that’s growing in popularity.

Your club is louder and rowdier than ever. And that could turn into a problem. A very expensive problem.

What’s Your ‘Acoustical Identity’?

Noise pollution in clubs is a real issue, as IHRSA has previously reported. But turning down the volume of your fitness programming isn’t usually an option. High-energy group and functional training is always going to be loud, and as the popularity of these classes grow, you need to protect yourself from the consequences, such as:

  • Being a bad neighbor. If your club shares space with other businesses or residences, excessive noise can cause major problems (yes, there have been lawsuits and fines).
  • Membership attrition. You don’t want to disrupt your quieter members from their club experience. They’ll leave for more peaceful surroundings.
  • Damaged flooring. Vibrations can cause structural damage.

Club Business International spoke to a few experts experienced in safeguarding environments prone to excessive vibration. The first thing you learn from them is that the concept of noise prevention is a lot more complicated than you’d think. Terms like acoustical clouds, double-wall systems, Sound Transmission Class ratings get casually tossed around.

These professionals stress that every space has its own “acoustical identity.” A typical cycling class has an acoustical identity vastly different from a yoga class. And you need to not only protect the environment outside of your club, but the areas inside your club as well.

Bryan Dunkelberger, a principal in S3 Design, Inc., based in Braintree, MA, says you should think of vibration and noise control as creating a “box within a box.”

“Each ‘box’ has a different need. In a group-X area, the objective is to trap sound in. In a yoga, spa, or Pilates area, it’s to keep sound out,” he says.

It’s easier to design separate spaces if you’re starting from square one. But if you’re adding these louder activities into an established club, it’s much more complicated. Not only do you need to account for the integrity of walls and ceilings, you need to be aware of outlets, switches, and air vents that allow sound migration no matter how well your club is constructed.

But the most critical area for noise and vibration mitigation is the floor. To limit disturbance in your club, you need an expert on flooring.

The Highest Standards in Vibration Control

Flooring for fitness facilities is a thriving business that is increasingly focused on shock absorption. Nonprofit organizations like the Institute of Noise Control Engineering of the USA, the National Council of Acoustical Consultants, the Canadian Acoustical Association, and NGC Acoustical Testing Laboratory can provide a baseline of standards that can help guide you to the proper flooring materials for your club.

“It provides protection to your user, the floor, and the equipment. It’s got all the density and durability of its predecessors, as well as the ability to meet the demands of the changing landscape of clubs.”

Wil Younger, Marketing Manager

Regupol America - Lebanon, PA

Or you can cut to the chase and contact Regupol America. A division of European firm BSW, Regupol America has specialized in creating flooring solutions to sports and fitness facilities since 2008, creating precision rubber flooring for the demands of today’s raucous health club trends.

One way Regupol’s products work is by absorbing kinetic energy from heavy objects, then transferring it to thermal energy to minimize noise and vibration. But that’s just one concept. Regupol offers a number of options with different engineering solutions depending on your needs, including Aktiv, AktivPlus, AktivPro, and AkustiPro, along with SoundPanel, a panelized, free-floating subfloor system.

In June 2018, Regupol rolled out AktivPlus, a hybrid of its Aktiv and AktivPro lines. Its half-inch thick, high-density recycled rubber is designed to be battered by weights, kettlebells, medicine balls, and the heavy stomping of high-intensity exercisers. The new ActivPlus is recommended for today’s health club.

“It provides protection to your user, the floor, and the equipment,” says Wil Younger, marketing manager for Regupol America. “It’s got all the density and durability of its predecessors, as well as the ability to meet the demands of the changing landscape of clubs.”

AktivPlus, along with other Regupol products, have been tested and approved by the NGC Acoustical Testing Laboratory. Which flooring concept is ideal for your situation depends on a number of factors, but Regupol can help guide you to the right solution. They’ve provided flooring for the CrossFit Games and Olympic weightlifting teams, so they should be able to handle your Zumba class.

For more information or to speak to a sales rep, visit Regupol America.

Jim Schmaltz

Jim Schmaltz is a contributor to IHRSA.org