If you have been at one of the newest sports arenas or at one of Las Vegas’ trendy casinos, you likely remember that those venues stimulated each of your senses, creating an almost fantasy-like experience. Now, think about your typical fitness club where a sea of gray equipment appears in monotonous straight lines, surrounded by bland wall colors and fluorescent lights dangling from exposed beams. Which environment are you likely to spend the most time in, and more importantly, which physical environment are you likely to spend the most money in? Chances are that most of you would say the casino or sports stadium, but it should not be that way. Members should rave about the atmosphere of health clubs, too. Why not create an exciting space with beautiful rolling curves where the equipment helps define the experience, the colors build excitement and the lighting creates energy?
The goal of creating engaging fitness and workout spaces is to provide a physical environment that invigorates and seduces your members so they will return. By creating dynamic spaces, your members will enjoy working out, and your trainers will be able to perform at their best. A well-designed facility should induce passion while providing good circulation, interesting equipment layouts, proper materials, visually pleasing colors and great lighting design.
The foundation of any good design is the circulation path, especially in a fitness area where many members move from the entry to the locker rooms, locker rooms to the fitness floor, and finally among the various activity spaces. Circulation is integral to a successful club layout. The design must create movement and flow, as well as present a sense of space where members are not falling over each other. Doing so creates more interest in the workout space, which in turn enhances the member enjoyment factor.
In addition to good circulation, innovative equipment layouts can create exciting visual interest in a large fitness space. A layout with a soft curve can enhance the appearance and feel that accompanies the typical layout that stacks treadmills, elliptical machines and other pieces of equipment in neat but monotonous queues. Large lines of equipment are best replaced with “mini” workout spaces (zones) that separate the equipment and create workout communities. (As in the example shown in the drawing above). One concept for arranging selectorized equipment is to lay it out in a “pod-like” formation using circles or ellipses. This provides a more socially interactive environment for trainers to work in and for members to work out in.
The materials used in the fitness area are important for functionality and visual appeal. In the cardio area, it is essential to use materials that help absorb the sound and vibration of the equipment. One of the latest trends in flooring for the cardio and selectorized areas is the use of rubber floors that look like a high-grade wood floor. These floors establish a more sophisticated, clean feeling while providing resistance to the vibration of the machines. Carpet is another great choice and can be used to generate movement by incorporating colors and patterns.
In the free-weight area, the rubber athletic flooring often used must withstand the constant impact of weights dropping on the floor. Many floors are designed for this purpose and will not dimple when impacted. After choosing the type of product, consider using lively patterns that flow with the space and tie into the other areas of the fitness floor. This could be a series of curves with blocks of colors or rectangles in an attractive pattern.
One of the most critical of all elements for creating an exciting feel in your facility involves lighting design. After implementing the previously mentioned tips for great circulation and materials selections, the project should follow through with inspired lighting fixture selections and placement. A plethora of beautiful and efficient lights are available that help create energy within the space. Select lights that avoid causing reflections on the private viewing screens on the equipment. Incorporating both direct and indirect lighting creates a theatrical effect. (As seen in the renderings of the two fitness centers below.)
Another important aspect of lighting design is to select high-efficiency lighting. This type of lighting helps keep the facility cooler and reduces operational costs for the short and long term. Choosing the right light fixtures can easily cut your electricity bill in half.
With all of the key strategies listed above, your workout spaces can be a fun experience for your members and staff. The goal is to create inviting, energetic places using inventive layouts, circulation, materials selection and lighting design. Together, these ideas develop into spaces built for the people instead of the equipment.
Christa Plaza is a principal and architect at Essenza Architecture, Boulder, CO. She specializes in fitness center designs and has a passion for listening to clients’ visions and turning them into built spaces. Essenza Architecture is an international, eco-friendly firm that blends beauty with function. With more than 30 years of experience, Essenza creates visually interesting and innovative club spaces. Plaza can be reached by email at [email protected].