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This Old Club: Putting the Pieces Together

This Old Club: Putting the Pieces Together

One last thought about repairs. Jacuzzi jets, light fixtures, treadmill belts, shower handles — they all inevitably break at one time or another. Whether it's long-term wear-and-tear on your elliptical or damages caused by a clumsy client, it's how you put the pieces back together that determines whether you'll have a breakthrough or a breakdown when it comes to upkeep.

Your members deserve a clean club in working order, and if they don't get it, believe me, they'll demand it. After working at a few clubs, I've heard the complaints (most reasonable, some not), and as a member at various facilities over the years, I've had my own serious, get-your-rear-into-action complaints. The good clubs respond in a timely manner. The bad clubs? Well, let's just say they aren't open anymore.

One such club had serious problems with equipment, and, I'm not talking about the occasional broken recumbent bike. This place had what I, and many other fellow members, referred to as the “treadmill plague.” The mid-sized facility was outfitted with roughly 15 treadmills (of a model that hasn't even been made in six or so years, which was most of the problem). At any given time, five of them would have a ratty, “out of order” sign hanging over their consoles. One of these plagued treadmills seemed to have been hit harder than the others. While most were out of commission for about two weeks before regaining their “health,” one treadmill was out of order for three months before the club took a crack at fixing it.

While running just a few treadmills away, I saw what I assumed to be Mr. Fix-It using various tools to open its front panel, exposing its inner workings. Three months later, the sick treadmill was still strewn apart — innards, tools and all, across the facility's cardio floor. I'd like to report that eventually the treadmill was put back together again and nursed to health, but when I visited the club a few weeks ago, the poor treadmill was still in mortal peril (or maybe prolonged death, depending on how optimistic you are).

Another club that I taught group exercise at had a set of equally worrisome woes: the hot tub. Many of my kickboxing participants loved soaking in the hot tub after a particularly high intensity class of jabs, crosses and hinge kicks. After my third month of teaching at this club, the hot tub stopped doing the two things it was created for: the water wouldn't stay warm and its soothing bubbles stopped bubbling. My participants, many of whom belonged to this facility for years, complained to management's seemingly deaf ears. Management posted signs stating the problem was being worked on, but when I left the club a year later, there were still no bubbles or heat. Eventually, my participants and I grew sick enough of the run-down facility that we threw in our towels and left (did I mention that the mats for group exercise were literally crumbling apart?).

I'm sure these facilities had an explanation for both incidences. Expensive maintenance costs, finding the right person to complete repairs and not having enough capital to fix costly equipment, such as a hot tub, are all legitimate explanations, but leaving your health club in broken disarray doesn't make any business sense unless you're simply prolonging the bankruptcy of your fitness facility. What happens when requests and eventually demands go unanswered? Eventually, your clients, members and your club's positive image and money all walk out the door. When it comes to repairs, make them — not tomorrow, next week or next month. Fix them, now.

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