Hotel Fitness Center: How to Select the Right Equipment

By Kurt A. Broadhag President, K Allan Consulting | October 28, 2008

Hotel fitness centers are no different than basic health clubs when it comes to decision making on equipping their facilities. Major prohibiting factors including space and budget limitations require management to make smart choices on equipment procurement. These choices are influential in determining equipment quantities and quality with defined specifications unique to each setting. Taking time to research proper selection early on in the design process will not only save money and reduce liability long-term but will allow hotel operators to develop their fitness center around the guests needs.

Initial fitness center design centers on space allocation. This defines the quantity of equipment your space can safely fit. For many hotels this space is already predetermined as existing retrofitted rooms in which case no additional area calculations are needed. For those more fortunate to develop the fitness center in the hotel design and construction phase general calculations can be used to determine approximate size of the facility needed based on occupancy load. For normal fitness centers this is based on projected membership. In the hotel setting this number is based upon room count although more advanced calculations can be integrated based on hotel demographics and peak usage figures. Generally there should be at least 350 square feet gym space allocated for every 200 rooms.

Once room dimensions have been defined the equipment selection phase of the design can begin. For the hotel setting there are three basic divisions of the fitness center depending on the size and emphasis - strength, cardio, and the stretching/ab area. While most health clubs dedicate anywhere from 50-60% floor space for the strength area, 40-50% for the cardiovascular area, and any remaining to stretching the hotel niche is somewhat different in that limited space dictates emphasis first on cardiovascular equipment. Typically the small 350 square foot hotel gyms dedicate most of the space to cardiovascular equipment and can accommodate 4-5 pieces of cardiovascular equipment, a dumbbell rack and a small multi-gym. Gyms double the size dedicate even more space to the selectorized equipment and can typically fit 7-8 pieces of cardiovascular equipment, small freeweight area, and a small circuit of selectorized equipment. As floor space increases, the ratio of strength equipment to cardiovascular equipment approaches typical fitness center percentages mentioned above. These calculations can then used to determine what categories of strength and cardiovascular equipment to choose.

Strength equipment selection is broken down into two categories - selectorized equipment, or equipment with a weight stack, and freeweight equipment. Although most freeweight equipment is standard for the majority of hotels - single dumbbell rack with one to two benches, the selectorized equipment selection requires more thought. Within selectorized equipment there are three types of design - multi-gyms, dual-function pieces, and single station. In general, multi-gyms have the smallest footprint while still offering exercises for the entire body and are used in smaller hotels. They can range from one to four stacks, sometimes more. The number of weight stacks correlates to how many guests can use the machine at one time. The downside to the multi-gym is that, 1) they limit the quantity of equipment for your guests since many of the exercises are done at the same station, 2) the limited number of stations requires the units to have a number of adjustments which may be too advanced for many of your unconditioned guests, and, 3) biomechanically, or how the machine functions in relation to the natural movement of the body, they are usually inferior to the single stations. Larger hotels should always first consider the single stations and, if limited floor space is an issue, the dual-stations second over the multi-gym.

Within each of the three categories of strength equipment there are a number of different equipment choices in terms of the targeted muscle group. Multi-gyms are fairly standard in targeted muscle groups and are chosen based upon their footprint and the number of weight stacks. Given space limitations pieces of selectorized equipment that work the major muscle groups should be chosen first and, if any room is available, the machines that target the smaller, more specific muscle groups. For example, initial major pieces include chest, back and leg machines and, if space is not an issue, arms, core, and specialty units.

There are a handful of reputable strength equipment manufacturers, all with similar pricing structures. Regardless of which company you decide to purchase through there are a number of general features to look for all of which will reduce your liability. Choose selectorized pieces with locking weight stack pins. Make sure each piece has a placard that shows proper usage and adjustment. Look for durable upholstery that is double stitched with covers in high use areas. Weight machine frames should be welded and painted with a powdercoating. Shrouds, although optional on some brands, should be included to encase the moving weight stacks. Finally, look for companies with warranties comparable to lifetime on the structural steel, five years on moving parts, and one year on the cables, bearings, and springs.

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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.