Jan 31, 2023

5 Common Mistakes in Fitness Center Design

Sometimes it feels like there are a million variables. Learn what to avoid so you can build a premier fitness center that will attract and retain tenants.

Building a premier fitness center is a huge undertaking. You’ve got the perfect building, and you’ve spent hours making sure the lobby and common spaces are just right. The fitness center deserves that same level of attention. Letting one of your top amenities fall through the cracks could be a pricey error. You can’t afford to fail to capitalize on this tenant-attracting amenity. We’ve been there before. It takes a lot of homework to know what works best, and unfortunately, it’s not like Field of Dreams: Even if you build it, they may not come. But there is a clear path to the fitness center of your dreams. Regrettably, few follow this clear path. It’s a balancing act with plenty of variables, but after consulting on the design of over 500 fitness projects in the last 20 years, we’ve learned exactly what it takes to craft the kind of fitness center that people want to use again and again.

There are plenty of mistakes to be made. Here are the five most common.

Mistake #1: Failure to give the locker rooms the attention they deserve

This facet of fitness centers is often just plain wrong. You can have the most expensive countertops and the fanciest finishes, but if you don’t have a locker room that is functional you won’t have many people use your gym. Users need to have space and feel comfortable. Square footage is important, but what’s even more important is how you use your square footage. If you get creative with space and ensure clear separation from wet to dry areas, you can give each user the room and comfort they need. Sometimes you should sweat the details. How many showers should you have for the men’s locker room? What about the women’s?  How many lockers do you need, what size should they be, how should they be oriented, which type of locks are secure and user friendly? The answers may surprise you, but if you guide your design with questions like these, your locker rooms will be a true amenity.

Mistake #2: Selecting the wrong equipment

There are a lot of options out there. And a new crop of “experts” seems to pop up with every new fitness trend. Are you getting your advice from an unbiased, knowledgeable source who is dedicated to your fitness center? It’s important to select equipment that will stand the test of time. You’ve put a lot of sweat into your fitness center, so you and your users need equipment that will still be popular and usable years from now. Deciding to lease or buy, and what preventative maintenance and warranty you need are crucial decisions to your long-term success. Find the right balance. Some users will covet cardio, others will be all about the weights. To keep both crowds happy, you’ll need a variety of equipment, open space for functional training, and plenty of room for users to circulate within your fitness center.

Mistake #3: Underestimating the impact of your A/V system

This system gets botched more than any other. It’s easy to downplay the importance of A/V, but music is one of the first things people experience when they walk through your front door. The tech can be overwhelming. Just like workout equipment, there are plenty of options, a lot of “experts,” and even more questions. Does your cable provider integrate with your brand new treadmills? Are you getting full functionality from the state-of-the-art equipment you just purchased?  Have you considered virtual training equipment and if so, which system is best?  You may need an experienced consultant to help you find the right systems and set-up for your space. Placement is key. Do you want community TVs or embedded screens? How you answer that question can greatly affect your equipment layout.  What about music in the weight room, group studio, and locker rooms?  Should everyone hear the same thing all the time?  These are just a couple of the questions you should consider as you strive to optimize your premier fitness center and your guest experience.

Mistake #4: Neglect functionality when choosing finishes

Architects know their stuff and will create a beautiful design, but a fitness center is nuanced. While the design may be aesthetically great, does it consider the operational demands unique to fitness? You may smell a problem before you see it. Do you install the same flooring in the cardio area as the weight area or the fitness studio? Many architects may not account for the operational demands for specific flooring. If you get the flooring wrong, it could have a costly, timely, and smelly effect on the success of your fitness center.  Every nook and cranny matters. Which wall is the best for logos and graphics? Where should wall mirrors be placed? Will you be providing towels, and if so, where is the millwork for storage and towel drops? There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, but after all the work you put in to your fitness center, you should have the finishes that make sense for your space.

Mistake #5: Thinking that you’re ready to open once construction is finished

You’ve done everything right, but you still feel like you missed something. We get it: There’s nothing quite like the anxiety that comes before your grand opening. That’s why it’s important to double and triple-check every detail and ensure all of the dots are connected. Lining up vendors, sourcing locker room supplies, and creating a system for user liability waivers are just a few of the important decisions that must be made before you open. You need someone in your corner who has your best interests in mind. Because sometimes vendors need an extra push, and for you, “good enough” is not enough. Your fitness center is the culmination of time, sweat, and a significant financial investment. Having someone in your corner to do the pick-ups, run the checklists, and coordinate dozens of vendors can be the difference between opening on time and enduring a costly delay.

Avoid these mistakes, and your tenants will thank you. Your premier building deserves a premier fitness center. If you avoid these common errors, you’ll end up with a fitness center that tenants want to use over and over again. If you have questions about any of these common design mistakes, or would like to know more about how Trophy Fitness can help in making the fitness center design process seamless, contact us to set up a free consultation!