How To Open Your Own Gym (Part 2)
In Part 1 of this series we discussed the different types of facilities one can open, the differences between a franchise and an independent club and funding options. In this installment we delve into the world of finding a property and floor planning.
Location, Location, Location!
Deciding where to open your fitness facility is easily one of the most important factors for determining your success or failure. According to IHRSA's Guide to the Health Club Industry for Lenders & Investors, “the trading area for clubs in competitive markets extends no more than 10 to 12 minutes travel time from the club, which translates into no more than five miles from the club site.” Lack of convenience and lack of close proximity are frequent reasons for members to quit a gym.
This is why demographics and feasibility studies are so important in the planning stages. Be sure to identify your target area (population, size of the area, and commute time) before committing to a location. It’s also important to be aware of projected growth in your target area so your existing location can accommodate more members in the future.
You also have to be cognizant of anchor tenants (other businesses in the vicinity), visibility, and traffic counts as these can all drive business to or away from your facility. Try to surround your business with others that support your vision and welcome your target population. Setting up shop behind the chemical plant and dive bar may not be the best way to drive traffic into your family fitness center.
Parking is often overlooked when selecting a property. According to architect Hervey Lavoie of the Ohlson Lavoie Corporation in Denver, you should plan on one parking space for every 12 to 15 members in a suburban club. (This accounts for the impact of public transportation and multiple passengers per car.)
- Make sure the site you select is in close proximity to your target population and convenient for them to access.
- Do your homework and be certain that the area demographics will support your business plan.
- Don’t overlook who you’re opening up next to and whether there is enough parking.
The Art of Floor Planning and Equipment Layout
Creating a welcoming and non-intimidating environment inside your facility is just as important as a good location. There are limitless effective design schemes out there but ensuring that your space is created with a purpose and follows the overall functions of the club should be top priority.
A gym should be inviting and create energy. This can be done with smart lighting, the effective use of color and a sensible layout. A typical fitness floor plan can attempt to weave the following into a seamless flow:
- Locker rooms / changing rooms / restrooms
- Main fitness floor
- Studios (personal training, group cycling, group exercise, etc.)
- Utility room
- Staff facilities (break room, restrooms, etc.)
Each area of the gym should flow into the next ensuring that members have convenient paths of travel throughout the building. Equipment should always be placed according to recommended spacing as well as reflect accessibility guidelines to provide equal access to all members.
The strategic placement of equipment on the main fitness floor should also be dictated by function, member demographics, and facility programming. Depending on your facility’s goals, there are different approaches to creating an effective fitness floor.
Create a variety of specific and separate fitness spaces. Separating free weight, cardio, selectorized strength and other areas creates clean sight lines and can minimize intimidation of new or potential members. For example, by creating distance between advanced training spaces and areas that are geared more towards exercisers new to fitness, semiprivate training environments can be achieved. You may have members with little to no interest in free weights. So why should they have to walk through a row of power racks to access the treadmill?
Keep in mind that some exercisers don't want to be on public display during their workouts. So rows of new cardio equipment don't necessarily need to be placed in high-traffic areas. Make sure you give members the option of privacy.
Use small group training as a hub of an open fitness room. A small group training area directly on the main fitness floor can create excitement and encourage members. Consider surrounding a large SYNRGY360 unit with cardio equipment that can be incorporated into group training or used by individuals.
Create dedicated personal training spaces. Personal training can drive a lot of revenue, and it can help members stay encouraged and keep them coming back to the gym. Allocate spaces where personal trainers can work with exercisers away from the general public.
Allow for flexibility. Have the ability to change with the wants and needs of exercisers. For example, some older health clubs opened in the late 1980s and early 90s with busy racquetball courts. As the popularity of the sport declined, these courts turned into unused rooms and storage spaces. Now, some of those clubs are benefiting from the boutique boom and turning those courts into specific boutique-type training areas that host classes like group cycling, performance strength training and yoga.
Regardless of the layout approach, the design should always seek to enhance members’ fitness experience to the fullest.
- Ensure that your facility is welcoming and not intimidating.
- Maintain a bright and open design.
- Ensure that each area of the gym can easily be accessed by all members.
- Equipment should be strategically and purposefully placed to meet the needs of your members.
- Be prepared to change to appeal to what exercisers want.