Business of Well-being

Creating the Right Fitness Facility For Your Company, Part 2

Now that you have had a month or so to begin formulating a plan, you have an idea in which direction the Wellness Program of your company is heading. The surveys have come back and there is an overwhelmingly positive response and the employees are giving you the enthusiasm that you were hoping for. This is crucial because, now, it is your time to kick the idea upstairs to those who control the finances, and sell them on the necessity and the desire within the company for the in-house fitness facility.

Still, you must remember to not get over-excited and begin planning a gym to rival the local workout center. It is much, much easier to add equipment and programs into an existing space than it is to remove equipment that is rarely used and sell/return it. Let me emphasize this again- it is easier to sink a 40 foot putt at Augusta during the Masters than it is to recoup even 50% of the purchase cost of any fitness equipment! The costliest aspect of your facility is not the construction, it is the equipment.

Unless you have specific requests for certain machines-cardiovascular or weightlifting-and multiple requests at that, err on the frugal side at first. I don't mean to scour garage sales and purchase old machines and rusty weight plates, but don't feel that you need to spend $5,000 on a treadmill (and one is usually not enough) and break your budget on the first purchase. In all my years of designing studios and gyms, I have acquired equipment from the most unlikely of places.

I have purchased equipment from recreation centers, professional fitness facilities closing down or remodeling, fire departments or police precincts changing out their machines for shiny new pieces (taxpayer money is wonderful to spend but painful to give!), even from Craig's List or online auctions. The last two are the riskiest if you are not experienced in procuring fitness equipment as the quality, the condition and the prices of these pieces are not always the bargains they appear to be.

Quite often, most used pieces will require some form of overhaul ranging from minor cosmetic touch ups to complete decks and belts and electronics. Is it cost effective to spend $500 on a used treadmill and then pump another $1,000 into it to make it as good as new? That depends on the quality of the treadmill (and the brand is a factor) and the skill of the mechanics performing the overhaul for you. I have one particular treadmill in my studio that I purchased used with over 25,000 miles on it.

I replaced the deck and belt, cleaned up the console and it is still going strong with now close to 50,000 miles on the odometer. Not bad for under $2,000. The same unit brand new was over $5,000. On the other side of the coin, I had a slightly used heavy duty home use treadmill that cost very little but soon began to break down every few months. It became cheaper to toss it out than to repair it. The point is, you will get good deals and you will also get a lemon.

Just like Las Vegas, if you finish with a winning percentage greater than 50% you will be happy. Even before you start your search for equipment, you will want to check on local fire and building codes. Many counties and cities will look at a fitness facility quite differently than say if you were expanding the cafeteria or lobby. Issues such as proper sprinkler coverage, fire equipment such as extinguishers, first aid kits (and AED's are a must!) and dedicated phone lines so that 911 can be quickly called are the very minimum.

Be sure to check with your local fire department before you start any construction so that you do not have to tear down and rebuild later. Check with the building engineer/plant maintenance department to verify that if you are building your facility on any floor above ground level that the structure of the building can support the additional weight and impact that will occur. Sound deadening material between floors and in the walls is a great idea and smart investment to dampen noise and vibrations emanating from the facility.

The next item-in my opinion- is the most important when planning an in-house fitness facility. The restroom / locker room. If you truly want participation-and the fact that you are still reading my columns shows that you have interest-than do not overlook how important the availability of a shower and changing facility is. I don't know a lot of people that want to work up a good sweat and then try to slide into a suit without being able to rinse off and apply some deodorant first. A simple locker room with just a few lockers and one or two showers and a changing bench to sit on will be more than enough.

Of course, you will want to have dedicated male and female locker rooms so that there is ample space and little waiting involved. An interesting side note about having a locker room is that it also encourages employees to ride /walk /run to work instead of driving everyday. Good for their health, good for the company bottom line and good for the environment that makes this truly a win-win-win! How you arrange for daily cleaning and sanitation must also be factored in, but most companies have some form of janitorial departments that can handle this either during a slow time of the day or in the evening after hours.

I think you are starting to realize that there is more to designing and implementing a fitness facility and program than most people consider. What I have revealed in these past few columns is just surface scratching-there are more issues to be addressed. I have not even begun to cover the process of developing a team to supervise the facility or design the workout programs. Before you even design the programs, you have to establish some baseline criteria for evaluation and measurement that complies with the fitness standards of your health insurance provider.

After all, besides the altruistic nature of your company and the perks you employ to attract and retain top talent, you are implementing this program to save money. Check with your provider during the design process and keep checking with them periodically throughout the startup to ensure that every dollar invested will eventually be realized in some sort of return. The items that cause the most fluctuation in premiums are blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes.

If you plan to focus on programs that help to reduce these risk factors, you will begin to tilt the scale in your favor. From there, other more elaborate programs can be developed and implemented depending upon the experience, education, skill and professionalism of your fitness staff. The truly good fitness professionals can also get their fingers on the pulse of the company culture and craft programs to enhance this culture.

So, take this basic outline and start listing the items important to your company and the programs/ facilities you feel are necessary to implement an in house fitness program. If you find yourself just spinning your wheels, then consider investing in a qualified and experienced consultant to help to streamline the process and keep you from failing to overturn every stone.  Good luck!

About the Author

Phil A. Lalli; BA/APFS, a native of East Northport, New York, is a Fitness Consultant and Professional Fitness Trainer. He currently resides in Tampa, Florida with his wife Bonnie and their 2 whippets who are part time pet therapy dogs and full time 38 mph couch potatoes. Questions, comments or suggestions? Phil can be reached at

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