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Cardio Equipment: Price Isn’t Everything


What’s the most common factor consumers consider when making any purchase? The price. But shopping for cardio equipment is not the time to be cheap.

“Don’t buy on price alone,” advised Jennifer Beaton, the senior vice president of The Bay Club Company. “Price is important, but that’s definitely not what drives all of our buying decisions.”

According to Beaton, there are numerous qualifiers beyond just the price that can make cardio equipment a great fit. “You have to look at warranties, service history and more interpersonal things when making your purchase decisions,” she said.

In fact, the first and most important consideration is how well the cardio equipment itself will fit into your club’s layout and members’ needs.

“You need to know your market and your business model,” said Anton Conlon, the CEO at Gold’s Gym El Paso in El Paso, Texas. “The industry is always evolving and it’s good to have standout pieces that will excite current members, entice potential members to join, and motivate your sales team who take potential members on tours.”

The cardio equipment in your club is important, and certain focal points — mix of equipment, ease of maintenance and new technology — can help make your next equipment choice the right one.

A Healthy Mix

According to Conlon, going straight to your members is the best way to find the right variety of equipment pieces. “The more people you ask, the more opinions you’ll get about the right cardio equipment,” he said. “A lot of people will always want treadmills and ellipticals, but not everyone. So make sure there’s a healthy mix.”

Likewise, The Bay Club Company uses its membership to gauge equipment choices, with a special focus on daily convenience and reduced wait times.

“We base these choices on the size of our membership and our facility,” explained Beaton. “We try to make sure there are no waits for our members, or it’s at least a very minimal wait during prime time for equipment. That experience is important to us.”

But it’s possible to have too much of a good thing, according to Beaton. “At the same time, we don’t want to overpopulate our fitness floors with too much cardio, selectorized or any other equipment,” she said. “It’s about constantly observing the usage patterns and evolving our strategies as fitness continues to evolve.”

Once you have the data you need on your members’ preferences, equipment manufacturers from around the industry can also serve as good resources.

“During your process of shopping for equipment, choose three manufacturers to speak to,” said Conlon. “Good sales reps will have ratios for the number of cardio pieces you should have — don’t be scared to ask. Then, depending on your business model, you can adjust and settle on something you feel comfortable with.”

In the end, Gold’s Gym El Paso chose Matrix Fitness as its primary equipment provider. “We decided to invest in Matrix Fitness equipment, which we have at both our locations,” shared Conlon. “Having quality equipment in both gyms gives consistency to our members.”

The Bay Club Company primarily uses Precor, Life Fitness and Technogym for its equipment, largely because relationships they’ve built with each company’s team have yielded very positive results.

“We’ve had great experiences with Precor for our elliptical equipment,” said Beaton. “Life Fitness is where we buy the majority of our treadmills. We’ve also had some good experiences with Technogym.”

Extending Equipment Life

When making purchasing decisions, clubs should also take maintenance into account. This is where usage patterns become important. “Good gym operators will observe their gyms being used,” said Conlon. “You will notice some cardio pieces are more popular than others.”

There are several questions you should ask when creating regular maintenance schedules or planning big repairs: How often do certain pieces get used? What locations in the gym see the most foot traffic? How will any maintenance affect members?

“In our clubs, there are areas where members tend to congregate, and they have their favorite pieces,” explained Beaton. “The mileage on those units is much higher, so constantly monitoring and rotating equipment to give them the most life is important.”

And of course, the best way to prevent broken down machines is diligent preventative maintenance. “Having a regular preventative maintenance schedule is super important, so you touch things before they become catastrophic,” said Beaton.

Preventative maintenance can be as simple as regularly sweeping the floor around machines, wiping equipment down, inspecting wiring and wall outlets, and making sure no trash is laying near equipment.

“Dust, sweat, bottlecaps and pieces of paper can kill treadmills,” explained Conlon. “Make sure your housekeeping and maintenance team frequently pull treadmills out to vacuum the dust underneath.”

New Tech

New technology is constantly being integrated into equipment pieces. “Some of the manufacturers have equipment-monitoring software — you can see the exact usage or whether there’s a maintenance issue,” said Beaton. “Those are really helpful tools in making sure you’re optimizing the life of your equipment and that you have the right mix.”

What’s most exciting from a member’s perspective, however, is the growing prevalence of wearable technology that connects to cardio equipment.

“Wearable technology is a game-changer, and Myzone is a good example,” said Conlon. “Having real-time, personal and accurate statistics of your workout, cardio or otherwise, becomes addictive as you battle against yourself or fellow gym members into the red zone.”

According to Conlon, gamification through equipment can significantly boost engagement. “This is so much more fun than staring at a generic display on a treadmill or an elliptical,” he said.

Whether it’s through connectivity and gamification, or tried-and-true popular pieces, the right cardio equipment is a game-changer. And by focusing on factors beyond just the price, you’ll be a step closer to the right choice for your club. 

Bobby Dyer

Bobby is the former assistant editor of Club Solutions Magazine.

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