Focusing on Flooring: The New Differentiator
When your club is studying trends in the industry, you are probably focused on equipment or programming. But have you considered flooring?
Mark Miller, the COO of Merritt Clubs, said flooring may seem like a little thing, however its impact to the member experience can be huge. Sometimes, the devil is in the details.
“I think the current trend you are seeing in most clubs is moving away from carpets and moving to surfaces that are aesthetically pleasing and easy to clean — surfaces that can provide a wow image and yet do not hold sweat, such as tiles, laminate floors, etc.,” said Miller.
Steve Chase, the president of Fitness Flooring, agreed aesthetics matter when it comes to flooring. A trend he has seen is the use of luxury vinyl planks in sectorized areas.
“The planks give the appearance of wood and yet are virtually waterproof,” said Chase. “They provide another aesthetic that was unavailable in those areas because the use of wood was too expensive and otherwise impractical. The initial planks were fairly unattractive and were not particularly durable, but in the last five years they have become almost indistinguishable from wood flooring. While they provide virtually no resilience or impact protection, if used in areas where neither is a concern, they can be used fairly successfully.”
Justin Honas, the director of procurement and design at Active Wellness, said another major trend in flooring is defining specific space and function. “This has not only become popular, but I believe it is here to stay,” he said. “By having the proper specified flooring for each area, you can not only create safer places to exercise, but have a flooring that will last longer, look better and add to the overall program experience delivered in that specific space.”
For Chase, understanding the specific space where the flooring will go is the most important part. The first question he asks people when inquiring about flooring is, “What activities do you intend to do in this area?” He explained it is good to map out all the potential uses of the floors because clubs may be buying a floor that isn’t necessarily what is needed.
Take rubber, for example. “Rubber is ideal for weight areas because it provides a high level of traction for rubber soled shoes, ensuring you don’t slip when lifting,” said Chase. “However, it may not be good for other exercises where you require sliding motions or are perhaps pushing a sled where the friction level becomes too high.”
Miller also emphasized clubs should keep in mind how critical it is to be mindful of the use of the space. “Is it a multipurpose space? Who will be in there? What demands will be on surfaces?” asked Miller. “How will it be maintained and cleaned? In today’s world you need surfaces that do not hold sweat or smells and can be cleaned quickly and easily.”
After the COVID-19 pandemic, the health club industry is going to be focused on cleaning and sanitization more than ever. This should be taken into consideration when choosing flooring.
“Given the situation, I don’t know that a lot changes in flooring design, but I would expect a lot to change in the type of materials used,” said Chase. “I would expect we will see a large reduction in carpet squares used in fitness and a return to more solid surface materials that can be thoroughly cleaned on a more regular basis.”
Chase explained the coronavirus pandemic created concern about touching things others have touched, and he expects people are going to want to make sure the flooring they lie on to do stretching, yoga or other exercises is immaculate. That is hard to ensure without a solid surface. “I also think cleaning of everything in the gym will be more regular and disinfection will be a much more prominent concern,” said Chase.
For Honas, he thinks understanding the science of flooring will be the next big thing in the industry.
“While this is not new to the flooring manufacturers, it will soon be understood and expected by club operators,” said Honas. “Flooring will be more closely evaluated for its true needs which include, but are not limited to, friction coefficient to prevent slipping, force reduction to protect subfloor, and energy restitution for comfort and noise absorption for surrounding areas.”
Regardless of what the next major trend in flooring will be, it is vital to make sure your health club is paying attention. Do not underestimate the importance of flooring. “It is really easy for fitness-minded operators to focus on fitness equipment and programming while leaving the flooring decisions to architects and contractors,” said Honas. “You would never let someone outside of the industry make the final decisions on what treadmills or dumbbells to buy. I would highly recommend looking at your flooring as a key piece of equipment in your club.”