Industry leaders share the impact of COVID-19 on design trends and the increased value of personal space in fitness facilities.
COVID-19 has changed the way the health and fitness industry operates in nearly every department. But design trends that will not be going away anytime soon are those that incorporate space.
“Everyone will need to take note that just putting the most equipment in a space is not what a member wants anymore,” said Justin Honas, the director of procurement and design at Active Wellness. “This trend was coming long before COVID-19 but now will likely be here to stay.”
Honas said fitness facilities not only feel better when there is open space, but it allows users to have some distance between one another, which many will be more aware and appreciative of moving forward.
Rudy Fabiano, the CEO and design director of Fabiano Designs, agreed with Honas that the industry was headed toward more space pre-COVID with open turf installations and spaced-out equipment. But he did note the pandemic will end and more people will surge to clubs. “So, on the other hand we need to be ready for that influx of memberships as well,” said Fabiano.
The fitness floor isn’t the only area members will expect extra space within moving forward. Jill Kinney, the co-founder and chairman of Active Wellness, said space in locker rooms has always been a critical feature in the member experience, but even more so now. “If space is limited, going with simple changing rooms and express lockers is a better answer,” she said.
But creating more space doesn’t just apply to your indoor facility. Kinney said your club should also create open spaces outdoors that members can utilize.
“They add COVID-19 programming solutions and often expand the usable square footage without adding rent,” said Kinney. “The temporary solutions that have popped up recently provide ideas for how to make these into permanent additions. Uses include outdoor studios, cafés, pool bars and lounge areas, as well as childcare. Consider pergolas and unfinished ceilings, lots of windows and/or sliding doors for fresh air, but don’t forget the heating, cooling, lighting and audio/visual needs.”
In addition to creating more space, another design trend your facility can implement now is fitness pods. Having these designated spaces are great for personal training, open member use and the ability to reserve times.
According to Honas, personal workout pods have major staying power. They have been designing fitness centers with bays for years, finding pods define personal space with clean equipment and an area to work with a trainer.
Fabiano was inspired by cabanas at resort pools and has been working with a few clients over the years in implementing a similar approach with fitness pods as a revenue source. “People can rent them, or trainers can use them with private clients,” he said.
While it isn’t yet known the long-term affects the coronavirus will have on health club design trends, the industry is strong enough to adapt to whatever changes arise.
“Obviously, it’s been a tough time for clubs managing their operations,” said Fabiano. “With restricted occupancy, closings, cancelations and membership freezes, it seems the clubs are getting difficulties from all sides. However, the industry has been remarkably resilient in adapting to these issues. The speed at which we were able to convert to remote classes, outdoor workouts and managing the safety of the members in the club truly is an accomplishment.”