The search for new cardio equipment can be time-consuming and one of the more difficult aspects of health club management, but finding the right equipment and the right mix of equipment is important to the success of a facility.
Stephen J. Suchanek (left), director of product management at Cybex International, says that before you can pick the right equipment for your fitness facility, you must know your demographics and their needs. Photo courtesy of Cybex International.
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The search for new cardio equipment can be time-consuming and one of the more difficult aspects of health club management, but finding the right equipment and the right mix of equipment is important to the success of a facility. Factors to consider when investing in products include your business plan, construction and design, service and warranties, research and entertainment options.
Your business plan is a determining factor in your equipment choice because it lays out who your target clientele is and what their wants and needs are. For example, if your members are aging Baby Boomers who may not be as sports-minded as the under 50 group but are health-conscious, then your equipment choices should be accessible and stable with low step-up heights or no need to step over anything to get onto the machine. If your members are mostly busy adults, you want to purchase equipment that will allow them to burn as many calories as possible in 30 minutes.
Club owners need to keep comfort and security in mind with certain demographics. For machines such as treadmills and cross trainers on which users must support their body weight by holding on to rails or handles, users must on occasion reach out for the controls, too. Therefore, controls need to be clearly identified and positioned so the users’ hands can be stable and they do not have to hunt for buttons when they reach out. Similarly, users of different heights have hands at different heights so the ideal machine will allow users to hold on at multiple heights.
Quality construction, durability and design are important on all products. When purchasing treadmills, pay special attention to the side rails. Side rails made of steel are more robust than plastic. Steel rails are more expensive, but when looking at the cost of ownership—especially if your facility does not replace products the moment the warranty is up—steel saves money in the long run.
When purchasing stationary bikes, look at the material choice for the cycle cranks. Road bikes may use aluminum, which is higher tech and allows them to be as light as possible, but steel puts up with much more abuse. The material used on the better-quality road bikes is not up to the rigor of club use. Even the extreme road cyclist cannot match the use a cycle gets in a club. In addition, key components of stationary cycles need protection from sweat. Stationary bikes also should have sealed bearings to keep lubricant in and dirt out.
Many manufacturers do research on their equipment to ensure users get results and because certain things intuitively make sense, but science may prove otherwise. Look on manufacturers’ websites for real research findings on their equipment from reputable institutions.
Warranty and service agreements play a crucial role in overall purchasing decisions. As a gym owner, you want reliability and reasonable service agreements. Compare warranties and service agreements to see which ones best fit your needs based on how long you keep equipment and whether you have an in-house maintenance person. Keep in mind how the warranty mixes with your overall cash flow.
Certain items are must-haves these days on cardio equipment. And the biggest must-have is an entertainment option. More members are using their smart devices during their workouts. Products that can charge and control these devices help provide a more seamless workout. TVs can be a great distraction. Content can be delivered through embedded monitors, or if a facility wants to keep from plugging in self-powered devices, embedded receivers are available for TV screens that have been suspended at the front of the cardio area.
Stephen J. Suchanek is director of product management at Cybex. He is responsible for driving strategic marketing plan development for new and existing products. He leads key initiatives to identify industry trends, opportunities and improvements for existing products.