A woman moved to a new city and went shopping for a new health club. Her previous fitness facility had introduced her to functional training, and she was looking to continue her exercise regimen at a new club.

She visited both national chains and local clubs, which offered a variety of machines and cardio equipment. Unfortunately, none had the open space that she needed — a “new” area that would allow her to continue functional training using a wide range of exercise tools, such as medicine balls, bands, exercise balls and more.

The woman wanted to use some strength and cardio machines and do some free weights, but her workout now had a new balance with core body movements using her new exercise “toys.” Functional training enabled her to use her body in such a way that related to how she used her body in her daily life.

This training rejuvenated her, and it has rejuvenated fitness training nationwide. Functional training is credited with creating a renaissance in personal training because it gets people better results and helps them to start feeling like energetic children again. This is the main reason that personal training is the fastest growing profit center in clubs. However, if clubs do not properly plan for functional training, the profits will go to their competitors that do.

So when this individual went out looking for a new club, the one thing she did not find in most of the clubs she visited was the space to do this training. Nor did she find the training tools needed for functional fitness. Two of the clubs were 45,000 square feet and each had only 150 square feet for “floor work” and stretching. Another club had some of the tools, but they were in piles here and there with no place to properly store them or adequately use them. Most clubs had plenty of equipment but no place to get a complete workout.

Industry trends show that clubs that don't allow for a minimum of 400 square feet to 1,000 square feet of open space are missing the boat. It's also equally important to allow for easily accessible space to store all of the apparatuses used by individuals to experiment with in moving and conditioning their bodies to new levels.

If ever the word magic could be used in a health club, it could be when you take a minimally used racquetball court, office area or lobby space and turn it into a functional training area. Recently, a Connecticut club transformed a poorly used bar and restaurant area into a new personal training area. The facility added more windows so the members could see the functional training apparatus and people doing a wide range of “new” movements. The area is now the “talk of the club.” Members are asking, “What are those people doing?” and “How do I learn to do those exercises?” The excitement and visible exposure of the space combined with qualified personal trainers have personal training revenue growing rapidly. Now the former 500 square feet of minimal revenue producing space is a new found “gold mine” for the 26-year-old club.

New clubs shouldn't even dream of opening facilities without such space, and existing clubs should even get rid of some fixed movement machines (could it possibly be that fewer machines might even be better?) to make way for some open training spaces.

Training space is therefore absolutely necessary for any “club of the future.” A club will limit its ability to generate more training revenue, will have less satisfied customers and will lose its competitive edge in the marketplace if it doesn't make this space available.

Additionally, clubs are learning that training spaces work far better when the club employs qualified trainers who believe in and are well versed in functional training. When the trainers start to adopt a new training prescription for people to reach their goals combined with the new space and necessary apparatuses to do such training, the training space produces the highest revenue per square foot in a club.

Training spaces serve the evolving needs of the marketplace and the physical activity requirements of the average inactive adult. Wonderful opportunities are waiting for those that take advantage of this and progressively educate people on what is now considered “lifestyle” training. Take a look at your club and see if you are benefiting from this renaissance of training. Your members will be rewarded with more satisfying fitness, and you will be rewarded with more profits.


Bruce Carter is the president of Optimal Fitness Design Systems International, a club design firm that has created about $420 million worth of clubs in 45 states and 26 countries.