Curt Moody is president and CEO of Moody·Nolan, Inc. (www.moodynolan.com), an architecture, interior design and civil engineering firm specializing in higher education, sports/recreation, health care and public service facilities. Headquartered in Columbus, OH, Moody·Nolan is the largest African-American owned and operated architecture and engineering firm in the nation.

Today’s society is progressively productivity driven. From increasing your company’s ROI to maximizing the amount of time you spend with friends and family, an emphasis is placed on the quantity, quality and outcome of a person’s performance. Having permeated every aspect of our increasingly busy lives, this input-vs.-output mentality is following people to the gym as well.

Whether training for a race, following doctor’s orders to get fit and lose weight or just finding tranquility at yoga class after a stressful day, motivations to exercise are plentiful, and steps to achieve individual fitness goals are just as varied. Design firms are helping facility owners and managers by understanding what’s hot and what’s not in today’s fitness arena. Design firms also help make sure centers are “fit” to effectively serve increasingly diverse membership interests.

From facility design to innovative fitness monitoring technology, there are more items on the market today than ever, allowing fitness enthusiasts to not only customize their workouts, but also individually monitor how far they’ve come—and how far they have left—on the road to their personal fitness destinations.

Ready, Set…Calculate
The majority of cardiovascular equipment (treadmills, steppers, exercise bikes and elliptical machines) have built-in monitors that predict and display how many calories the exerciser has burned in his or her workout, as well as the average and target heart rate, and time and distance traveled. Above and beyond these basic features, some technologies have advanced to incorporate personal entertainment choices with TV screens in each individual machine. Cardio machine users can plug in their personal headsets and step in time to their favorite rhythms or spin their way to health while watching a favorite show on a bank of TV sets mounted on the surrounding walls.

Offerings such as these greatly increase a facility’s competitive edge, encouraging current members to continue visiting, while attracting new members to join. However, although well-developed and as precise as possible, monitoring technology that is shared among multiple users is difficult to personalize to an individual’s age, height, weight, athletic ability and other variables. Taking the gym by storm are personal tools to monitor fitness progress. Some of these technological innovations can easily fasten to a person’s body via a strap and can be personally programmed and calibrated to an individual’s specifications. Not only do these solutions enhance the accuracy of calculations, but they also allow the exerciser to monitor his or her body’s reactions regardless of the activity or location.

Taking it to the Floor
While the trend of personal monitoring systems is on the rise, so, too, is the movement toward integrating free weights into workout routines. Surpassing the usual clanking barbells and selectorized equipment often associated with a weight room, facilities with high ceilings and large windows are appreciated by members. Workout rooms with natural light and open space between the cardio and weight equipment give members room to breathe and space to stretch and use free weights, resistance bands, and balance and medicine balls. Breaking down the walls of a previously male-dominated area, these open fitness areas encourage guests to leave self-consciousness at the door and step into spacious areas where members of all physical capabilities can find their comfort areas and take part in a collective journey toward personal health.

Research has demonstrated that health issues such as osteoporosis may be staved off with simple weight-bearing exercises. With a focus on strengthening core muscles, significant effort is being dedicated to reduce health risks and strengthen muscles and bones, and female participation in fitness programs has subsequently increased.

Structured programs, classes and clinics are other popular additions to a workout regimen. In addition to building strength and endurance, participants can build camaraderie with classmates, trainers and instructors. Incorporating walking tracks and exercise areas beyond the standard cardio and weight rooms encourages individuals to set their own pace of achieving their goals.

Regardless of whether members are following a strict diet and fitness plan or exercising just for pleasure, options are essential for facilities to help members find the workout routine that works best for them. Fitness areas should be designed to allow for an array of fitness equipment, classes and one-on-one personal training, allowing members to tailor their exercise routines. This, combined with the influx of personalized technology, allows a fitness regimen to be truly customized and tracked every step of the way—from the treadmill to the bench press to a Pilates class.