While exercise has always been a staple of human existence, the ways in which we conduct our workouts have evolved. Where once running, climbing and other physical activities were built into everyday tasks, we now need to carve time out of our schedules to make these happen manually. For many, this comes in the form of a visit to their local gym or recreation center. As the larger culture has changed, so has physical fitness, the areas in which we practice and the equipment we use to assist in these efforts. To keep up with these developments, we can take a moment to take stock of what’s changing and how we can be tailoring our services to these progressions.
Today, life moves at a faster pace, and individuals face increasing demands that require them to constantly manage their priorities as efficiently as possible. It can be difficult to find time to focus on health when work, family and other needs are vying for our time. This cultural shift has led to a new type of exercise regimen, called high-intensity interval training (HIIT). HIIT is a form of cardio workout where individuals alternate between short bursts of powerful anaerobic exercise, followed by short periods of recovery. Because of the intensity of the workout, HIIT sessions usually last no more than 30 minutes and have gained traction thanks to the amount of benefit to be gained in a relatively short amount of time.
If the purpose of HIIT is to make the most of a short exercise session, having the right equipment to assist is crucial. One HIIT workout contains many varying types of exercises, so the equipment used can range from something as small and simple as a jump rope to as large as a rowing machine. The best equipment for these fluctuating workout sessions are those that are versatile, providing several exercise options and benefits. For example, a popular apparatus is training ropes, which are simple and inexpensive, yet are valued for being multipurpose and highly effective. It’s not necessary to be an expert gym-goer to figure out how to climb, pull or swing a rope, and the assorted options help to provide a full-body workout for the user. Another simple, yet effective, item is a medicine ball, which can be repurposed for both strength and cardio workouts. Sandbags and kettlebells also provide similar myriad benefits for a relatively low cost and little to no required maintenance.
A lasting trend that continues to fuel the workout world is group training and for good reason. As with anything that can quickly feel like a chore, it’s much easier to get motivated when we turn work time into social hour, and in sticking to our goals, we have others to hold us accountable. One of the most popular group classes, indoor cycling, rose to popularity by combining elements of HIIT with a positive social environment. Spin class participants can adjust the equipment to best fit their needs to create the optimal workout for them, while simultaneously gaining the benefits of a shared workout experience. They can test new equipment with guidance from staff for the assurance they are using the device properly and making the most of their workout, without being put on the spot. While cycling has proven to be a current favorite, almost any piece of gym equipment has the potential to become a sensation when paired with a motivational trainer, a solid routine and a group of friends.
The Latest Advances
A good workout can make anyone feel a little bit powerful. But, did you know, you can — quite literally — generate power with your workout? A handful of fitness equipment companies have found their niche in the environmental movement by modifying traditional fitness equipment with micro-inverter technology to turn calories into watts. Some gyms have fully embraced the idea by powering their gym almost entirely through eco-friendly production channels. One such gym in Rochester, New York, called Eco Gym, has minimized its carbon footprint by combining power-generating fitness equipment with solar and wind energy, sourced from panels and turbines attached to the roof, in order to keep the lights on and the air conditioner blowing. The equipment, in most cases, is not enough by itself to power an entire gym, but it can significantly lower a gym’s overhead costs. Not to mention, in today’s eco-conscious society, it is critical to be looking for green solutions and to diminish waste, including from the energy we produce. Harnessing the energy individuals are already exerting is an innovative and growing solution for the fitness industry to make a dent in its impact on the environment.
It’s also not surprising that ‘smart’ electronics have made their way into the fitness world. Everything, from our phones to our fridges, is connected to the internet — why shouldn’t our workout equipment be also? Smart gym equipment allows users to store their health history, track goals and create personalized exercise routines. Some smart equipment even goes as far as offering classes via video and virtual personal trainers to help keep users motived and on track. Though there are still concerns to be addressed, such as privacy issues related to tracking health data, the integration of technology is growing in popularity and smart equipment will become more widely used as these challenges are resolved.
Making the Most of Your Gym
Contrary to popular belief, the most successful gyms are not always those with the shiniest equipment. In fact, most gym-goers prefer a space stocked with the right equipment rather than quantity or appearances. In order to determine the right equipment for your gym, knowing your audience is a must. For many recreation centers, this means serving a diverse pool of individuals with varying needs. Providing a variety of equipment options in a space that is welcoming will attract patrons more than having the newest gear on the market. Incorporating uncommon equipment that fosters unique experiences, such as rock-climbing walls and large trampolines, can also help to draw new faces into your facility. No matter how large or small your operation may be, taking the time to strategize and be intentional about the experience provided through your equipment can make or break the success of your gym.
Lindsay Collins is the Associate Editor for NRPA's Parks & Recreation magazine.