Keeping Fitness Equipment Fit

Editor’s Note: This column, “LBWA” (Leadership By Wandering Around), is based on the premise that, in order to find out what’s going on in the field, a parks and rec leader has to leave his or her desk and “wander around” the area of operations, talk to people, ask questions, and kick around ideas with the individuals in the thick of delivering services to the public. So the author will bring up issues and ask the leaders among the readership to share their knowledge and experiences. 

Make sure you keep your fitness equipment in good working order. Photo Courtesy of Greer Athletic Club, Greer, S.C.

Many years ago, I nearly lost my legs in a commercial fitness center because a poorly maintained squat weight-rack literally fell apart.

Half of the rack—carrying nearly 800 pounds of weight—fell because the bolts hadn’t been tightened when the machine was assembled. The rack sliced off the end of a flat bench upon which I was reclining while doing cable tricep extensions.

If my feet had been on the floor like they usually are during this exercise, the rack would have sliced through my knees instead of the padded, ¾-inch plywood bench.

It was at that moment I realized the importance of solid maintenance practices.

After the shock wore off, I went—actually, I stormed—into the manager’s office and had my first experience with a textbook example of awful maintenance management.

When I explained what had happened, she casually said, “OK, thanks for reporting that. It’s what I expect clients to do.”

This was the same manager who, a couple weeks prior, told me, “Here is a wrench,” when I informed her that the nuts on the heavy dumbells were loose, and it was dangerous when doing reps above one’s head.

I said incredulously, “You want me to fix the equipment?”

She told me that she expected clients to help keep the equipment maintained.

Long story short, I wrote a long letter to the owner of the gym, explaining his manager’s philosophy on customer service. She was gone the next day.

That’s a long story to illustrate that maintenance of fitness-center equipment not only is good business, but can actually save a business. I could have sued the owner, but he took appropriate actions to make sure the incident didn’t happen again, so I was satisfied.

The point is that when people walk into a fitness center, they shouldn’t have to think twice about whether the equipment is maintained.

Standards For Equipment Maintenance

While fitness centers have become a way of life for many people today, standards for maintaining equipment weren’t established until the late 1980s, according to Harvey Voris with ASTM International, formerly known as the American Society for Testing and Materials.

Safety requires regular maintenance. Photo Courtesy of Greer Athletic Club, Greer, S.C.

In a 2004 article posted on its website, Voris writes, “Injuries that occurred on low-end exercise bikes in the mid-[19]80s prompted the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to request ASTM Committee F08 on Sports Equipment and Facilities to form a subcommittee devoted to fitness products.”

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