Keeping Fitness Equipment Fit

That subcommittee went on to develop standards of safety, and thus maintenance, for equipment then and today.

Since the 1980s, the variety of cardio and strength-training equipment available in fitness centers has expanded considerably beyond bare-bones stationary bikes; now the bikes might have digital-gaming software that puts riders into scenic riding settings of their choice.

Many bikes, treadmills, and other aerobic machines now have TV monitors, hookups for audio players, and devices to monitor vital signs.

Now there are elliptical machines, rowing machines, ski machines, climbing machines, etc. There is an equally impressive variety of strength-training equipment beyond free weights.

Devise A Plan

For the professional fitness-center staff, keeping all of this equipment up and running is the key to keeping happy customers. It also calls for a well-oiled maintenance plan, especially as winter drives more people inside for exercise in order to prepare for the upcoming swimsuit season.

“We definitely see more people coming in, starting at the end of December and on into January and February,” says George Gagnon, owner of Greer Athletic Club in Greer, S.C., which opened its doors in 1980.

“Treadmills are probably more prone to having to be maintained and can potentially have breakdowns because they are the most popular, and eventually you’ll have to replace belts or motors,” he says, adding that elliptical machines run a strong second in popularity.

He adds that even though there may be costs involved in this maintenance, it is worth it.

“I don’t like things to be broken,” Gagnon explains. “There’s nothing worse than a club that constantly has broken equipment.”

He adds that if his staff can’t fix it, he has local maintenance contractors come in to get machines running again quickly.

“But really, these machines are very well made,” he stresses. “The main thing I find you have to do is clean, and we clean every day. If you’re doing that and keeping up with the general maintenance, you’re going to do well with the machines.”

He emphasizes every staff member—including maintenance personnel—is involved in cleaning and maintaining equipment.

“There are always down times in clubs—late morning, early afternoon, late at night—these are the times when the staff has to be out there cleaning and maintaining equipment,” he says.

Gagnon also points out that even though there is more technology in fitness equipment compared to that of the 1980s, manufacturers have found ways to minimize maintenance.

“These companies have learned so much over the past 20 or 25 years in terms of engineering and design that there is really very little maintenance to deal with,” says Gagnon, who is also a fitness enthusiast.

What’s Important To Patrons

In today’s fitness environment, having a wide variety of exercise options is a key to success, whether in the private sector or in municipal fitness centers.

“The wide variety of equipment doesn’t create a unique challenge for our facility,” says Brian Karr, Fitness/Wellness Specialist for the city of Brea, Calif., located in the foothills of Orange County.

“The strength and cardio machines are vital to our gym’s success, so we keep a close eye on our machines, from daily cleaning to monthly maintenance,” he says.

In addition to in-house service on machines, Karr says the city contracts with David Hare, owner and operator of Club Services, who is available within 48 hours to service nonfunctioning machines.

He adds that the most challenging machine from a maintenance aspect is the cross trainer, also known as the elliptical trainer. This machine uses a circular motion to simulate walking, running, and climbing with minimal impact to joints, thus minimizing injuries.

“They are challenging because they are heavily used by our members, which in turn creates more wear and tear on the machine,” says Karr. “Also, there are a lot of wearable and moving parts on the cross trainer, and over time this can create problems with the machine.”

Pushing Equipment To The Limits

Fitness equipment probably undergoes its greatest stress test on military bases, where fitness isn’t just a pastime, but a requirement.

“All of our equipment is high commercial-grade and must meet Air Force standards,” says Air Force Technical Sergeant Franklin Guerrero, Jr., the Fitness Center Operations Director at Travis Air Force Base in California.

“We service 6,000 active-duty and 4,000 reservists plus retirees and family members for a total of about 400,000 annual customers,” notes Guerrero.

“Treadmills get the most usage,” he says. “Equipment has been known to electronically fail and have parts such as belts needing replacement.”

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