When the average guest is on the road, he or she is not going to the hotel gym to necessarily bulk up. Instead, guests are focused on keeping up with the physical routine they follow when at home, which for many travelers involves more than just lifting weights, and often involves classes such as yoga and Pilates.
According to Christine Shanahan, managing director of design for architecture, design and construction consulting firm Jonathan Nehmer + Associates, hotels are catering to these needs by introducing more and more empty or open space in their fitness centers, and sometimes even an adjacent classroom space if possible. Shanahan said that hotels understand that some guests are choosing brands based on fitness facilities, and are upping their ante on fitness design.
“There is no product improvement plan going out the door that does not include hardcore renovations to the hotel fitness center,” Shanahan said. She sees most hotels pushing for 700 to 750 square feet of space for fitness facilities, with 500 square feet being the absolute minimum and fitness-focused properties pushing the limit to at least 1,200 square feet.
“It becomes an urban or non-urban question, with urban being the hardest to fit a large fitness center in,” Shanahan said.
In order to make room, some hotels are dropping old amenities that have gone out of style, such as saunas, Jacuzzis and other high-cost fixtures with no return and a reduced ability to draw guests in.
“Fitness facilities are purchasing fewer strength machines and creating larger spaces where recreational training can take place,” said Gary Henkin, president of wellness consultant and manager WTS International. “Medicine balls, foam rollers and single machines that can do more than one exercise can open up more space without doing renovations.”
Jon Liles, VP of strategic planning and development for WTS, says consolidation is the name of the game, creating stations for groups to train at together in cycles, while also allowing for a more open plan. “By planning a fitness center’s layout to be focused on groups, hotels can better benefit from group exercises like Spartan training, yoga and Pilates,” Liles said. “Social fitness is gaining traction, and fitness center layout can support this.”
What fitness centers should be made of
As fitness centers expand their open floor plans, Christine Shanahan, managing director of design for Jonathan Nehmer + Associates, said the focus has been on materials that are easy to clean and stay clean, particularly for ever-changing floor materials.
According to Shanahan, vinyl remains a popular floor material as it is resistant to odors, a limitation found in rubber floors. Shanahan says woven vinyl fibers can achieve an interesting textile look while being easy to clean.
“It can literally be hosed off, and has more force-absorbing cushion than other materials,” Shanahan said.
Frank Guengerich, COO of WTS International, said he is seeing more hotels pay attention to the way fitness center floors are disinfected and treated for germs.
“The consumer is becoming very aware of their environment, and we are seeing companies address that by treating for germs with anti-microbials,” Guengerich said.
Shanahan noted that most properties are still brand-specific when it comes to colors used in fitness centers, but there has been a push for less-institutionalized coloring across the board.
“Hotels should strive for a neutral palette with pops of color,” Shanahan said. “Go easy on the eye and a fitness center will look good for the long haul, but punch the color up in choice locations to create a feeling of energy.”
Four essential tips for hotel fitness center design
1 Hotels should perform a cost-needs analysis before embarking on a fitness center renovation to best determine how large and sophisticated the complex should be for guests. Hotels should consider locker room size as part of the fitness center during construction, and it is best to address these concerns early on during construction to avoid doubling back to re-think a facility’s layout. Factors such as the size of the hotel, how many keys it has, whether or not it has a residential component and what is located around the property have to be taken into account.
2 In the future, hotels will be paying more attention to the overall environment and its design. That means purposefully choosing everything from flooring to wallcoverings, lighting, showers, wet treatment areas, equipment and even sound systems so that they all make fitness centers more consumer friendly in terms of how they look, feel and smell.
3 Fitness center lighting should be warm, not bright. Designers in the past used as much light as possible in the wellness areas, creating an uncomfortable environment to train in over time. Allowing fewer, warmer lights, or preferably natural light, to fill a space, can help increase guest comfort.
4 If possible, tie together all of a property’s wellness facilities. Designs allowing the hotel pool to be visible from the fitness center often allow for more natural light to flow into the area, and often prompt guests using one facility to visit the other.
Lighting, guest comfort key in fitness centers
Positioning fitness centers within a hotel is key to creating an effective fitness space. Being able to provide access to natural light while remaining secluded enough for guests to enjoy their workouts can be a balancing act, but natural light is a major aspect of what guests are looking for.
“Whenever possible, we like to make more out of the fitness center,” said George Yabu of international design firm Yabu Pushelberg. In their design of the Park Hyatt New York, Yabu and his partner, Glenn Pushelberg, positioned the fitness center on a mezzanine that overlooks the property’s pool, as well as 57th street.
“This not only provided the fitness center with a steady flow of natural lighting, but it also animates the guest experience in the space,” Yabu said.
The goal for Yabu Pushelberg is to create a fitness center experience that is opposite of what a guest would find at a commercial gym, and that means higher design fundamentals, such as outfitting the space with cushioned wood flooring that is padded underneath with cork.
All of these design decisions are made to help guests feel not only comfortable, but healthy. Jon Liles, VP of strategic planning and development for WTS International, said he sees evidence of the words wellness and well-being becoming more popular in reference to fitness centers, with design fundamentals to match the vernacular.