When it’s always under your feet, flooring can be easily overlooked. With a multitude of new options, how do you pick what’s best and most efficient for your facility?
The first step is to decide where flooring will be used. Group X spans a variety of movements that require flooring with shock absorption and the ability to move upon impact. “From our custom fitness classes to structured Les Mills group fitness and everything in between, we use wood flooring for the flexibility it gives for any jumping and movement,” said Robert Schneider, the IT facilities director at the Memphis JCC.
In contrast to Group X, functional training and weight lifting areas require a very different surface. “For most functional training and weight lifting, I recommend the relatively inexpensive rolled recycled rubber,” said Steve Chase, the president of Fitness Flooring. “It does a good job of being slip proof, while doing an adequate job of protecting your subfloor and weights from damage when they are dropped.”
The Memphis JCC follows the rubber trend as well. “Where we annually put in new pieces of equipment, we use sturdier MONDO flooring so people can weight lift and do more strenuous exercise,” said Schneider. “Without the right type of flooring in place, it may cause damage to the floors, so we made sure to have the right quality product in place for our members to take the most advantage of.”
To prevent floor damage, which costs your facility more long-term, it’s important to invest upfront. By investing, you save time and money from costly repairs that further hinder your member experience.
“I have seen gyms use thinner tiles or rolls in their heavyweight areas, and felt the subfloor beneath is uneven,” said Chase. “When we peeled back the rubber, we found the concrete subfloor had turned to dust, from countless heavy weights being dropped in the same places for years.”
Additionally, maintenance plays a large role in cost savings with both indoor and outdoor surfaces. The Memphis JCC maintains 10 acres of outdoor playing fields, an outdoor tennis court and water park. Their tennis court maintenance includes brushing the courts free of debris, surrounding the fence line with a windscreen, and washing the courts in spots that need deep cleaning. This prevents continual court replacement and is visually appealing to members.
They also treat their playing fields throughout the year with aerating, re-seeding, and pre and post-emergent weed removal. Members who are interested in your outdoor facilities often see this space before they even come through your door, making visual appearance just as important.
“We make sure the grass is cut in the growing season twice a week at regulation length for soccer,” said Schneider. “We have built-in irrigation in our fields, rain sensors to make sure we don’t overwater them, and fertilizer to make sure the grass looks as healthy as possible.”
Turf is making its way into fitness facilities as functional training grows more popular. To fit this need, you may want to consider revisiting the flooring in your open gym spaces. “Turf is a relatively new phenomenon in recreation centers — I am seeing more and more strips of it for sled pushing and sprints,” said Chase.
Another beneficial surface is portable flooring. It can be picked up and moved quickly, which is ideal for multi-use spaces. “It’s perfect for larger events that require more space than what you can currently accommodate, or for events that occur in areas where you typically do not have regular activities,” said Chase. “We’ve sold a large portable floor for a rec center that has indoor soccer fields, but wanted to use that area in the off season for a number of basketball tournaments.”
What’s the next big thing in fitness flooring? Although rec centers have been fans of high-quality wood floors, the varieties of rubber flooring are changing the way they view their fitness areas. “Thicker rubber surfaces are a relatively new addition to the market and something rec centers have recognized they need, especially for lifting areas with heavy weights, and even throughout the weight room,” elaborated Chase. “These rubber floors continue to develop, and there are more attractive options available now than those that were found even a few years ago. Regardless, thicker floors obviously wear longer and maximize the life of the investment.”
Using correct flooring and proper maintenance will extend the life of your surfaces, but when it’s time to invest in something new for your facility, it’s key to stay ahead of new surface trends.
“Do not jump in without a plan, and make sure you have a clear idea of what you want to accomplish, how you want to do it and ensure each product has the best maintenance practices available,” said Schneider. “Make a copy of those notes and build a routine to make sure you get the most life out of whatever product you choose. However, there is always an opportunity to revisit and improve — so as the life of the floor gets to an end, make sure you plan in advance to gather the information out there.”