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and programme cards for functional training,” says Bletso. Fitness First has also taken a

technological approach to engaging members. “To allow more independent use, we installed interactive walls in our recently refurbished clubs,” says Perrin.

“These have touchscreen technology that allows members to call up exercises based on their goals. A short video will display the exercise, giving the member complete control over their learning.”

Design and layout Location in the club is also key to success. “Zones are often placed in the most visible open part of the gym, so they can be very intimidating even to regular gym users,” says McGown. “You have to be careful not to isolate

members who don’t want to be in a functional zone,” adds Halls. “The more hardcore CrossFit-type club is very attractive to some people, but many gym-goers fi nd that kind of training, and the atmosphere created by the club design and equipment that goes with it, quite intimidating – even scary. “There are plenty of products and

design options available to give the benefi ts of functional training in a more

‘friendly’ environment. Total Gym, for example, offers a more inclusive journey for the functional beginner without compromising on results for all levels.” Design is clearly a huge factor in

any functional zone. Januszek explains:

“It’s very important that the area is an ‘experience’. Delivering the correct look and feel, through lighting and sound as well as colour, all contributes to the design of a space.”


Functional training zones at Nuffield Health are used extensively by PTs and physiotherapists

Space requirements Even with a modest functional zone, floor space is always at a premium and there’s opportunity cost to any area that doesn’t pull its weight. While a functional area can be built within nearly any space that’s available

– in terms of training rigs, Buchanan says “a 5m x 2m rig needs 7m x 4m space, for around 10–12 people training at a time” – opinions vary on what really constitutes a fully-fl edged functional zone. “I think, as long as you have enough

room to run a group of six in a small group training environment, it can be successful,” says Bletso. “Any smaller and it really becomes more of a PT area than a programmed zone.” “As a rule of thumb, 10–15 per

cent of your gym fl oor works well,” says Crawford. Physical Company, meanwhile, reports seeing large operators looking to expand dedicated functional training space from 15–20 per cent to around 30 per cent of their gym fl oor. Interestingly, Xercise4Less takes the view that a club “needs to be at least 30,000sq ft to warrant taking the space out to put a functional zone in with the relevant equipment”. So is it worth allocating this sort

of space? Anderson believes so: “The demand for cardiovascular equipment and fi xed resistance machines is becoming less of a focus, so it makes sense that we would prioritise space for functional training.”

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Crawford agrees with this

reapportioning of space. “Taking a fresh look and potentially reducing the volume of fi xed resistance equipment, or switching for multi-purpose equipment like cables or dual functional fi xed resistance such as combined leg curl and leg extension fi xed resistance machines, can be a very effective way to create the space needed.”

The right demographics But this decision is clearly site-specific, and influenced by the degree to which the trend is ‘pull’ versus ‘push’. Although clearly a key development in the changing face of health and fitness facilities around the UK, it’s important to note that not every club or centre is jumping on the bandwagon. Freedom Leisure’s Merrick explains:

“We need to be conscious of what the member has had access to up until that point in time. If there has been very little functional equipment in place, then it would be unrealistic to suddenly impose a whole new way of training on our members. “Summerfi elds Leisure Centre in

Hastings recently benefi ted from £160k of refurbishment work to the gym and studios, for example, but we took the decision that functional training equipment wasn’t the right investment for this facility. “The membership is approximately

70 per cent female, with members choosing classes as the primary way of exercising. The majority of gym users at this site are new exercisers, so we designed the gym to be as unintimidating and easy to use as possible.” ●

November/December 2013 © Cybertrek 2013

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