about gym hardware and softies

after having been an aerobics instructor in younger years (yes, i did the glitzy tights 80’s style, but photos of that time over my dead body only) and having managed health clubs before, i have spent quiet a bit of time of my life in gyms, however nowadays am no more a regular. 

yet when i get a chance, like when performing a hotel review, I do enjoy the workout.

as i did the other day in a 5* hotel city gym in the middle east.

whilst using one of the cardio machines for a while, i took my time to look around, observing other athletes, checking the facilities and offers.

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the spacious gym is located on a top floor of a skyscraper with breathtaking views of the gulf coast line. the equipment is brand new. the air conditioner is powerful. the towels are skilfully folded. a variety of waters and fruits are available, as much as individually wrapped headphones. the music is adequate, the cardio equipment not only offers a large variety of music and tv channels, but also immediate social media access.

an adjacent studio provides mirrors and all sorts of props that you can think of: mats, balls, small weights, tubes, bands, bars, steps and more.

somehow I feel not much has changed since the early days, when smelly ‘garage’ gyms opened with makeshift concrete weights, benches and steps made from wooden planks. 

nowadays areas seem still the same: a bar for protein drinks, a cardio area, weights and machines, a ‘stretching’ corner. of course, airy studios for group exercises have been added, modern machines are high tech and general safety has much improved, but something is missing here.

this reminds me of a previous gym visit: a few years ago i worked out in a gym in the city of munich, in one of the popular 5* luxury hotels. 

when entering the gym midmorning there, no one was present. no other guest, no staff. the bar/check-in counter was located in a separate area, however staff was able to look into the gym area through a window. towels were piled on a side table next to the machines, water was not provided.

the treadmill had a sign reading something nonchalantly like: “please come to the check in desk if you need anything like headphones etc.”


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ok, i get that. self service offers are great to motivate guests in speaking up about their needs and demands, particularly when business and staff are busy. but what about actual service? 

i observed two members of staff at the check in desk behind the window, chatting away for a long time. not once did they pay attention to me, the only guest in their gym. 

  • not to verify my room number
  • not to say hello
  • not to check on me
  • not to offer assistance, a drink or anything else


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In the meantime, back in the gym in the middle east, the place has filled up while i am still on my elliptical machine. it is after work hours and the facility seems to be popular amongst locals and residents, since club memberships are offered.

at least an attendant (or instructor, or receptionist?), the same person who checked me in on my arrival at the gym, checks the facility every half hour or so for cleanliness, and tidies up.

and that’s that there too.


sure enough i have experienced quite the opposite:

  • attentive staff, chatting with guests 
  • courteous and approachable staff answering questions
  • interested staff trying to get to know their guests 
  • professional staff correcting body postures, motivating, supporting
  • interactive offers in form of group exercises, training plans, and one-to-one sessions
  • successful guest-directed communication in writing and speech

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according to arnold schwarzenegger* (and who would know better?), this is what a gym really needs, note that ‘staff’ is the first topic mentioned:

  • quality trainers: get sound advice when you need it from certified people
  • adequate equipment (for arnold such as squat rack, soft leather upholstered benches etc) 
  • the intimidation factor: meaning get out of your comfort zone and workout at a place where you receive positive energy and where you are made to stretch yourself a bit up towards the sky
  • like minded people: we all respond differently to other people, hence feeling comfortable in others company is important when going to the gym. By not feeling too comfortable (remember the intimidation factor) you still do not want to feel embarrassed or totally out of place. What counts most is: do other gym members have the same or similar goals?
  • traffic control: work out at times when other people patronise the gym, sufficient to be motivated but not as many that the place is crowded and you cannot get to your machines
  • lack of stupid rules: rules should revolve around safety/hygiene and guest flow, not around something else. 

Each workout session should be something one really looks forward to, this way one can be more focused and not just spent some idle time at the gym in order to calm down the inner temptation…

Great experiences make us want more and come back!


gym hardwareconclusion:

‘software’ makes a difference. 

my body does not really care about brand or colour of weights or machines. of course my mind cares about the ambience, however what really makes the difference are people and service. only.


I’d rather go to a ‘garage’ gym with great instructors and likeminded people than to the fancy luxurious yet anonymous place. how about you?


*source http://www.schwarzenegger.com/fitness/post/Six-Things-Your-Gym-Must-Have