Room With a View
by Larry Mundy
June 2006


  The Exercise Room in Your Hotel -
Sweating the Details
 
As a nation, we are growing older and fatter and less healthy.  As the “baby boomers” enter the final innings of life, they groan a little louder when they rise in the morning, take more prescription drugs for various ailments, and vote Republican.  And the younger folks look at them and say “Whew!  I sure don’t want to look like that at their age!”

So the health and exercise boom is underway, sort of.  Your food service menu probably has a couple “heart-healthy” selections, although the people that really need those probably order the Cheeseburger Deluxe anyway.  And you are probably required, by your franchise agreement, competitive pressures, or your own conscience, to have an “exercise room” in your hotel.

Very few hotel “health facilities” are the equivalent of a real, live gym or spa.  That’s the way it should be, because utilization of the exercise room in most hotels amounts to .000001 percent of guests.  Most guests are in your hotel to rest, meet, eat, carouse, or drive on to Denver at first light, and they’re not going to spend the time and effort to make themselves even more worn out than when they arrived.  Exercise rooms are like lap pools and in-room fax machines – amenities that guests may want, but rarely use.

Let’s go through the design process for a hotel exercise room.  I have absolutely no experience at this, but that has never stopped me before.  The first question is, where do you put it?  I’d suggest you consider the following: availability of power and TV cable, proximity to the pool restroom, and stench.  You need power because modern treadmills do the walking for you, and TV cable because people on treadmills would be bored to tears if they couldn’t watch the latest terrorist attacks on CNN, beamed from a hospital-mount TV blaring from the wall.  You need proximity to a restroom that does not simultaneously serve your restaurant or meeting-room guests, because there’s something about a sweaty guy in Adidas that clashes with people in business suits about to sample the Peppercorn Salmon.  But the number one consideration should be stench.

Sweating, huffing humans tend to have an off-putting odor (except perhaps for Angelina Jolie).  That’s why gyms and dirty sweatsocks smell the way they do.  Your exercise room should have air handlers capable of exchanging the air in the entire room about once every ten seconds, capturing the used air in pressurized tanks, and mailing the tanks to New Mexico for interment alongside canisters of nuclear waste.  

Next question: should the room have windows or not?  It’s a close call.  The tanned, lithe, muscled guy working out at the break of dawn wants windows so passing guests can admire his fabulous physical conditioning.  The jiggling middle-aged lady trying to lose 20 pounds before her daughter’s wedding would prefer the windowless privacy of a military bunker.  In my next life I want to invent stench-proof automatic draperies.

What equipment do you need?  It depends on the size of the room, of course, but there should be at least one “cardio” machine intended for low-impact elevation of heart rates – a treadmill, stationary bicycle, or one of those whole-body doodads where you can pretend you’re cross-country skiing while watching Katie Couric broadcast from Reykjavik in a furry hat.  That takes care of the boomers who simply want to get their heart started without spending $10 at Starbucks.  The next step should be something that makes users grunt – a universal gym, free weights, anything capable of causing Repetitive Strain Injury in twelve seconds, for the hard-core health freaks.  In most hotel exercise rooms, this two-piece set fills the space sufficiently that there is no extra room for voyeurs.

Another close question – do you provide towels?  If you do, there will be discarded sweaty towels strewn around, which housekeeping has to pick up with elongated tongs and place in lead-lined bags for later incineration.  If you don’t, your room towels will migrate to the exercise room and suffer the same fate.

And finally, as with everything else in your hotel, you must consider maintenance, security and liability issues.  If a toddler can wander into the exercise room and reach the treadmill’s “Olympic Sprint” button, you will soon see him shoot out the door like a cannonball.  If an elderly gentleman (I personally prefer to be called that, rather than the more usual “old guy”) suffers a heart attack on the weight bench, your insurance agent will want to know you had a proper warning sign.  As a public service to hoteliers, here is an example of a proper warning sign: 

“USE AT YOUR OWN RISK.  IF YOU HAVE NOT RECENTLY COMPETED IN THE TOUR DE FRANCE, CHECK WITH YOUR DOCTOR AND HAVE A COMPLETE CHECKUP BEFORE ENTERING THIS ROOM.  IF YOU FEEL AT ALL ILL OR FAINT AFTER EXERCISING, PLEASE EXIT THE HOTEL AND COLLAPSE OFF-SITE.  AND FOR PETE’S SAKE, TAKE A SHOWER IMMEDIATELY AFTER EXERCISING, OR YOUR SOCIAL LIFE WILL SURELY SUFFER.”
We can all do our part to keep our guests healthy and safe.  It would actually help them more to take the elevators out of service and force everyone to use the stairs, but this may generate complaints.  So you are probably stuck with maintaining an exercise room that most of your guests will avoid like active Ebola cultures.  Amenity creep marches on. 



Larry Mundy works for a hotel company in Dallas.  His views are his own, and may differ considerably from those of a sane person."
 
Contact:

Larry Mundy
LJM2804@yahoo.com

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Also See: Remembering the old-time Hotel Engineering Department / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / June 2006
Curse of the Hotel Lobby-Dwellers / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / June 2006
What Do You Do With an Old Hotel? / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / June 2006
Hotel Smokers: A Dying Breed / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / May  2006
The New Food & Beverage – Food “Just Like Home”  / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / May 2006
Guest Privacy – It’s Not Just a Door Tag Anymore / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / May 2006
The Future of Hotel Reservations / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / May 2006
Soon Every Town in America Will Have an Unused Convention Center / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / May 2006
Hotel Pool Safety 101 / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / May 2006
Where Not To Build a Hotel / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / May 2006
“Exterior Corridors” – Disappearing, Because They Never Existed / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy
My Top Ten Worst Hotel Inventions / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / April 2006
Bed Tech / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / April 2006
A Sense of Arrival / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / April 2006



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