One of the greatest draws for daily campus rec visitors is the quality of equipment in the fitness area of wellness centers.
That added attention from patrons is just one reason why the continued care of strength and cardio apparatuses is paramount to your department’s success.
Ashley Sims, the assistant director of Facilities at DePaul University (DePaul), understands the importance fitness equipment has at her university. That’s why each of the gym’s machines from companies like Life Fitness, Hammer Strength, Precor, Matrix, Woodway and HOIST Fitness Systems is cleaned multiple times per day by staff.
“Sweat and dust can wreak havoc on how your machines function and look,” said Sims. “Our strategy applies to our strength equipment, including guide rods. It doesn’t take much for buildup to occur or for them to dry out which can create long-term damage to the rods.”
One of the primary strategies she has for ensuring each piece meets department expectations is investing in preventative maintenance. Whether done internally or by outsourcing, Sims said to think of the practice as an investment.
“I love being present when we outsource [preventative maintenance],” said Sims. “It allows me to pay attention to their work and what degree of detail they go into. I often ask questions and get suggestions for moving forward. It has greatly improved my knowledge and has created new additions to our scheduled tasks.”
Sims said tools such as Allen wrenches, Super Lube, multipurpose lubricant for guide rods, bit sets, mini-ratchets for tight spaces and precision magnetized screwdrivers are a must-have to complete simple repairs.
EXTRA CREDIT: Campus facility managers from around the country share tips and advice on how to help rec centers run efficiently.
At DePaul, staff use these and other tools on cable machines that see a high level of usage from visitors.
“We make sure to keep spare cables on hand so when they break or become damaged, we can repair them quickly,” said Sims. “Depending on age and usage, belts on machines like treadmills, adaptive motion trainers and arc trainers can also break down often. The temperature and humidity levels can be tough on our equipment especially as we go through different seasons.”
For repairing specific pieces, Sims has had success with the following vendors:
- Grainger Industrial Supply
- SupplyWorks Home Depot
- Full Circle Padding
When dealing with different companies like these, Sims said to be sure to keep an open mind even if a vendor does not fit your needs or wants at that time. “Pay attention to vendors who show up consistently and who respond timely to issues or questions,” she advised. “The more consistent, the more confidence you have that issues will be taken care of quickly.”
That mentality is shared by the other side of the relationship. David Weber, the sales director of Athletics and Recreation for Eleiko Strength Equipment, said to find the best vendors in each workout category and build a relationship with every rep. Then you will reap the benefits.
“At Eleiko, we specialize in strength and stick to strength areas entirely,” said Weber. “There are other specialty companies that work only with flooring while others are specific to cardio. Be wary of companies that say they can provide everything. Generally you’re sacrificing quality and performance if you try to go with a one-size-fits-all model.”
EXTRA CREDIT: Equipment cleaning practices focused on safety.
Weber said the best strategies he has for campus rec leaders in caring for fitness machinery is to:
- Fully understand what their equipment is designed for.
- Know the proper ways to use each piece.
- Take time to educate staff and students accordingly.
“Purchase equipment that is made specifically for high-use commercial environments,” Weber added. “Racks should preferably use stainless steel on all wearable surfaces to minimize the possibility of powder coat chipping, and bars and dumbbells should be constructed with sealed cartridge needle bearings that never need to be serviced. They should continue to rotate freely for decades.”
One trend Weber has noticed from working with campus rec is students are demanding more strength areas and are underutilizing the cardio equipment in the facility.
“We are seeing a landscape shift from rows of treadmills and ellipticals to dedicated strength spaces filled with racks and platforms used to perform squats, deadlifts, cleans and more,” said Weber. “Directors should invest now in high-quality strength stations that will last for decades and provide a multitude of exercise applications for their students. Olympic movements have become more popular over the past decade and facilities are quickly adapting.”
The move toward more Olympic lifting is also being seen at the University of Florida where Marty Dempsey, the senior associate director of Facility Operations, said the trend has led to a decrease in cardio interest.
“About five years ago, we actually took about 60 pieces of cardio equipment off the floor,” said Dempsey. “Cardio used to be very popular in the late 2000s. We had taken out about 60 machines and transformed 3,000 square feet into a strength-based area where you can really pair your strength workout with your cardio workout.”
Dempsey’s primary equipment care tip is to keep constant observation on machines. Do this by establishing a consistent and reliable flow of communication throughout all staff. They achieve this by using Connect2Concepts. It provides several modules for student staff to relay issues and work orders to leadership.
“We tell our student staff that if you see something wrong, put a work order in. If it turns out to be nothing — that’s not a problem,” said Dempsey. “It’s OK if it turns out not to be anything. Reporting that through our system is so important.”
The most common issue Dempsey said they address is the electronic buttons on their cardio equipment often break down due to high usage. Stationary bikes also need necessary attention due to the number of pieces each has.
Dempsey said he uses National Gym Supply to order replacement parts. Plus, his staff tries to order sustainable cleaning products to “go green” such as:
- TruShot disinfectant
- Glance glass cleaner
- Sheila Shine stainless steel polish
- DMQ disinfectant
All these maintenance strategies add up to what Dempsey insists is the most important aspect of fitness machinery: longevity. “Students want equipment that’s available,” he said. “They want to feel comfortable and not have equipment be broken down. The gym can be intimidating enough as it is for some people. Give them an area where they feel at home.”