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Specialized Equipment/Accessories: Creative Storage Solutions for Fitness "Toys"

Fitness professionals often refer to specialized equipment and accessories as "toys," and it's easy to see why. But every toy needs a toybox, and some of these accessories are mighty hard to store.

Fitness professionals often refer to specialized equipment and accessories as "toys," and it's easy to see why. They can add an element of fun to a client's workout, and trainers often use them to re-invigorate a boring session. But every toy needs a toybox, and some of these accessories are mighty hard to store.

"We use just about every accessory out there," says Ron Merryman, fitness director at The Boston Athletic Club, Boston, Mass. "We have stability balls, medicine balls, core balls, bands, tubing, Steps, Superbands, jump ropes, Airex pads, Dyna Discs, Pilates rings, Slam Balls, agility ladders, cones, tape - and we even use the posts that support volleyball netting." Being able to offer clients and members such a wide variety of fitness accessories is an asset to any facility, but there is a downside. Specialized equipment and accessories can be very large (like stability balls) or very small (like bands and tubing) - and they all present storage challenges.

Finding storage solutions is a necessity for many reasons, including keeping your facility neat. "Having accessories laying all over the gym, or having big bulky racks taking up space, was just not the answer for us," says Clay Denman, owner of Grand Traverse Athletic Club, Traverse City, Mich. In fact, a fitness floor cluttered with fitness accessories turns them from an asset into a liability. "If there is a home for a particular item, it helps keep your fitness center looking clean and clear of random accessories, which can quickly make a spacious fitness center appear crowded and unappealing to new members," Merryman agrees.

Space saving tips

Most facilities aren't blessed with hundreds of square feet for designated storage areas, so when deciding how to store your accessories, "always think of saving space," Denman advises. "The more usable space we have, the better." At Grand Traverse Athletic Club, "wall mounting is the only way to go," he says. "My No. 1 priority was getting [accessories] off the floor, so I could use all of my space. Stability balls, for example, are light, so we mounted a simple one-rail rack above our mirrors, supported by light chrome chains. It's easy to use and out of the way. It increased our floor space so much."

Convenience is key

Accessibility is a must for any fitness accessory storage solution. "Always consider how easily your members can access them," says Denman. Also think about where you put your storage solution in your facility. After all, all the storage in the world isn't much good if it's tucked in an out-of-the-way corner of your facility that members can't easily get to.

"I think probably the biggest issue with storage is placement," agrees Merryman. "You want to be able to have access to all of your items at just about any time. Fortunately for us, we store most of our accessories on our basketball court, which is centrally located on the second floor. The fitness center wraps around the basketball court, making access to our 'toys' pretty easy from anywhere in the fitness center. We have two large stability ball racks on our basketball court which house all of our stability balls," Merryman explains. "We also use coat racks for all of our bands and tubing. We keep these tucked away in the bleachers on the basketball court. The racks are just out of harm's reach, but within striking distance for one of our fitness professionals to make a simple exercise much more dynamic within seconds."

Storage racks should also be conducive to an effective inventory system. Merryman says a big issue at his facility is "keeping tabs on all [of our] stuff, especially ankle bands and smaller items. We try to keep those in the fitness offices to help control inventory."

DIY options

There are dozens of storage options available for specialized equipment and accessories, but for some facilities, custom-made solutions work best. "I looked at all different types of racks on the market, but everything was either on wheels or stationary floor mount, and that just wastes so much space in your gym," Denman explains. "Also, they wanted 10 times the money I could build them for." So, Denman decided to design and build his own custom storage solution.

He constructed most of Grand Traverse Athletic Club's storage racks out of PVC pipe. "It is strong, inexpensive and very easy to work with," explains Denman. "All you have to do is be creative with your imagination. PVC works very well for almost all racks; just make sure you glue it and screw it. Always make the rack way stronger than you need it."

Make practical choices

New and exciting products are introduced all the time, and sometimes it's hard not to buy every "toy" on the market. Both Denman and Merryman warn against buying more accessories than your facility can reasonably store. "Yes, you have to consider where it is going to go and is it going to clutter up your gym," Denman admits. "I have made mistakes buying certain equipment that I did not think through about where and how I will rack it. Sometimes it is better not to have something. Always consider how badly you need this item. If you have to have it, build the most efficient rack you can."

"Storage has to be a consideration in your accessory shopping," Merryman agrees. "It's important to set the stage early for where you want things to be kept when they are not in use. It will help you keep an eye on your inventory, allow you to show members and prospective members that accessories are available and can be found in a particular location."

Specialized equipment and accessories help bring out the kid in your members and clients. Get creative to find effective storage solutions, and let the good times roll.

Purchasing Guide

Ab Coaster LLC 866 219-5335; The Ab Coaster is designed to deliver an intense abdominal exercise that is easy and comfortable to perform. It promotes core stabilization while exercising the abdominals through a full range of motion, and targets the transverse abdominus, obliques and the rectus abdominus. Its curved track mimics spinal flexion to reduce hip flexor involvement and low back stress.

Aquatic Trends Inc. 800 775-9588; The Aquatrend Water Workout Station is aquatic exercise equipment for practically any in-ground pool, indoors or outdoors. It provides a platform for toning and strengthening muscle, increasing flexibility and promoting good cardiovascular health for both general health and fitness, and for physical therapy and rehabilitation. The Aquatrend has a compact design and is manufactured of marine-grade stainless steel to provide maximum durability. At only 37 pounds, it can be easily removed for storage, cleaning, etc., at any time. The Aquatrend Water Workout Station provides effective, low-impact aquatic workouts for people of all ages.

Bosu by Fitness Quest Inc. 800 497-8281; The Ballast Ball stays where you put it and stacks easily, without the need for extra storage contraptions. It includes a foot pump and workout DVD. The Balance Trainer integrates balance into all aspects of fitness, sports performance or rehabilitation. It adds challenge, effectiveness and fun to cardio, strength training, sports conditioning, core training and mind/body workouts. Ideal for both static and dynamic balance training, it may be used with the platform side up or down. The Bosu Basic, or commercial grade unit, includes a foot pump.

Corepole Inc. 866 547-4173; Made of cold-rolled steel, the Corepole provides strength and cardio training in one workout for one to up to 15 participants simultaneously. Designed for beginners to people training competitively, children, aging adults and special populations, it comes with 20 sleeved resistance bands of varied strengths, 20 foot cuffs, a video and manual. The Corepole offers a full range of motion, with 360-degree rotation around the pole with six anchor height points for multi-planar workouts.

eFitnessMall 866 4-efitness; The Ultimate Core Fitness Combo includes the GoFit Ultimate Burst-Resistant Core Stability Ball and the ProGym. The GoFit stability ball comes with ball pump, two ball plugs and an easy-to-follow exercise wall poster. They are made of rubber, contain no latex, and come in three sizes: 55, 65 and 75 cm in diameter. The ProGym contains two handles, three resistance tubes, two ankle straps, one door anchor and exercise wall chart.

Extractor Corp. 800 553-3353; The Suitmate swimsuit extractor is designed to extract 95 percent of the water out of wet swimsuits in less than 10 seconds. Members who use Suitmate can pack a drip-free swimsuit to take home or leave in their locker without worrying about water damage and mildew. The U.L.-listed Suitmate is easy to mount on the wall and connects to any 115-volt circuit.

Fitter International Inc. 800 348-8371; The new Xco Trainer builds and tones muscle while strengthening the surrounding connective tissue and stabilizing the joints for a total-body workout. The design consists of an anodized aluminum tube filled with a special granulate. As users move the Xco Trainer, each movement creates a delayed soft impact as the granulate shifts inside the tube. This reactive impact, or overload, occurs when the motion changes direction from eccentric to concentric. Xco Training can be performed in a variety of positions and directions, maximizing the benefit to the three-dimensional structure of the muscle and connective tissue.

Marpo Kinetics 925 337-4205; The Viper Rope Climber provides a complete upper-body strength or cardio workout in one exercise. Its levitating seat with counter-weight stack simulates rope climbing. Seven rope resistance settings and up to 250 pounds of weight assistance make Viper accessible and effective for a wide range of users. Keeping users close to the ground eliminates safety concerns associated with ceiling ropes. It has a small footprint and no electricity requirements, and its specially-designed rope is soft, yet durable.

Nicros Inc. 651 778-1975; Nicros offers products and services for the climbing industry, including more than 1,500 handhold shapes and training tools, and seven types of climbing wall systems. Landing surfaces, such as Nicro-Mat, Nicro-Mulch and Nicros-DropZone, are sold, as well as a loose-chunk rubber and Nicros' new gymnastic-like landing mats that velcro together to form a continuous padded surface in front of the climbing wall. For turn-key climbing walls, Nicros offers a training program for facility and staff called "Risk Management, Operations, Protocol, Evaluations and Safety concerns" (R.O.P.E.S.).

OPTP 800 367-7393; OPTP is a one-stop resource for functional tools and resources, including foam rollers and resources, including the Pro-Roller, Pro-Roller Soft and the Axis Roller; Swiss exercise balls and resources; balance challenge products; Stretch Out strap; Pilates matwork resources; Thera-Band Resistive Band; and Thera Cane.

Power Systems 800 321-6975; Designed for indoor use, Premium Kettlebells provide a total body cardiovascular workout that incorporates swings, snatches, lifts and clean-and-jerks while developing strength, power, endurance and dynamic flexibility. The vinyl-coated Premium Kettlebells are color-coded by weight and constructed of a cast iron bell with a solid steel handle. They are available in weights of 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 25 and 30 pounds. Instructional DVDs are available.

RT Fitness 800 363-2671; The Rotary Torso Bench positions users to eliminate spinal compression: lying back with hips and knees slightly flexed. With legs partially extended, rotating in either direction with a loosened grip on the handles, users engage core stabilizer muscles. You may choose to upgrade to RT/Ab/Back; this option makes the machine a three-in-one core unit. The Rotary Torso Bench is available in plateloaded and selectorized commercial models.

Sportsmith LLC 800 713-2880; Sportsmith provides strength and personal training products - including group exercise, strength and functional training products, and the treadmill belts and rollers pictured. Every person on staff is factory-service trained by brand-name fitness companies, including StairMaster, Star Trac, Life Fitness, Quinton, Precor and Schwinn.

SPRI Products Inc. 800 222-7774; SPRI Products Inc. has manufactured and distributed rubberized resistance exercise products for the health and fitness industry for more than 20 years. SPRI developms innovative, affordable fitness tools and supportive educational materials for everyone from the casual exerciser to the professional athlete. Equipment offerings include a wide variety of tools for strength, balance, sports conditioning, mind/body and aquatics, and much more, as well as instructional DVDs and training manuals.

True Fitness Technology 800 426-6570; The TrueStretch 800ss is designed to stretch the body in all three planes of motion - sagittal (front and back), frontal (side to side) and transverse (rotational) - while keeping the user in natural upright positions with four points of contact, to ensure proper body alignment, stability and safety.

Unique Fitness Concepts 800 978-3481; The Teeter Hang Ups F7000 Inversion Table can help regular users reduce back pain, relieve stress and muscle tension, stimulate circulation, improve posture, maintain original body shape, increase flexibility and range of movement, and allow joints to naturally align and decompress.

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