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Why an Engineered Performance Surface is Essential for Boutique Fitness

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AUTHOR: Troy Kelley, Director of Sales - South, Ecore

Barre, Orangetheory, SoulCycle. What do these words mean and what do they have in common? They are the names of national boutique fitness franchises that have become household names over the past 10 years.

Boutique fitness can be generally defined as a small gym that focuses on group exercise and specializes in one or two fitness areas. But what makes boutique fitness unique from your standard, run-of-the-mill gym or fitness chain is four things:

  • The premium price tag: it typically costs $35 per class.
  • It’s all about the experience and boutique fitness spaces are typically attractive and upscale.
  • Everyone knows each other, and it is an intimate experience for members.
  • Members and owners are committed exercisers and fitness fanatics that exercise multiple times per week and have multiple gym memberships.

A spin workout class digs in on their bikes.
Each concept has its own specialty or niche. Barre is focused on ballet, Orangetheory HIIT, and SoulCycle cycling. The really successful boutique fitness concepts have taken their user experience a step further and have transformed themselves into community-powered lifestyle brands with members proudly wearing their shirts, displaying their accessories, and drinking out of their water bottles. These boutique fitness franchises are engrained in their customers’ daily lives.

So, with the customer in mind and with the boutique fitness experience being so focused on offering an upscale, personalized experience, boutique franchises should pay extra attention to the flooring they specify in their spaces. And if the floor isn’t a performance surface that’s attractive and provides patrons with safety, ergonomic and acoustic benefits, they need to reconsider what they’re offering.
A man and woman doing kettle bell pushups.
A performance surface can be defined as a floor that responds to users in their environment in a way that supports and enhances their activities. More specifically:

  • The floor can improve the performance of the people working out on it.  
  • The key benefits of acoustics, ergonomics and safety all work together and should be catered to the type of activity being performed in the space.
  • The precise composition of a performance floor itself should be customized to provide the right durability, ergonomic (feel) and safety attributes, depending upon the needs of the space.

Ultimately, the floor is the most important piece of equipment that a boutique fitness franchise will procure during buildout and subsequent studio refresh.

A man and woman do box jumps.
An engineered performance surface is a heterogeneous floor consisting of wear layer fusion-bonded to a vulcanized composition rubber (VCR) base layer, created with specific performance characteristics. The VCR backing is the key. This fusion bonding technology is unique to Ecore and is a patented system known as itsTRU™ technology .

A man doing deadlifts.
For some examples, let’s look at the 4 roll goods under Ecore Athletic’s Performance Collection. Each of these surfaces features the same 2.5mm wear layer, but the VCR fusion-bonded backing on each of these floors is VERY different, depending upon the intended application.

  • Motivate is for light strength and conditioning applications. This 7.5mm VCR floor features a 5mm performance backing. The result is a surface that provides a balanced distribution of force reduction and energy restitution. 
  • Rally is tailored for heavy conditioning. This 14.5mm VCR floor features a 12mm shock-absorbing backing. This dual durometer system is engineered to absorb the impact force related to aggressive functional training, providing an ergonomically advanced surface that works in concert with the body.
  • Beast is designed for heavy strength training. This 10.5mm VCR floor features an 8mm backing that maximizes energy restitution. This dual durometer system is engineered to enhance durability in applications dominated by free weight training.
  • Monster is custom-made for extreme strength and conditioning. This 22.5mm VCR floor features an 8mm backing. This 10.5mm surface is then field united to a 12mm ShockPad during installation. The resulting triple durometer system combines the durability and firm footing desired in strength training with the ergonomic demands of aggressive functional training in one surface.

While Motivate and Rally would work well for boutique fitness, Beast and Monster are probably not necessary.
A yoga class doing a pose.
Here are some other good performance flooring options for boutique fitness:

  • Basic Rolls & Tiles are a good, basic option for virtually any application, so long as it doesn’t involve heavy weight drops. This extremely durable 8mm VCR surface is available in rolls and interlocking tiles. The interlocking tiles are easily installed and do not require glue.
  • Speed & Agility Turf looks like grass and features a 5mm or 12mm VCR backing. While too abrasive to fall or dive on, this consistent and tight surface is ideal for all footwork drills and sled work. 
  • Bounce 2 is a very attractive Class 1 Sports Floor that features a synthetic wood-grain vinyl surface that is fusion bonded to a 5mm VCR backing. The result is a beautiful floor that looks like real wood, but is more economical, durable, and easier to clean.

Since there are so many boutique fitness flooring options on the market, boutique fitness flooring specifiers should engage with a flooring company that can help them make the right choice and provide a custom solution. Flooring manufacturers should also provide force reduction & energy restitution testing and acoustic testing, in addition to offering a sustainable lifecycle and a visible corporate commitment to environmental responsibility. A sustainable floor demonstrates that a boutique fitness studio cares about the environment and the patrons using their space. 
A woman takes a breather between sets.
Last, but not least, as stated earlier, boutique fitness flooring specifiers want to select performance engineered surfaces that provides safety, ergonomic and acoustic benefits.

Performance flooring reduces sound from impacts in two main areas:

  • Rooms outside the space where impacts or floor interactions occur. 
  • Rooms where the impacts or floor interactions occur.

A performance surface can provide support, prevent fatigue and injury, and promote good mobility. Ergonomically efficient flooring balances the absorption of force and the return of energy, which can be defined as:

  • Force reduction: How much energy a surface absorbs, for example when a person walks on it. 
  • Energy restitution: How much the surface returns energy. A surface of sand has very little energy restitution, and high force reduction, meaning it will absorb almost all the energy and return very little back to the person’s body, making walking difficult. 

A performance floor should contribute to reducing impact hazards in the space, balanced with enhancing the ability of people to move freely. Slip resistance, often measured by Coefficient of Friction, is probably the most familiar component of safety performance in flooring, and one of the most important for selecting flooring that reduces the likelihood of a fall by preventing slips. 

In conclusion, boutique fitness is unique from traditional fitness gyms, because boutique fitness studios offer a premium experience in an attractive, intimate, and upscale environment. For boutique fitness franchises to be successful, they should make surfacing decisions with their customers in mind. This means selecting a performance engineered surface that is attractive and provides safety ergonomic and acoustic benefits. For more information about performance surfaces, visit. Ecore Athletic