For years, circuit training clubs all used the same recovery station in between their hydraulic machines: the ubiquitous running square. However, clubs are now finding that the most hazardous elements in their gyms are not the machines, but the running squares - members are tripping over them and getting hurt. The Ramp™ is widely used by multipurpose health clubs in group aerobics classes and has proved to be perfectly adaptable as a safe recovery station. Best of all, it's a killer differentiator from Curves.
In the grand scheme of things, the 30-minute women-only circuit training clubs industry is still in its infancy. With about 10,000 such clubs worldwide, many owner/operators are experimenting with different solutions to improve their bottom line and gain a competitive edge. In 2004, the adoption of the Ramp™ by many of these clubs has proven to be invaluable in reducing injury and creating a marketing advantage.
To reduce liability exposure, Symanthia Harper, the founder of The Association of Hydraulic and Fitness Clubs, has removed the running squares from her signature club, Shapes for Women in Houston, Texas and replaced them with the Ramp™.
"There were liability concerns with members tripping over the running squares, so we experimented with the Ramp™ and found that it solved the problem," said Harper, "We now use it exclusively for our recovery stations. Ramps work best when placed in the middle of the circuit. That way the women can Ramp together, laugh and talk. It's fabulous in the way it breeds goodwill."
"Ramps work best when placed in the middle of the circuit. That way the women can Ramp together, laugh and talk. It's fabulous in the way it breeds goodwill. "
What is the Ramp™?
In addition to being a safe and fun recovery station, the Ramp™ is an exercise floor platform designed for multiple uses, including group aerobics classes. Its design allows exercisers to employ a horizontal movement as opposed to a vertical movement thus causing less joint strain. This feature is particularly appealing to the middle-aged and deconditioned market. The Ramp™ is set at an angle to mimic the natural human motions of walking forward uphill and the opposing action of walking backward. This effort specifically targets the rear leg muscles. The angle is adjustable for various levels of fitness. This unique device can be used for walking, lunging, and stepping offering a wide variety of movements.
The roughly 42" long by 22" wide impact-absorbing, inclined arc-shaped platform has 3 color-coded panels that allow participants to easily choreograph exercise routines. The color panels enable exercisers to work additional muscles and enjoy dance movements as they add shuffles and tap steps to their routines.
Origin of the Ramp™
In 2003, Gin Miller, famous for the invention of the Step™, introduced Ramping™ (the choreographed programming created specifically for the Ramp™) to health clubs and consumers. It's different from Step™ in that it works opposing muscle groups with a series of presses and lunges. Ramping™ is all about managing body weight shift. (Beginning of quotation?) "It has been designed to be easy to learn and fun to do while getting in shape", said Gin, "The more fun it is, the more they'll do it, the more calories they'll burn off. "
Gin created a slight alternative to the original Step™. The Ramp™ focuses on a separate set of muscles namely the hips, glutes and the hamstrings - muscles that most women want to tone. Plus, since club members come in all shapes, she wanted to create a versatile instrument for all fitness levels.
Self-Guided Video Available for Club Staff and Members
Gin has also created a special video expressly for hydraulic circuit training clubs called Workout Theater™. It is a self-guided video that can be played on TVs within clubs. "The members can perform their routines to the TV, eliminating the expense of an aerobics instructor, or a staff member can learn the routine from the video and actually teach a live class, " said Gin.
Safety Is a Major Concern with Traditional Running Squares
The single biggest factor driving the adoption of the Ramp™ by 30-minute women-only circuit training clubs is the safety factor. The colorful Ramp™ is a safer alternative to running squares whose lack of visibility and 1" riser is a major tripping hazard.
Susie Schmitz, CIC, has been in insurance for 14 years, and currently works for The National Health Club Association - an insurance agency owned by ASF International. "ASF got in the insurance business in 1990. We cover only fitness clubs, and totally specialize in that." said Schmitz.
In particular we have been covering circuit training clubs since they've started. About 3 years ago, we put together a program specifically designed for that because there's a different set of risk factors in the 30-minute women-only circuit training clubs.
"There's a different risk factor in the 30-minute women-only circuit training clubs… From the analysis of our loss experience we don't see injuries caused by the equipment; we see injuries coming out of the running squares "
Schmitz watches every claim that comes through the door. She also does research into the industry news in regard to club policies and talks frequently to the claims people. "From the analysis of our loss experience we just don't see injuries caused by the equipment; we see the injuries coming out of the running squares," said Schmitz.
She added, "People are tripping over them. That's the whole thing. We've seen shoulder injuries and knee injuries. Exacerbating the problem is when they do fall, they usually land on their hip".
"The running square is about 1" high, I don't believe they are as visible as they need to be. Also because of spacing restrictions, they're located between the pieces of hydraulic equipment. I would advise setting up the large circle of equipment and have Ramps in the middle of the circle back to back. We are currently insuring clubs who have Ramps, instead of running boards, and to date we have not seen any claims come in on those."
Shapes for Women Alternates the Ramp™ with Running Squares
Gail MacLeod, owner of Shapes for Women in Chelmsford, Massachusetts, has a circuit training club where she also offers yoga, stress management classes and Ramping™. She uses both the running squares and the Ramp #153 for recovery stations. There are 5 Ramps and 5 running squares in between the machines, plus she strategically places 2 Ramps in the center of the circuit.
When asked how members are trained in the proper use of the Ramp ™, MacLeod replied, "We work together with the members. We keep two Ramps in the middle so that I can get on one and a member gets on the other. I'll tell them, 'Let's start with the blue, and they go up the Ramp and them come back down'. Then I'll say 'O.K., let's go to purple', then the left leg goes to the green and then they're back and forth and we practice it."
It's a quick learning curve for the members to learn how to use the Ramp ™, "After they use it a while, they get it". MacLeod keeps advancing their sophistication by teaching them more and more steps to keep it interesting.
MacLeod learned how to use the Ramp™ herself from a demonstration given by Gin Miller at the October, 2004 Harmony Workshop in Houston and then practiced at home with a Gin Miller introductory DVD.
"The ramp is the best thing we ever did."
"I learned partly from the Harmony seminar and also from a DVD before the hydraulic equipment arrived at my new club. You get your ramps 3-4 weeks before the equipment arrives, so I brought a Ramp home, and I put the DVD into my player and I just practiced."
Future Consideration of a Ramping™ Class
MacLeod is considering adding a pure Ramping#153; class to her gym during slow circuit periods. The idea is to slide the equipment out of the way and create a makeshift aerobics studio. "Maybe we'll offer pure Ramping certain times of the day, say from 1:00 P.M. to 2:00 P.M. when the circuits are slow…That is something we would definitely think about doing. "
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