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Gym Care – Place, Purpose, and Old Friends!
By Steve Cook – AAI National Sales Director

Hello gym owners and managers. Hopefully the idea of making gym inspection a habit, as we discussed last month, is sinking in and helping you keep your gym organized and safe. Step 2 is making it a team effort. That means that your entire staff and customers can contribute to make the gym environment as efficient as possible. The customers (kids) will contribute as long as they are made aware that everything has its place and purpose. Staff will contribute by being a constant reminder of the proper procedures. By formulating and posting the correct place for all activities and equipment and then following the posted rules your, staff becomes the best example of how to act in the gym and how to take care of the equipment.

I’ve seen great systems for identifying traffic patterns within a gym. Whether you use colored lines, special walkway mats, or colored cones, they are all good to get everyone in the habit of moving around the gym in the best way. Laying out your gym with this in mind is important. If you can’t get from bars to beam without walking across the vault runway, perhaps you need to rethink your layout.

The next thing to ponder is what’s in your gym. Very often less is more. It best not to use your gym just for storage. More accidents happen from tripping over an unused piece (or part) of equipment or from stepping on or between mats that out-lived their usefulness years ago. An easy test for mats is to lay a straight edge from one side of the mat to the next, and then stand on the mat next to the straight edge and measure the amount of depression. If the mat is depressing more than 30% of its original height, it’s probably time to remove or rework that mat. Many companies will re-foam your mats for you, but my advice is to get your new foam from the original manufacturer of that mat. There are specific reasons why manufacturers use specific foams. Some of those reasons are industry specifications, ASTM standards, health industry compliance, and complimentary effects with other foams in the mat. You are always safest not to cross two manufactures materials into one product. It’s just a good business practice.

Once everything has its assigned place for use and for storage, you can work to make sure that everyone (staff & students) understand the purpose of each mat. In general, the softer the mat, the less it is designed for a two foot landing. The firmer that mat, the higher the anticipation of a standing landing. Landing mats (4”, 12cm, and 20 cm) that have a firmer foam on the top are designed for area suppression (the entire layer around the feet). Softer mats (skill cushions, pillow mats, and crash mats) are made with point suppression and designed to protect the athlete from a non-standing landing. It is unsafe to use either for anything other than its designed purpose. Trying to stand up your landing on a soft skill cushion can be just as damaging to the ankles as overturning to your back or head on a landing mat. It’s up to the coach to anticipate the type of landing and choose the appropriate landing surface.

Lastly on “purpose” of equipment, please remember that all surfaces are designed with a use in mind. Some runways are designed for use in bare feet or socks, while other are designed for shoes and sneakers. Rails are designed for hands and grips, not shoes or metal hooks. Vault tops are often not designed for sneakers or for adding additional pads. More on purpose in a future article.

In closing, I understand that saying goodbye is very difficult, whether it’s a friend, a visitor,.... or a mat, but sometimes they all wear out their welcome. Or just wear out. Don’t just keep stacking new mats on old ones. When the mat is no longer making your gym safer, it’s making it more dangerous. Time to say good bye.

Until next time, think gym care and stay safe
Steve Cook – AAI National Sales Director