Designing for the Future of Workplace Fitness: CFW Expert Insights from IHRSA 2024 (Now Health & Fitness Association)

Interview with John Ruyak, President CFW Design

Conducted by Elisa Denning, CFW Senior Director Marketing

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The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) 2024 tradeshow event recently concluded, leaving attendees buzzing with excitement and anticipation for the future of the fitness industry. As a premier gathering of fitness professionals, innovators, and thought leaders, IHRSA 2024 showcased the latest trends, technologies, and strategies shaping the landscape of health and fitness.

This was the biggest show the association has seen post-pandemic, drawing in over 8,700 fitness professionals, 350 exhibitors, and 150 speakers. Among the attendees was our very own John Ruyak, President of CFW Design. I sat down with John to ask about his key takeaways from the event, including trends and insights that can revolutionize employee fitness centers and digital platforms to enhance workplace health and well-being. Here’s what he had to say:

ELISA: We understand that IHRSA has announced a new name and rebrand of the association to Health & Fitness Association, reflecting a broader vision and mission for the organization. What do you think about this change?

JOHN: Yes, the tradeshow happened fresh off the heels of the rebrand announcement, so it is still very new and in the process of catching on. Overall, this change is exciting to see for the association and for our industry. This rebranding signals a renewed commitment to advancing health and fitness initiatives on a global scale, with a holistic focus on consumers physical and mental well-being. I like how the following statement from an article on IHRSA/HFA’s website captures the associations intentions in a succinct and meaningful way:

“With an understanding of exercise's critical role in improving overall health and mental wellness, we aim to transform the traditional view of how health and fitness facilities serve consumers.”

For corporations, I think this shift underscores the importance of aligning employee fitness with workplace mental health and well-being strategies which are top of mind in this post-pandemic era.

ELISA: The rebrand is certainly big and exciting news for our industry as whole. If you will, take us now to the exhibit floor. What overall trends did you notice among the exhibits and supplier showcases?

JOHN: I would say there’s an overarching trend in personalization and customization of fitness. Regardless of it being in cardio equipment, strength training, group fitness, recovery, or integrated workout apps, there is a constant desire to provide a custom experience that meets each individual wherever they are on their health and fitness journey. Suppliers are leveraging technology advancements with AI and data analytics to gather insights on fitness levels, preferences, and progress. We’re also seeing more awareness on accessibility to support users of varying levels and abilities. In the sense of corporate health and fitness programming, this is enabling us to deliver targeted recommendations, challenges, and incentives that foster employee engagement, motivation, and diversity. In conjunction with these technology and accessibility advancements, we are seeing more awareness on mental health, with features that support mindfulness, stress relief, and tools that support recharge and recovery.


ELISA: It is interesting to observe the continued growth and innovation with technology in fitness and how it strengthens the personalized and custom experience we can give our members. Thinking about our CFW clients and members, what types of equipment and facility trends did you see that may be most impactful in a corporate fitness setting?

JOHN: As President of CFW Design, I get to work with all the major commercial equipment suppliers and be that bridge in facility design, layout, and equipment needs for companies wanting to enhance employee well-being, mental health, and productivity. Having this mindset at the tradeshow, I identified a wide range of facility and equipment solutions that will satisfy the needs of our current corporate fitness market. I am very excited to bring those into new and current design projects we have going with CFW clients. For the sake of this article, I will categorize these top-trending solutions into three key areas:

  1. Recharge and Recovery
  2. Functional Fitness
  3. High-End Cardio with High-End Consoles
Open Condition Space

ELISA: Intriguing. Tell us more about the Recharge and Recovery trends, and what that means in terms of corporate fitness center design and equipment.

JOHN: I knew I couldn’t get away with a simple list. Of course, let’s talk Recharge and Recovery.

Along those lines of connecting fitness to mental health and well-being, recharge and recovery continues to be a top trend in the fitness industry. Employees want their onsite fitness center to be more than just a place to work out, they’re seeking a holistic environment that also supports their post-workout recharge and recovery needs. At the tradeshow, workout recovery tools were highly demonstrated, including portable tools like percussion massagers, orbs, and rollers, to total body immersive units like a cryo-lounge, compression boots, massage chairs, and therapy pods. As a result, we’ve seen a surge in design requests for dedicated recovery spaces and recovery tools. In terms of the corporate market, these spaces are helping meet priorities for employee well-being while offering spa-like amenities as an allure for return-to-office objectives.

To incorporate these trends successfully, we must acknowledge that recharge and recovery is something different to each person and therefore requires a variety of applications. Some look to yoga or meditation, gentle stretching, and deep breathing, or the massage type tools to recover from exertion and release muscle tension. To others it could be finding a comfortable chair and listening to music, a quiet room to rest and reflect, reading a book, or connecting with peers in social spaces. At CFW, our goal is to take these trends and design a variety of public and/or private spaces in conjunction with our fitness facilities where employees can interact with recovery tools and experience healthy recharge in and amongst their workdays.

Woman Recharge break at work

ELISA: Those types of amenities sound amazing and would definitely be a draw for employee engagement. Earlier, your mentioned functional fitness. We’ve seen that a-top our industry trends in years past. What’s new about it this go around?

JOHN: Indeed. The term Functional Fitness has been around for decades and experienced significant growth in the 2000’s-2010’s. In that era we started designing for more open training spaces with functional fitness units that featured things like suspension trainers, balance and stability balls, slam balls, etc. The popularity of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), bodyweight strength training, and mobility have sustained the demand for functional fitness, with people wanting even more open spaces to train in. I think functional fitness has staying power among corporate fitness facilities because it’s a training modality that mimics activities of daily life, promotes flexibility and agility – all of which support healthy lifestyle and longevity. At the tradeshow, we saw equipment suppliers showcase their newest, most compact functional fitness training units. For our fitness center management and design clients, this will help us make the best use of the space available and meet the training needs and interests of today’s working populations.


ELISA: Compelling stuff and so true about functional fitness supporting overall health and longevity. What about the High-End Cardio with High-End Consoles you mentioned? Can you expand on that?

JOHN: Of course. These units are impressive, featuring significantly larger screens with soft-touch technology. Even the materials of the shrouds have a luxe look and feel to them. What we’re seeing is every major equipment provider is offering a high-end line like this. In terms of cardio theatre features, suppliers are cutting the cord, so to speak, and integrating all streaming for entertainment. This supports that personalized and customized user experience we talked about earlier.

In the corporate fitness market, we’re seeing a spike in design projects and equipment procurement. Why? Return-to-office strategies are in full swing for many organizations. Companies are investing in employee well-being and onsite amenities that will excite employees to come back and rebuild a sense of community and connection that was lost due to remote work. This means facilities need refreshed, equipment needs upgrading. These high-end units come at a premium but can bring an enormous value when we’re talking about employee engagement, productivity, job satisfaction, and of course well-being.

Cardio console

ELISA: This has been highly informative, John. Before we wrap, do you have any closing thoughts to share with our clients and prospects?

JOHN: Overall, this IHRSA/HFA 2024 conference provided valuable insights into the future of the fitness industry. I think the rebrand announcement and the associations renewed mission will be a catalyst for a stronger global integration of fitness and overall well-being. We’ll continue to see an emphasis on personalization, technology integration, recovery, and mental health from the industry. At CFW, we will leverage these trends to help our clients reimagine their employee fitness centers and digital platforms, creating dynamic environments that strengthen return-to-office initiatives and empower everyone to lead healthier, happier, and more productive lives.

Click here to learn more on our CFW Design services. Or, if you’d like to work with John and our team of experts on your next design and equipment project, we invite you to Schedule a Discovery Call.

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John Ruyak has over 36 years’ experience in the corporate fitness industry, with a unique combination of education and background in exercise science, workplace fitness, and design. As President of CFW Design, John has oversight of all CFW fitness center design and consulting projects, including equipment procurement and layout strategy, and supplier partnerships.