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Opinion: Health Clubs Must Weave Technology into the Fabric of Member Journeys

by Carrie Kepple, IHRSA Board member and club manager for Les Mills Newmarket in Auckland, New Zealand 

How will technology fit into fitness clubs? Creating clarity out of confusion is key.

There is one thing for certain that I believe all health club operators can agree on—it’s confusing to know what technologies we should be incorporating in our club businesses.

The Chaos of Tech Options

There are so many tech options available in the big, bad world of business-to-consumer industries that we don’t know what to choose for our own businesses to enhance the member journey. 

Wading through the chaos of options creates so much fear and uncertainty that it can become paralyzing. We know when we operate from a place of fear and uncertainty we limit our ability to progress and grow. These are two very dangerous limiting beliefs that we must figure out how to remedy together. 

Our current reality is that we are looking to each other to see who among us will be an early adopter and pioneer the way forward by exposing the failures we should avoid. 

Many of us prefer to play it safe, sit back, and wait. But by just waiting, we are standing still, and the longer we stand still as tech options branch out and grow, the wider the gap between customers’ expectations and our delivery on service. This is a dangerous place for us to be as a health club industry and we must work together to create the future of fitness in regards to weaving tech into the fabric of our member journeys. 

Focus on Fitness- and Service-enhancing Tech

In my view, there are two key categories of technology we should be looking at in our tech strategy:

  1. fitness-enhancing tech
  2. service-enhancing tech 

As a millennial myself, I’d rather refer to these as “fitness data miners” and “service experience enhancers.” But regardless of what we label these two big buckets of club operations, the premise is still the same—we need to start creating seamless synergy between our old school way of operating and the new school way our customers navigate the world. I call this “tech-touched training” environments.

It's Time to Be Brave

We have much to figure out, but I would like to stress that we can most definitely do it because we’ve been here before with other evolutions of our industry. So, before you opt to buy more treadmills instead of investing in a digital strategy at your club, remember our history. 

Remember the things we used to say, like, “Why would I invest in a group fitness studio when it will just sit empty all day? I should just buy more treadmills.” And look at us today—we’ve fully embraced the power of group training on all levels, even on treadmills. 

So, we can do it and we will do it. We just need to be brave and start. Start with observing our members, pay close attention to their journey in our clubs, and ask ourselves how we could be easier to navigate in all ways, and then find the tech solutions to bridge those divides.