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Entries in fitness technology (26)


Fitness Equipment Manufacturers Team with Apple for Gym Connect

Innovations in fitness technology have revolutionized the health club experience, with exercise equipment and wearable fitness trackers getting exponentially smarter. Tech-inclined fitness enthusiasts can now access detailed workout data at their fingertips. The only problem? Metrics on the treadmill and their wrist never quite match up.

That’s where Apple’s Gym Connect comes in. The new feature, which will be available on WatchOS 4 in the fall, aims to solve the data disconnect for Apple Watch users.

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IHRSA’s 5 Top Fitness Tech Posts of 2016

Back in December, we looked at our overall most-read blog posts of 2016, which provided some interesting insights about the news and topics that dominated the past year.

One common thread that seemed to be present in most of the stories was technology. So we decided to dig a little deeper into our analytics and pull out our five most-read tech-related blog posts from the past 12 months. 

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How to Go from Madness to Mindfulness in Record Time 

This is an IHRSA featured post, brought to you by SportsArt.

Have you noticed that the same old objects we’ve had for decades have suddenly become “smart”? We have smartphones, smart watches, smart lights, smart clothing—even our appliances like dishwashers and refrigerators have joined the smart club.

Soon you’ll be using a smart toilet, if you’re not already.

Great, right? Well, not always. We love technology until we don’t. While cramming an appliance with chips and circuits brings a new level of performance and function, it also increases complexity, forcing the user to learn new operating systems with varying levels of difficulty. In short, our appliances are getting smarter, but that doesn’t mean we are.  

The Technology Paradox Plagues Health Clubs, Too

Any health club owner has witnessed this technology paradox in his or her own facility.

Today’s high-tech exercise machines are ingenious inventions, offering numerous variations of workouts on stair climbers, treadmills, stationary bikes, and other cardio equipment. But while the functionality always improves, the usability may not. Or to paraphrase noted Russian philosopher Yakof Smirnoff: “On health club machine, touchscreen controls you.”

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How Fitness Technology Enhances Health Club Member Engagement

For decades, using "fitness technology" meant little more than stepping on a scale. Now an array of wearable devices and digital applications offers detailed workout feedback in real time. 

According to Bryan O'Rourke, president of the Fitness Industry Technology Council (FIT-C), that presents health club owners with both a challenge and an opportunity. 

"The clubs that are going to be the most successful are the ones that integrate thoughtful digital strategies with the brick and mortar," O'Rourke said

Getting with the Digital Program 

A digital health club strategy can cover a lot of ground—everything from providing free apps to transferring your entire digital infrastructure to the cloud. As a club owner, only you can say what makes sense for you. 

Here are some options to consider: 

Wearables: As the name suggests, these are small fitness trackers that the customer wears, usually either as a clip-on or with a wristband. (They're sometimes called smartwatches.)

Digital trackers are light years beyond old-fashioned pedometers. Yes, they can count steps taken and calories burned. But they can also monitor heart rate and sleep patterns; some even have a GPS to help bikers and joggers map their routes. 

But the basic idea behind all trackers is simple: Trackers provide more data. More data leads to greater engagement. And engaged customers are happier customers. 

Apps: If you're not ready to make the leap to wearables—or you're worried that your customers will balk at the cost—fitness apps could a good alternative, says Michael Rucker, vice president of technology for Active Wellness

Basically, these apps tap into a smartphone's built-in tracking sensors and repurpose that data for fitness monitoring. And some of them are free. 

"If you're a high-volume/low-price club, your members are likely to be cost-conscious," Rucker said. "They're going to appreciate it if you offer them a free mobile app that does 80% of what a [wearable] does." 

And you'll appreciate the guests who renew their memberships because you made it easy for them to store workout data from both their home and your club on their phones. 

Mobile: Mobile devices and the health and fitness industry go hand in hand. The word "mobile" even suggests an active lifestyle. Health club owners can fully engage their busy, active guests by allowing them to use their mobile devices for all aspects of the health club experience—not just tracking, integrating, and customizing workout data, but also renewing memberships, checking club schedules, reserving equipment, etc. 

As O'Rourke noted, "It's irrefutable that a 'mobile-first' strategy is emerging, which means that you may need to rethink some aspects of your business model." 

A Revolution in Real Time 

You don't have to commit to a particular digital strategy today. You do, however, have to commit to having a digital strategy. Because fitness club guests everywhere are demanding a higher level of engagement that only modern technology can provide. 


Calling IHRSA Members Dedicated to Fitness Innovation and Technology

Are you an IHRSA member who recognizes the increasing significance and impact of technology in the global health and fitness club industry? 

If you answered ‘yes,’ we need your insight! 

IHRSA’s New Innovation & Technology Advisory Council 

We’re creating an advisory council on technology and innovation in order to ensure that IHRSA members have the necessary information and resources they need to capitalize on innovation and technology trends in their businesses. 

“Technology is changing the customer journey and the perception of brands,” says Rasmus Ingerslev, chair of IHRSA board of directors. “The next 20 years of technological development will match the last 100 years. The health club industry’s traditional four walls are being affected by wearables, tracking, streaming, and online exercise. This doesn’t mean the health club industry can’t compete, just that the industry must stay alert and up-to-date on these trends to become and remain relevant.” 

Objectives of the council include: 

  • Aligning the industry with vetted technology oriented companies, organizations, and key influencers to leverage information and experience.
  • Capturing and interpreting the articulated and unarticulated needs of the industry’s current and future customers relating to technology and innovation.
  • Educating IHRSA members on the current innovation and technology landscape to aid them in making sound innovation and technology decisions.
  • Establishing IHRSA as a credible source of knowledge on the future of technology in—and relating to—the health and fitness industry.
  • Helping IHRSA and IHRSA members improve, expand, and enhance their current products and service offerings.
  • Exploring visionary strategic partnership opportunities for IHRSA.

Interested? Here Are the Details: 

The new council, which will meet three times per year—in person at IHRSA’s 36th Annual International Convention & Trade Show in March and during two virtual meetings—will consist of 10-16 members appointed by IHRSA. 

Council members will serve for a two-year term, with an additional term at IHRSA’s discretion. New council members will be recruited regularly in order to ensure a diversity of experience (e.g. non-industry indigenous companies, technology thought leaders, IHRSA membership types, etc.). 

IHRSA members were invited to apply for the council on our website by November 18. We’ll announce the inaugural council members prior to IHRSA 2017—taking place March 8-11, 2017, in Los Angeles, CA.


Don't Get Left Behind: Embrace Digital Technology Today, Says Marcos Eguillor

Technology is changing industries wholesale and this is not an exception for the fitness industry.

“In the current market situation it is no longer enough to offer good service—you need to adapt your business to a customer that is familiarized with technology, accustomed to mobility, and claiming services in line with the twenty-first century,” said Marcos Eguillor, managing partner of BinaryKnowledge and professor at IE Business School, during his IHRSA European Congress keynote address, sponsored by Keiser Fitness. 

Eguillor advised that, in addition to having excellent staff and providing a good experience, health clubs must also offer digital solutions that extend the customer journey beyond the time spent at the gym. However, he warned, "digital transformation is much more than the development of an application or purchasing new technology"—the process requires a strategy with the following key steps:  

  1. Define your business objectives.
  2. Focus on what is relevant to your customer and integrate it as a single offer.
  3. Select carefully core suppliers and experts.
  4. Offer solutions that add value.r
  5. Start small and stay flexible.
  6. Experiment and learn from the process.
  7. Track the progress and measure results.
  8. Share your experience with other industry peers. 

Digital technology is here to stay and the fitness industry should confidently embrace it and use it as a tool to grow. 

“Early adopters in the industry are already seeing an increase in their earnings,” Eguillor said. “To ease the transformation, get your staff involved–they are the ones who can best interpret the data provided by new technologies.”


How Health Clubs Are Meeting the Demand for Performance Training

In 2000, when Greg Glassman introduced the now-famous CrossFit concept—an efficient, high-intensity workout based on nine basic functional movements that required no traditional equipment—it seemed a promising niche offering.

... albeit a decidedly different kind of one.

Describing the regimen’s raison d’être, Glassman said, “CrossFit isn’t a specialized fitness program, but a deliberate attempt to optimize physical competence in each of 10 recognized fitness domains—cardiovascular and respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance, and accuracy.”

Today, Glassman’s fitness formula drives what has become a global powerhouse, with more than 13,000 “boxes,” as its facilities are referred to, affectionately, by their members, with an estimated market value, according to Forbes magazine, of $4 billion.

As in many other areas of society, including our own industry, millennials have provided much of the impetus. In fact, the introduction of CrossFit coincided neatly with the coming-of-age of this cohort. Born between 1981 and the early 2000s—the first generation to mature during the new millennium— this group now numbers 69.2 million in the U.S.

They’re also known as Echo Boomers, Generation We, Generation Next, the Net Generation, and the Global Generation.

Glassman, it seems, had clearly come up with the perfect, high-intensity program for people who were looking for a new type of workout—one with particularly strong appeal for millennials. Approximately 40% of CrossFitters are between the ages of 24 and 34—a millennial sweet spot—according to a recent study from Rally Fitness, an Ontario, CA-based manufacturer of exercise equipment.

CrossFit, though, has always thought out of the “box,” and, as a result, become something of a cultural phenomenon. In 2007, the CrossFit Games debuted. The competition now attracts some 200,000 participants each year, confers a $2-million prize, and is televised by the Disney Channel. The event also seems to have inspired—or coincided with the emergence of—other fitness reality shows, such as NBC’s STRONG, the Esquire Network’s American Ninja Warrior, and its upcoming Team Ninja Warrior spin-off.

What’s the bottom-line message for IHRSA member clubs?

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Going Digital: The Disruptive Opportunity for the Global Health Club Business

If you’re uncertain about technology’s place in the health club industry, Marcos Eguillor, managing partner of BinaryKnowledge_ and professor at IE Business School, would like to give you a wake-up call. 

The growing use of technology in fitness is “not going back to ‘the good old times,’” he says. “Forget about it—this is not going to happen. Digital is going to stay, and instead of trying to fight it I would say try to leverage it.” 

Eguillor will teach IHRSA European Congress attendees how to leverage digital strategies in his keynote address, “Going Digital: The Disruptive Opportunity for the Global Health Club & Fitness Business.” His Keiser Corporation-sponsored presentation will take place on Wednesday, October 19 in Seville, Spain. 

How Technology Is Impacting Health Club Infrastructure 

One of the biggest disruptive elements of today’s digitized world is that the days of solely brick-and-mortar businesses are over. 

“The main change is the way customers think of infrastructure has changed,” Eguillor says. “The gym or health club is no longer just a place. Technology has made us independent from the infrastructure being a specific location or exercise machine or personal trainer—we are more autonomous and more knowledgeable about what to do and how to do it.” 

Jump on Different Digital Opportunities 

Eguillor suggests looking for new ways to turn a profit, even if that means the fundamental value proposition of your club could change. 

“It’s no longer a place to practice sport—the gym infrastructure has to be rebuilt in terms of the value proposition,” he says. “I don’t know if that means better infrastructure or no infrastructure, but you cannot be restricted to infrastructure. You need to be part of the value change in terms of digital.” 

This means that all staff members have to be aligned under the new digitized structure, Eguillor says. For example, if one of your personal trainers isn’t capable of interacting with members virtually, in addition to face-to-face, you are likely missing an opportunity. 

“Your personal trainer at the health club needs to be a digital ambassador,” he says. “By pushing those boundaries forward you can create a seamless experience—the user shouldn’t be able to differentiate when they’re at the club and when they’re out of the club.” 

Ultimately, undergoing a digital transformation can be a huge opportunity for a health club, but Eguillor cautions that the process is much more involved than simply building an app or purchasing new technology. 

“Digital transformation is not technology—it is what you do with technology,” he says. 

Learn more about the IHRSA European Congress, October 17-20 in Seville, Spain. 


It’s Not ‘If’ Technology Will Impact the Fitness Industry—It’s ‘How’

Several IHRSA board members and former board members attended and spoke at the Motionsoft Technology Summit in Baltimore, MD, this week.

CIOs Discuss the Future of Fitness Technology

Rick Caro, former IHRSA board president and president of Management Vision, Inc., spoke at the CIO Roundtable on Wednesday.

The roundtable discussed how health clubs should budget and plan for impactful new technology projects. The other panelists were Corey Benish, CIO of Planet Fitness, Mike Rucker, vice president of technology for Active Wellness, Bruce Gardner, IT director for David Lloyd Leisure Ltd., and Adam Zeitsiff, CIO of Gold’s Gym.

Panelists shared their companies short- and long-term tech projects, and then shared the fitness industry technological advancements they hope will develop in the future. Zeitsiff said he would like to see the creation of a unified data repository, where health clubs can track engagement data and use the analysis to help members. Benish, Rucker, and others shared their desire for the fitness industry to develop industry standards around data, since the language isn’t currently consistent.

The Fitness Industry Must Expand Outside ‘The Four Walls’

“It’s not ‘if’ technology will impact the fitness industry—it’s ‘how,’” said IHRSA Board Chair Rasmus Ingerslev during his closing keynote address on Thursday.

The next 20 years of technological development will match the last 100 years, and technology is replacing the customer journey, he said. The health club industry’s traditional four walls are under attack from:

  • Wearables
  • Tracking
  • Streaming
  • Online exercise programs

That doesn’t mean the health club industry can’t compete—but the industry must become relevant outside of the four walls of the club.

In the future, Ingerslev said he believes three types of clubs will emerge:

  • Purely brick and mortar
  • Brick and mortar with digital extension
  • Purely digital

Going forward, he anticipates that service will become more individualized—both face-to-face and digitally; fitness will become more social (again); gyms will become relevant outside of the four walls, 24-hours a day; and technology will intensify and change the competition.

And in this time of flux, IHRSA will provide resources to help health clubs to adapt and, ultimately, serve more members.

“I am with IHRSA because we are selling the idea of a healthier planet,” he said.


Strategic Technology Investment Can Yield Cost-savings for Health Clubs

This article is part of a series on technology opportunities for the fitness industry.

Sometimes, it seems like health clubs have a love/hate relationship with technology. 

It’s widely accepted that technology can improve club operations and the member experience, but, with the plethora of tech solutions in the fitness market, choosing the right products can be dizzying for health club owners. 

Sure, investing in technology might be complicated and expensive—but it’s necessary; experts agree that tech investments are key components to running a successful health club in today’s increasingly competitive market. 

Why It’s Important for Health Clubs to Invest in Technology 

“It comes down to a financial bottom line—if you don’t invest in technology, you have very little capability of communicating with your members, and you have very little capability of communicating with the equipment that you’re using in the clubs,” says Paul Lockington, new products development manager for Orangetheory Fitness and Fitness Industry Technology Council (FIT-C) board member. “And without those two communication links, you’re going to be hard-pressed to generate cash to pay the bills.” 

And, while fear of accumulating more bills is why many health club owners don’t make substantial technology investments, spending your money wisely in the tech space could ultimately benefit your bottom line. 

“You can substantially increase your ROI using technology properly,” says Dave Johnson, co-founder of ECOFIT, a networking cardio fitness equipment company out of Victoria, British Columbia in Canada. 

Johnson, who also serves on the FIT-C board, says health club owners who have limited resources should be making strategic technology investments in order to satisfy members and keep facilities running smoothly. 

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