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Entries in technology series (7)


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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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. 

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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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IHRSA Innovation & Technology Roundtable Brings Tech and Fitness Leaders Together

Several leaders from inside and outside the fitness industry met to discuss the threats and opportunities that technological advancements present to health clubs during the second-annual “Innovation and Technology Roundtable” at IHRSA 2016

“The whole idea of this event is helping the fitness industry understand what’s happening so they can prepare for impact,” said Rasmus Ingerslev, founder and executive vice chairman of Wexer Virtual and IHRSA's board chair-elect. “People are in the health club industry because they love people—not technology—but technology is transforming this industry as much as any other industry.” 

The hour-long meeting featured an open discussion for executives from more than a dozen companies spanning the tech and fitness space, including Samsung, Intel, ACAC Fitness & Wellness Centers, The Daily Burn, Wisconsin Athletic Club, and more. 

Conversation centered around technology’s impact on four main areas: 

  1. Member experience
  2. Business models and budget
  3. Analytics
  4. Security and data management  

“The industry has to start looking at how to spend in a way that improves the customer journey and experience,” Ingerslev said. 

IHRSA will use the “Innovation and Technology Roundtable” discussion to guide our editorial calendar, which will include more installments of the technology series. The goal of the series is to help health club owners and operators leverage technology to benefit their business. 


How Technology Could Shape the Health Club of the Future

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

Ray O’Connor, owner of the Wisconsin Athletic Club based in West Allis, WI, and an IHRSA board member, is among the more digitally discerning club operators in the fitness industry. He owns seven multi-purpose clubs and manages six corporate fitness centers throughout Wisconsin—all of which he outfits with the latest state-of-the-art fitness equipment. 

O’Connor also has a passion for technology’s potential impact on health clubs. Last March, the 30-year industry veteran attended a tech forum at the IHRSA International Convention & Trade Show in Los Angeles for ideas on how technology can better serve his club’s members. Tech giants Apple, Samsung, and Under Armour also attended the forum. (Preview the technology sessions happening at IHRSA 2016 in Orlando.) 

I asked O’Connor for his thoughts on the opportunities technology provides for better engaging and serving consumers. In short, he envisions many opportunities, but all of them can be grouped, more or less, into three larger buckets. 

Bucket #1: Friction-free Activity Tracking to Motivate Members 

Logging one’s exercise habits is an excellent tool for sustaining motivation, provided that the tracking process is easy. Despite the leaps and bounds engineers have made to create wearables like heart rate monitors, step counters, and mobile apps more user-friendly, O’Connor says there is still room for improvement. 

“Measuring how hard you work out needs to be seamless. Members should barely realize they’re using whatever technology it is they’re using to track their efforts. It should be a part of every day life, like sending an email from your smartphone,” O’Connor says. “For instance, a heart rate monitor is probably the best way to measure how much effort you put into a work out. But the adoption of heart rate monitors by members isn’t 100% because using them can be challenging, either because it’s unfamiliar, awkward, or uncomfortable.” 

There’s good reason to iron out the kinks with wearable heart rate monitors, and similar technology, too. 

“Seamless activity tracking could provide club operators with a wealth of information they can use to educate, motivate, and retain members,” O’Connor says. 

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Don’t Quit! Fitness Technology Aimed at Improving Member Retention

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

There are plenty of apps, websites, and wearables nowadays that help people workout. What isn’t as available, though, is technology that successfully helps people achieve the ultimate fitness goal: a lasting habit of regular exercise.

For example, a Fitbit will get you to take the stairs instead of the elevator, but will it get you back in the gym after a stressful month at work and no exercise? Will it reassure the first-time gym goer that her awkward misuse of the elliptical was no big deal?

Sure, maybe, if she’s really committed to logging her steps. Otherwise, probably not.

Don’t get me wrong, the Fitbit is an excellent product, and its huge success is warranted. But, like most wearables, it often meets the same fate as a New Year’s resolution-inspired gym membership: a crash and burn.

Luckily, the creation of technology that successfully improves retention is happening, albeit slowly, according to Rob Gregory, founder and owner of LTH Consulting in Guilford, England. Gregory specializes in helping health and fitness companies improve their performance by better using technology.

I recently chatted with Gregory to get his thoughts on big opportunities for tech and the fitness industry, and we talked a lot about technology aimed at keeping people in the habit of exercise.

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If Treadmills Could Talk

In the busy world of fitness technology, the Industrial Internet of Things stands out

Imagine if all the cardio machines—treadmills, ellipticals, arc trainers, etc.—on your gym floor could speak. What would they say? More importantly, what would you want them to say? As an operator, you’d probably want them to tell you how many miles they’ve gone, which parts will soon need fixing and who gets used the most.

While talking equipment might sound like something from a sci-fi movie, it’s not fiction at all—it’s reality. And it’s starting to be implemented in health clubs around the world.

The technology, e.g. “talking” treadmills, is a result of semi-new movement called “The Industrial Internet of Things,” which focuses on machines—from air conditioners to cars to treadmills—that can capture and communicate accurate, real-time data to manufacturers and end users.

The IIoT is diverse and spans numerous industries, but there is one common, simple premise: an object is installed with one or multiple sensors that feed usage information back to humans. For example, in the case of a treadmill, feedback can include how many miles a treadmill has gone, when and how often it gets used, and which, if any, parts need maintenance.

For more information on the IIoT, check out this video from the World Economic Forum:

“The Industrial Internet of Things has huge implications for clubs,” says Bryan O’Rourke, founder and CEO of Integrus, a health and fitness consulting firm, chief strategic officer and principal at Fitmarc, and president of the Fitness Industry Technology Council. O’Rourke is one of the fitness industry’s most expert voices on technology, and advises clients on digital media and tech strategy.

For most clubs, O’Rourke says, insurmountable hassle prevents clubs from really monitoring their cardio equipment. “A lot of clubs don’t do it because it’s too much of a pain. You have to go into the equipment, know how many miles it’s been used, what the preventive maintenance schedule is, all sorts of stuff. There is just so much data that we do not have, that if we did have, could really help improve experience and reduce costs and improve quality of service.”

Bryan O'Rourke, founder and CEO of IntegrusIIoT technology is now providing this data and eliminating much, if not all, of the hassle of manually inspecting machines. “Built-in intelligence can save a ton of money and make a huge, positive difference in user experience,” O’Rourke says. “If all your cardio equipment, no matter the brand, was inexpensively connected to the Internet, and manufacturers could see how their club’s equipment is actually performing, and club operators could really see how members are using equipment—all of which is being monitored in real time—you could really help improve member experience and reduce costs. That’s a big thing.”

O’Rourke, as president of FIT-C, is working with six IIoT vendors, one of which is ECOFIT Networks, a Canadian company that makes wireless data collection technology for cardio equipment.

ECOFIT equipment comes with a mounted or built-in sensor that wirelessly relays information to a portal that offers analytical data, asset service tracking and preventive maintenance information. “The portal provides you with a rich set of data and analytical tools,” says David Johnson, director of ECOFIT Networks.

For example, an operator can see how equipment is being used, both as whole and individual pieces. So, you could compare treadmills and ellipticals, or two different treadmills. You can also compare by brand.

The usefulness of such of such information is critical, says Johnson. “It allows operators to make better, strategic business decisions. With this information, a manager can make more educated decisions about what equipment to purchase and when.”

Johnson also notes that the data can lower insurance and liability costs and increase service responsiveness.

In a world of proliferating technology, O’Rourke believes the IIoT has true relevance to for health club operators. “It has a real economic impact. It allows you to optimize your business in a way that takes less effort but produces better outcomes.”

O’Rourke says a common challenge club companies face is not letting the novelty of a certain technology stand in the way of business objectives. “A lot of brands they feel they have to have the latest and greatest, but if it doesn’t help achieve their goals, it gets confusing.”

IIoT technology, however, makes perfect sense. Because while the IIoT may not be a sexy as say, the Apple Watch, O’Rourke jokes, it has the real potential to make a difference in user experience. A better user experience ultimately means better revenue and retention rates.

O’Rourke doesn’t foresee IIoT technology just optimizing business, however. He also sees it bringing the fitness industry closer together. “The Industrial Internet of Things is really going to merge, and require cooperation among, different players, and I think it’s what we’re all going to be working on in the coming years.”

Bryan O’Rourke can be reached at or on Twitter @bryankorourke.

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