How Digital Coaching Can Revitalize Your Cardio Floor

It’s time your health club killed the “dreadmill” once and for all. Here’s how digital coaching can turn your cardio floor into a retention driver.

For many clubs, the cardio floor is the first thing you see when you walk into a club. When it’s thriving, it creates a high-energy atmosphere that can make the club come alive. A sparsely populated cardio floor, however, has the opposite effect.

While cardio equipment remains an essential part of the club experience, use of these machines has declined over the years. According to the 2019 IHRSA Health Club Consumer Report, “Stair-climbing machines, elliptical machines and stationary cycles (upright and recumbent) have seen the greatest drop in usage over the past three years.”

Group training, on the other hand, has continued to grow. So has personal training. Guided instruction, whether large or small group training (SGT) continues to attract consumers.

Also on the rise is a preference for guided instruction via virtual training systems. Digital content has grown in popularity because it satisfies a desire for more instructor-led classes, personalization, and engagement within health clubs.

“Digital content has grown in popularity because it satisfies a desire for more instructor-led classes, personalization, and engagement within health clubs.”

As the demand for virtual workouts grows, so do expectations of consumers who use it. If digital coaching is truly going to take hold and drive retention, it has to be:

  • Professionally produced. Well-shot, high-quality videos are a must. Consumers won’t put up with graining texture in video content.
  • Led by professional instructors. You want content guided by qualified experts who know how to motivate and inspire.
  • High energy: Bringing a studio-style experience should be exciting and immersive.
  • Easy to use: Any platform that offers on-demand, virtual workouts should have an interface that’s intuitive and responsive.
  • Comprehensive. The video workout library should offer a full range of exercise capabilities and goals. Old, young, beginner or advanced, there should be something for everyone.

When clubs find a supplier who can satisfy all of these qualifications, they’ll have a proven retention tool. With high-quality instructor-led programming, clubs immediately expand their value proposition by adding easy-to-access professional instruction to more members.

It’s also cost-effective for club owners. Virtual training allows multi-purpose and fitness-only clubs to offer guided workouts at a lower price. It’s the least-expensive way to bring studio-quality guided instruction to facilities.

Equipment life fitness woman on treadmill column

Killing the ‘Dreadmill’ Once and for All

Clubs are finding that on-demand workouts are starting to look like an imperative. With so many consumers opting for home equipment that streams instructor-led training classes, consumers, particularly Millennials, are gravitating to these virtual workouts.

Virtual reality in the form of on-demand workouts and self-guided workouts can be a key draw for new members and previously inactive populations. Carrie Kepple, the owner of Styles Studios, in Farmington, IL, and an IHRSA board member, has found it to be a valuable onboarding tool.

“In the clubs I’ve managed, there was one group that gravitated toward virtual classes—brand-new members,” says Kepple “Our research showed that new members were far more likely to get started by attending virtual—rather than live—classes, because, as beginners, they found them less intimidating. They’d often develop their confidence in these sessions and then eventually move on to the live ones.”

And on-demand, guided-instruction just may revitalize your cardio floor. One of the more intriguing new services becoming more widely available to clubs are cardio units that offer on-demand guided instruction.

Equipment life fitness screen column

While the treadmill still reigns as the most popular cardio machine, its use, like other cardio units, is on the decline. Giving your members on-demand options designed specifically for cardio equipment opens up a new world of fitness experiences for consumers, especially novices who use the same machine for the same workout over and over.

These are the types of members who don’t make progress, get bored, and begin to drift away. With on-demand workouts available on cardio machines, these cardio-only members are introduced to guided coaching. It’s a new beginning to their fitness journey and, more importantly, a new relationship with your club.

The sooner your club adopts virtual reality workouts, the sooner you’ll gain a competitive advantage.

Transforming the Cardio Experience with Digital Coaching

Venerable equipment supplier Life Fitness has taken the lead in pioneering on-demand, guided workouts on cardio units with Life Fitness On Demand. This innovative and growing library of digital classes is available exclusively on the Discover SE3 HD touchscreens of Life Fitness premium cardio products—including ellipticals, PowerMill Climbers, Arc Trainers, upright bikes, recumbent bikes, and treadmills.

In development since 2018, the workouts on the Life Fitness On Demand platform range between 10 to 40 minutes, and offer a wide variety of difficulty levels and coaching styles, featuring curated playlists with top songs. Over the course of a year, the Life Fitness product team gathered information from over 150 fitness facility operators from around the world and refined the user experience with input from exercisers, who completed over 2,000 video workouts.

Life Fitness felt it was essential to deliver the highest quality production value possible, along with expert instruction that gets result. In May 2018, Life Fitness partnered with NEOU to produce its library of videos. NEOU operates a 20,000 square foot state-of-the-art production studio in midtown Manhattan, attracting top talent in the fitness industry to film classes for the NEOU app platform.

“NEOU is deeply embedded in the New York fitness scene and their team helped us source and audition the best instructors from top boutiques across the city,” says Arturo Gutierrez, the product director and head instructor of on-demand content at Life Fitness. “We selected and trained this dynamic team of incredible personalities, all with diverse fitness experience, each bringing their own phenomenal energy and coaching style.”

Life Fitness On Demand software is available now on Life Fitness premium cardio products equipped with the Discover SE3 HD touchscreen. No subscription is required at this time, but additional and premium content may be available for an added cost in the future.

To learn more about the Life Fitness On Demand platform or to see a demonstration, visit Life Fitness' website or send them an email.

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Jim Schmaltz

Jim Schmaltz is a contributor to