How Digital Exercise Display Can Rev Your Gym’s Training Experience

Incorporate a stronger guided member program with a deep visual exercise library to outpace the competition.

When developing customer-facing solutions for today’s health club audience, few issues are as challenging as satisfying the demands for the extensive range of workout trends in the marketplace. With boutique studios pushing the envelope on innovative training modalities, clubs need to find cost-effective ways to keep up.

Because clubs don’t often enjoy the luxury of hiring specialized trainers for every in-demand workout (e.g., functional training, HIIT, recovery, etc.), many operators are turning to various forms of virtual fitness (VF) or self-guided workouts using digital displays in designated areas.

These instructional workouts lead members through “workouts of the day” or any number of preprogramed small group training (SGT) sessions. The best VF systems are targeted in their application and flexibly support member’s impromptu workouts whenever they arrive at the club or in coordination with the oversight of an in-house trainer. Integrating the right depth of quality content with the right display technology can provide a myriad of program options giving members another reason to stick with your greater club offering.

This is a challenge for today’s gyms. An increasing amount of members, particularly Millennials and Generation Zers, tend to belong to more than one facility, according to the 2019 IHRSA Health Club Consumer Report. A big motivating factor for this is a lack of variety of workouts available at some traditional clubs.

VF can fill that void and keep your members inside your own four walls. Many club operators have done just that. According to an article in Club Business International, “An estimated 12,000 clubs worldwide now offer a virtual option, and, in all likelihood, that figure understates the reality.”

These clubs have found that VF has numerous benefits, according to CBI. “Among them are greater utilization of underused studios, reduced training overhead, ease of operation, prospect and member appeal, applicability to every member population, increased sales, higher retention, the ability to serve members ‘outside’ of the club.... The list, it seems, is limited only by one’s creativity.”

Satisfying Your Members—Before Somebody Else Does

Self-guided workouts available on demand are part of the appeal of high-end home equipment such as Peloton and The Mirror. Still, the club environment retains so many advantages and should always prove more motivating than being isolated at home. With energetic group training sessions and smart digital coaching elements included, you have the basic building blocks to deliver a superior customer experience at any facility.

That’s what Chris Griebe, senior vice president of Lifestyle and Fitness at WTS International, learned when he went searching for a VF solution. Founded in 1973, WTS International is a high-end leisure and spa consulting and management company servicing facilities around the world.

“We have a lot of different verticals, including community, commercial, and multifamily facilities, as well as private clubs in a variety of hospitality projects,” says Griebe, who oversees seven of the company’s global operations.

“An estimated 12,000 clubs worldwide now offer a virtual option, and, in all likelihood, that figure understates the reality.”

Club Business International

This varied audience is difficult to please. Today’s consumers have adopted a Roku/Netflix mentality that’s moved to the fitness space. They want instant access to multiple workouts. Better to give it to them through your club’s portal than a third-party delivery platform.

“Consumers are so much more educated. The amount of content that you can get at your fingertips on an iPhone is astounding,” he explains. “The challenge for us is, ‘How do you get people to believe that they need to go to our facility to get the best content programming for them?’”

When WTS looked for a content solution, Griebe wanted something that was flexible and customizable. “We wanted to find a solution where we could include our own Burn content, which is our branded solution for small group training, activation, and progression training.”

Not only did they want a VF solution that allowed for their own branded content, they needed an extensive library of training options to meet the needs of their variable clientele.

“We service a wide variety of members and guests in all age ranges. We needed a solution that offered programs for those who engage in activities like tennis and golf, and that are appropriate for a senior population dedicated to active aging. That population is very big for us.”

WTS also had to make sure they had the delivery hardware to offer VF content to their membership in the facilities they serviced. And that digital hardware needed to fit into the design elements of each club.

It was a tall order, but Griebe found a solution.

The Right Partner & Platform for Guided Training Content

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Griebe and WTS found their VF partner in Aktiv TV, a content deliver system created by of Aktiv Solutions, a firm that specializes in redesigning boutique-style functional training spaces for health clubs. WTS already utilized Aktiv’s well-known Gym Rax suspension rigging and storage systems in their facilities, so Griebe looked into Aktiv TV and its range of services. He quickly discovered it gave WTS all they were looking for.

“We needed a diverse solution with a visually stimulating platform,” he says. “Aktiv TV offers fun, focused content that we can activate in a wide variety of installations, from very large commercial health clubs to small intimate private and upscale hospitality spaces. Aktiv TV, in conjunction with their Gym Rax ecosystem, has been a home run for us.”

Another added bonus was the customization option, according to Griebe. This allows WTS to include their Burn Programming logo and branded elements on the Aktiv TV display.

“That's what we loved about it. It's a very open system. We could synergistically align with our platforms to promote Burn content.”

Aktiv TV also has the specialized training content that WTS needed to service their aging members. Says Griebe: “It delivers the niche content that we need as we expand more into managed-care, assisted-living, and memory-care facilities.”

Because it’s turnkey and doesn’t require extra staff to operate, Aktiv TV helped WTS fill in the gaps of their services in a cost-effective way.

“It was really imperative for us to be able to serve our clients if they didn't have the budget to be able to staff with live individuals," explains Griebe. “We're able to activate more square footage of the facility, where before there might have been an empty corner with equipment or an empty group fitness studio.”

This latter point is a key part of Aktiv TV’s strategy. Ed Hulit, director of digital solutions for Aktiv, says that guided workouts have been a part of the fitness world since the days of Jane Fonda, Richard Simmons, and Kathy Smith. But it still wasn’t been an easy fit for clubs.

“The problem Aktiv TV is solving is that we want to be the infrastructure for content distribution,” says Hulit. “And we wanted it to be open source in the way that clubs can contribute their own programming options into the system. Having a range of content available is definitely a much more urgent need right now for clubs.”

“Having a range of content available is definitely a much more urgent need right now for clubs.”

Ed Hulit, Director of Digital Solutions

Aktiv Solutions

For more information on Aktiv TV and Aktiv Solutions, visit their website or call them at 888-895-0547.

Jim Schmaltz

Jim Schmaltz is a contributor to IHRSA.org