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How Your Gym Can Offer a Virtual Trainer for Every Member

On-demand training videos available on cardio units are changing the game in guided workouts. Here’s how to make them work for your facility.

With the gift-giving season upon us, many people may be considering home exercise equipment. The popularity of these machines has increased, mainly because the user can now stream exercise instruction and group classes on high-definition video screens.

Technology Life Fitness trainer in studio column

But is home exercise equipment really taking over the fitness industry with potential to eclipse health clubs? According to recent data, no. The 2019 IHRSA Health Club Consumer Report says the health club industry continues to grow. “In 2018, a total of 62.45 million Americans reported being health club members, an uptick of 2.6% over 2017,” says the report.

Other research confirms that home equipment isn’t replacing health clubs as the workout destination of choice for fitness-minded consumers. A recent article in Forbes reported on findings by LatentView Analytics, who studied about 150 million data points associated with fitness trends. After crunching the numbers, the company concluded the following: “Working out at home is not a trend. It is a seasonal fad that peaks in the winter months when people have made New Year’s resolutions, and home workouts are not likely to grow overall.”

But there is another trend that is growing, and it’s the feature that has popularized home workout systems: It’s the fact that cardio units now come equipped with on-demand workouts and coaching. And this is something that clubs can take full advantage of.

Virtual Training is Taking Over

Technology Life Fitness exerciser on treadmill column

Gym cardio machines equipped with a library of on-demand workouts are the best of both worlds for members. Members get to experience the motivating social atmosphere of a health club while having access to a variety of on-demand workouts designed for the particular cardio unit they’re using.

Virtual training, in general, continues to earn fans among fitness professionals and consumers alike. Prevention magazine performed a survey of personal trainers and asked them to predict the biggest fitness trends of 2020. The bottom line, according to the survey results: “Virtual training is about to take over.”

Unfortunately, some clubs have been slow to react. They worry that on-demand virtual training will cannibalize their own training staff and reduce a vital revenue stream. But as these digital systems proliferate, virtual workouts on cardio units have proven not to impact expert instruction that takes place far away from the cardio floor. In fact, these virtual workouts can supplement your personal training offerings, since trainers can recommend certain on-demand sessions as part of their client’s overall program.

On-demand classes also solve a well-known limitation of gym cardio: boredom. Introducing high-energy instructor-led workouts eliminates all the downsides of steady-state cardio.

These digital systems also help club owners gather more information that they can use for marketing and inventory decisions. An article on virtual exercise in Club Business International states it plainly: “One tantalizing aspect of the process is that digital programming is able to generate data—lots of it—which, utilized intelligently, can prove valuable in countless ways.”

Bringing Virtual Fitness to Every Machine and Every Body

As equipment suppliers start moving more aggressively into virtual training services, club owners need to be sure they choose a company that has a complete anthology of workouts designed for everyone from beginners to advanced exercisers. And you want to be able to offer these workouts on more than one type of machine. To truly take advantage of the on-demand virtual movement, you want ellipticals, bikes, treadmills, and other units to be able to deliver video instruction.

This is exactly what you’ll find with the latest innovation from Life Fitness. The prestigious equipment manufacturer has jumped into the virtual training market in a big way with the Life Fitness On Demand platform. They are the first fitness equipment manufacturer to supply digital on-demand programming for an entire line of commercial cardio equipment.

“On-demand classes also solve a well-known limitation of gym cardio: boredom.”

Life Fitness’s carefully designed and growing library of digital classes is streamed via their Discover SE3 HD consoles available on their premium lineup of treadmills, ellipticals, cross-trainers, stair climbers, and upright and recumbent stationary bikes. This gives clubs a nearly unlimited number of options in delivering an energizing cardio experience for all member demographics.

This is a key feature of Life Fitness’s platform, says Arturo Gutierrez, the product director and head instructor of on-demand content at Life Fitness. “Exercisers love our classes,” says Gutierrez. “They can select a program that best fits their goals, and follow a motivational coach in a studio-style class.”

The intuitive simplicity of the user interface is another advantage of the platform. Engaged through a simple touchscreen, members can simply choose a class from an extensive portfolio of offerings. No login or subscription is required to access the content. This eliminates the problem of users giving up on a system because of its complexity.

Life Fitness tested the system extensively in clubs to see how the Life Fitness On Demand digital platform worked in a gym setting. They found that it immediately became a retention tool, and that it worked as a supplement for in-house personal trainers, who recommended specific workouts on the Life Fitness system to their clients.

“Members can use our cardio equipment in a more engaging and effective manner to encourage greater progress and results,” adds Gutierrez. “This translates into more satisfied members, which leads to increased retention.”

Perhaps best of all, the Life Fitness On Demand digital platform is connected to award-winning cardio equipment that clubs all over the world have depended on for decades. Because the workouts are optimized to specific machines, members will be sure to get the maximum benefit from their training session.

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 IHRSA.org