Technology — embrace it, evolve with it or be forgotten. It has taken over many day-to-day tasks and it has fully infiltrated health clubs. Members expect the most up-to-date technology in every aspect of their lives, and that includes their gym.
“Interactive technology is the key component in the way our society functions both professionally and personally,” said Peter Taunton, the founder and CEO of Snap Fitness. “Seeing as how health and fitness is a staple in people’s lives, it’s important that we be active and engaged in that space as well.”
Brian Johnson, executive management at Urban Active, said their members have a lot of options when it comes to technology. They have personal viewing screens, access to nutritional and instructional tips via club TVs and iPod capabilities. Cardio pieces that have the ability to track a member’s workout and their progression are the newest trend.
At Snap Fitness, all members have access to their own personal webpage at mysnapfitness.com. “This site serves as a resource where members can go to plan meals, manage their workouts, interact with other members through our discussion forums and more,” Taunton said. “Additionally, we offer a brand new program called easyFIT, which is a personal wellness technology designed to help members get results.” This technology tracks activity in points and allows the user to see how active they have been for the day. It also syncs with their personal webpage.
An easyFIT point is a measure of how much energy you use doing physical activity, explained Jessica Mustful, the product manager for Snap Fitness. “As you move, you burn calories above the calories burned at rest. When you burn 1 percent more calories than when you’re at rest, you earn one easyFIT point. Thirty easyFIT points means you’ve burned 30 percent more calories than when your body is at rest.” Members strive for a different range based on their fitness goals.
Gaming capabilities are also hitting the industry. Some bikes now have the ability to link to the web and have members virtually compete against other riders. “It’s fun and adds competition,” said Ed Trainor, the vice president of fitness services and development for Town Sports International. “Members are challenging each other in different locations.” Members can share their workout with their friends via social networks as to what they’ve accomplished. With the technology, they can also compete against their friend’s time or workout or two people can compete against each other in real time from different locations if they are both logged on to the software at the same time.
Members can use interactive fitness with group exercise as well. Fitness on Request allows a member to be put through a workout by instructors on their own time. Members have access to more than 40 unique classes at a time and can participate in group exercise classes when clubs don’t have a scheduled live instructor. “It helps members get results,” said David Kraai, the president of Fitness on Request. “When used with personal training, it creates a full package for members that is fun and flexible for them. Fitness on Request can be used as a tool to give members an option instead of putting themselves through a workout on their own.”
The industry is definitely moving toward tracking a member’s workout and making their workout mean more than just a half hour at the gym.
“My prediction is that this year will be the tipping point of the industry using tracking effectively,” Trainor said. “This is going to be the year that everyone gets it.” Trainor explained that tracking has several benefits including rewards and incentives from insurance companies for members who track their workouts. “Insurance companies don’t just want to reward usage, now they want digital information — total miles, training zones, calories burned,” he said. Those that participate could see potential, significant discounts.
With the easyFIT program, Snap Fitness has provided their members a way to track their daily activity away from the gym. “We have a solution that works for Corporate America, allowing people to stay mindful of their daily activity in the workplace.” Taunton said. “It works for kids, as parents can monitor the daily point totals and provide guidance to help get their children more active. It works for so many people, because it’s easy to use and easy to understand.”
Mustful said it makes members aware of how active they are throughout the day. “easyFIT has been a terrific motivator [for members], like having a personal coach encouraging them all day,” she said.
It’s All for Members
It’s important to invest in technology for your members. “Members are going to go where they have the most engaging experience,” Johnson said. “Where they spend their time will be where they can maximize their time and get a fun and interactive workout.”
While it may seem counterintuitive, technology is engaging and connecting with your member. “I think we’re in an age where people are less likely to engage with one another in the club setting,” Taunton said. “As any good fitness club operator can tell you, engaging your members is one of the keys for success, which makes this somewhat of a dilemma. By embracing interactive technology, you’re able to maintain that same level of engagement with your members, even if they aren’t engaging in person.” It also shows a level of commitment and appreciation for your old members, as well as an incentive for prospects to join.
It’s not all fun and games though. Some technology evolves so quickly that gym owners and equipment buyers must weigh their options. “There’s a difference between fads and technology that’s here to stay,” Johnson said. At Urban Active, Johnson prefers a manufacturer to demo the technology in his clubs for 90 days and see what kind of feedback they receive from members.
Trainor said new technology forces you to think about your options when it comes to buying. “You could buy on price, but it might not have the shelf-life.” he said. “What you have to think about are the machines and technology aging at the same rate — the screen may outlive actual modality.”
Once the technology is in place, members must be made aware of it. At Snap Fitness, members are introduced to easyFIT and their personal webpage from the beginning. “In addition to being an attractive value-added service, it allows the member to feel a strong sense of connection with the club and it also increases accountability,” Taunton said.
When Urban Active rolls out new technology, they use in-club promotions to make members aware using banners and balloons. According to Trainor, teaching members how to use the technology is an important part of the investment you make. “You’re going to get a much higher compliance if you show the members how to use the technology,” he said. Personal trainers need to assist confused or new members out on the floor and show them how to use new equipment.
Technology is important to your members. With industry advances in technology, clubs today can distract their member from the effort they’re exerting and show them results and progression. “Members truly embrace engagement, they want to be distracted from the effort it takes to get a good workout,” Trainor said.
Members want to be entertained. From the member that wants to track their every step to the member that wants to forget they are even at the gym — technology is important to your members’ workouts. It’s up to clubs to provide their members the technology they are looking for. -CS
By Ali Cicerchi