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Building a Wearable Tech Ecosystem

wearable technology

Wearables have been growing in popularity in recent years, spreading like wildfire across the health and wellness landscape. With dozens of brands, styles and sizes to choose from, it’s become easier than ever to find the perfect personal fitness tracker.

The greatest advantage of a wearable device is its constant presence. All day, it’s tracking your members’ movements and heart rates, gathering and categorizing that information.

“The reason there has been such an explosion of wearables is the consumer is driving that growth through demand,” said Travis Shannon, the vice president of information at Leisure Sports, Inc. “They want to understand more about themselves on a daily basis.”

Wearable technology — MYZONE, Polar, Fitbit and Apple Watch, to name a few — gives consumers a constant motivator to get in shape. Able to track basic metrics such as steps and floors climbed, in addition to more advanced insights like heart rate and calories burned, wearable tech allows users to focus on reaching daily goals — instead of fixating on the vague goal of “getting in shape.”

“A product like MYZONE is valuable to a club and to personal trainers because it helps extend the relationship between the trainer and the client beyond the gym,” said Greg Cibura, the chief technology officer at Fitness Formula Clubs. “It helps keep the client somewhat accountable.”

Because wearable fitness technology is all the rage, health clubs are implementing new programs and technologies of their own in order to engage clients and keep them active.

“What we’ve found is wrapping that technology into a program — essentially baking it into the experience — has been really where we’ve seen success,” said Shannon. “It’s an additional tool to help the members reach their goals and understand where they are on their journey.”

According to Shannon, the people who are diligent in tracking their physical fitness — the individuals who are self-motivated — aren’t necessarily the ones your gym should be trying to reach with wearable tech.

Instead, your gym should focus on the individuals who buy a wearable fitness tracker, exercise with it for two weeks diligently, take it off one day, and then ultimately forget about it. “Target the group that may not be the ones that would immediately go out and grab wearables to use,” said Shannon.

Shannon explained those are the clients who need motivation — even if they don’t realize it just yet.

An increasingly popular practice in health clubs now is integrating wearable technology into personal training sessions. Using wearable tech as a connecting point gives trainers the ability to walk through a member’s fitness journey with them, more closely than they could before. They can use the constant data to map out workout plans and track progress.

But to make it work, you have to ensure your fitness center is conducive to the use of wearable technology.

“You need to let the instructor and trainer cater to each member to help them reach their goal and reinforce the use of that technology,” said Shannon. “You can’t just put it on your shelf and expect everything will be great in your approach. You really need to build an ecosystem and put the systems in place to encourage the use of that technology.”

For example, your health club should be equipped with the appropriate complementary technologies — monitors, sensors and other amenities — that encourage usage. “We’ve really pushed the deployment of reinforcing technologies, and that’s been key to some of the successful implementation, such as large monitors for MYZONE on the fitness floor and studios,” explained Shannon.

Training your staff on how to navigate the “wearable tech-friendly” areas of the gym will also help in establishing an ecosystem that allows for the seamless use of wearable technology.

“We like to have a champion at each location, someone who is well-versed with MYZONE, for example, and is actively able to show the benefits to members,” said Cibura. “It’s important to have a champion. You want to make sure the fitness staff has a leader in terms of the proper way of communication with members and staff.”

Another strategy for incorporating wearable technology into your gym is creating competitions or activities that are tracked through the tech. “One of the other things that’s been successful is running challenges both within the club and between clubs [using wearable technology],” explained Shannon. “Those tend to be particularly motivating, especially when you’re talking about a team format.”

A hopeful byproduct of these competitions is that members get excited about working out, more intentionally use their wearable technology while in your gym, and reach their fitness goals even faster. “Designing programs that encourage use and the building of habits over time is really key to making sure that happens,” said Shannon. “It’s really about engagement. You want to get people utilizing your club and working toward reaching their goals.”

It’s important to also make sure your club can cater to all different brands of wearable technology, given there are several on the market. The last thing you’d want is for a member to workout less because their wearable can’t sync with your club’s technologies.

“In the end, wearables are really about engagement,” said Shannon. “If somebody prefers Fitbit or Apple Watches compared to MYZONE or Polar, we really just want to engage that member. So, we want engagement while they’re on the property, as well as when they’re outside our four walls.”

It’s not reasonable to think your club could accommodate every smart watch and fitness tracker out there — there are just too many. But you can facilitate the right atmosphere for wearable technology usage.

“It’s a very positive relationship wearable tech has between the club and the member,” said Cibura. “There’s a lot of benefits for the members, but there’s obviously benefits for the clubs as well. It helps create accountability with the ultimate goal of providing results to members that are training for something.”

Wearable technology is becoming too popular for health clubs not to take advantage of its ability to increase physical activity in people who previously weren’t active at all.

“The goal, in the end, is to help members using these devices to build better and healthier habits,” said Shannon. “The technology is just an enhancement to get to that point.”

Bobby Dyer

Bobby is the former assistant editor of Club Solutions Magazine.

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