Strategy Over Screens: How to Integrate Tech Into Your Gym
It’s easy to take the wrong lessons from the explosion of fitness tech over the last five years. Filling your gym with screens or pushing trendy wearable devices usually just distracts from the core workout experience. They don’t add real value to what you offer your members. The same tech will work just as well in the gym next door or on a run in the woods. Instead, tech needs to get people more involved with what they are already doing.
Here at EverybodyFights, we think we’ve done a pretty exemplary job of using technology to enhance our experience. Our mission has always been simple and clear: to bring the environment, attitudes and training methods of professional boxing to regular people. The intensity and competitiveness of boxing are a natural hook, and we knew we didn’t want to dilute the experience with unnecessary tech-based interruptions.
Our solution was to develop an app that adds personal tracking and public leaderboards to programs we already offered. That means clear benchmarks for progress, clear targets and extra motivation. And it gets members invested in long-term success at our gym.
There’s a general process you can follow to find a tech solution that fits your business model. Here’s how it works:
What is Your Core Experience?
This is where you need to start. What is it that draws members to your gym, class or program?
In our case, EverybodyFights is based on traditional boxing training camps. We deliver an authentic experience that includes strength, cardio, yoga and boxing techniques, organized into “rounds” to echo the structure of an actual fight. The program was designed by EverybodyFights founder George Foreman III, whose goal was always to stay true to the spirit of boxing as a social and deeply competitive sport.
George tells us how he and other fighters used to talk trash to each other about who was working harder during training camps. They’d compare the number of rounds they spent in the ring, doing cardio or completing reps.
He gave us the core of our tech model: a digital platform that could create a competitive, rounds-based game within our existing training programs.
Understanding your core experience will help you generate your own big idea. What you need is a clear sense of how your core offerings should change with the introduction of new technology.
With the big idea in hand, you can move on to thinking about design. What do you need your device, app or tech experience to do?
This part was straightforward for us. We knew our game would have two key elements. First, it would be competitive, in the spirit of boxing. That meant we wanted a public leaderboard where gym members and friends could compete for rankings or head-to-head. And second, we knew the scoring would be based on completing rounds of training.
That idea is based on the classic boxing experience. Typically, boxers will start as amateurs before eventually going pro, seeking championship titles, and aiming for induction into the Hall of Fame.
We knew we wanted to include a version of that progression in our digital platform, which we did by awarding players new titles as they completed ever more difficult rounds. We’d challenge them to complete new mixes of activities, finish more training sessions, and beat their previous records.
With design goals in place, you’re ready to look at the details of your tech implementation. The leaderboard showcases the members with the most rounds that month.
With clear design goals ready to hand, we put an app together that let our members compete in the way we had envisioned. The EverybodyFights app tracks rounds completed at the gym and displays them on a public leaderboard while also allowing members to challenge each other to head-on competitions.
But it does more than that. We knew scheduling is often the biggest barrier to consistent workouts. To account for that, we used GPS-triggered push notifications to prompt members to track their activity as they arrive at the gym. At the same time, we also used GPS tracking to lock the app when members were outside our physical location.
Together, those features meant the competition was tightly bound to the programs and training schedules at our physical location, guaranteeing smooth and consistent integration into how people were already training. It didn’t add any extra steps or pull members out of workouts — it just added raw engagement.
The EverybodyFights Training Camp App launched in September 2017. We’ve since converted more than 70% of our members to using the app, despite it only being available on the Apple store (though we’re looking to an Android Launch soon). Better still, the app has also increased class participation significantly.
Members who used to shy away from the intimidating technique series of courses are now taking part, because the classes are required to advance to higher levels. We’ve also seen retention increase from month to month as members climb ranks, progressing both personally and socially, and staying focused on coming back to our gym.
You’ll see similar effects as you implement and integrate your own tech-based solutions. There’s a reason tech has taken off so fast and so furiously in our industry — after all, it’s incredibly effective at this.
But you need to start with the experience. Stay true to what you already offer. Enhance, don’t distract. Remain authentic in what you ask members to do. Create competition, reward achievement and above all, make sure technology is making workouts better.
That’s how it’s done.