As an avid gym tech enthusiast, I always love to look ahead. As in recent years, I expect technology to have a growing impact on our industry and I see a number of clear developments that will start to – or continue to – make a transformative impact on the fitness industry in 2018.
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‘Wearable tech’ is a phrase everyone with an interest in fitness technology will have come across at some point in the recent years. While market leaders such as Fitbit and Jawbone have been suffering and are being challenged by industry moguls such as Apple with their Apple watch, it is fair to say that the wearable market is well-established. 2018 looks set to be another interesting year for wearable tech, which is already estimated to have an industry value of nearly $6 billion, especially with big players such as clothing brand Under Armour (who prefer to see themselves as a technology company) moving into the wearable space. I expect the growing success of wearables to be fueled by less friction in usage: the evolution from clunky devices with manual activation to a more seamless user experience, for example by having heart rate tracking integrated into fitness clothing and increasingly smarter sensors in mobile phones.
Internet of Things
These days, it’s a rare sight in many industries to see a business that doesn’t embrace the access-anywhere approach which the possibilities of cloud technology bring. While the fitness industry has been slow to adapt initially, 2017 has been a year of huge steps forward and I expect this trend to continue with cloud-based technology becoming the standard over on-premise software in the year to come. Interesting enough, in 2015 84% of UK businesses already operated within the cloud, so it’s good to see our industry finally catching up on this development.
With cloud becoming standard, I expect connected devices or the Internet of Things to make big steps in 2018 as well. Obviously, the main devices clubs operate with are fitness equipment, so it’s a great development that the leading equipment providers such as Life Fitness, Matrix and Precor have all been working hard on platform agnostic API solutions to enable a seamless member experiences.
But other devices are becoming part of this online club ecosystem as well, with companies such as NEO Health offering integrated body fat scales and in-gym virtual trainer applications for instruction, coaching, and testing. Also, companies such as Technogym, eGym, and Milon will lose their USP’s from directly integrated strength machines, as in 2018 provider agnostic sensor integration for strength equipment will become a fact. This is going to be a big thing, as it will enable club owners to upgrade their existing offline kit into a state of the art technology-driven training experience, without the big investment into completely new machines.
Offering coaching services to your clients is certainly nothing new. However, offering them digitally, without even meeting the trainer, is a different story.
Thanks to the cloud, communication and engagement of your members is getting easier and easier. The need for physical, in-person coaching is reducing, as gym-goers opt for services that work around them, but most importantly, is available 24/7. Long-distance coaching offers services at an often-reduced rate from their physical counterparts, making it an attractive alternative in itself for wallet-minded gym-goers.
Complement this online assistant with all the services of a physical person trainer, however, and it’s a match made in heaven.
In my own experience, adding in-club coaching solutions is a creative way to keep members engaged with your services.
All-in-one fitness software is widely available, and there are options to integrate these solutions into physical locations within your premises. By making use of environmental props like QR codes, gym users can combine the power of the software with the physical equipment in front of them.
Here’s an example: mounted tablets in your free weight area can give your members guided workout instructions, letting them exercise safely and at their own pace. Including a QR code to scan with their smartphone to log workout details and metrics.
Integrating the digital with the real is a way to show that not only is your club keeping up with one of 2018’s big trends, but that you’re also focusing on improving the experience of your members directly.
Software in itself isn’t a replacement for personal training but is a perfect companion that can be available simultaneously with all of your members. Prepare for the year ahead and identify if this is something that you could implement into your club.
Video Game Fitness
A passion for tech inevitably steered me towards an interest in video game design, but combining games with exercise is not something that, until recently, had seemed plausible on a wide scale.
The consumer sphere for exergaming has risen rapidly since the WiiFit in 2007 mobilized an untapped demographic into burning calories. Exercise and video games were an unlikely partnership, but it was exciting to see this section of the industry grow into the mainstream. When the two are combined effectively, the outcome is impressive and has the possibility of flipping the idea ‘exercise isn’t fun’ on its head.
VirZOOM is offering an interesting take on this, blending their own exercise equipment and peripherals with games optimized to create an unforgettable (and exciting!) fitness experience. Watch out for 2018’s video game fitness boom.
Adapting to Trends
Challenge Norms – Following trends doesn’t mean following the crowd. Don’t be scared to put your own twist on things. What works for one gym, might not work for yours. Don’t blindly wander down the path of a trend that is useless when it comes to helping your members smash their goals.
Embrace Technology – If you’re still not fully enveloped in a veil of technology, you’re not getting the most out of your members, or your own staff. Boost the retention of your members, and the efficiency of your staff, by blending technology with training. (Trust me, it works!)
Keep Your Eyes Peeled – New developments in tech are cropping up all the time. Keeping your staff aware and trained in the benefits of technology will help you adapt to new gadgets and devices when they enter the market. Plus, if your staff are fountains of knowledge when it comes to fitness tech, your members will be confident your gym is future-proof, and an exciting place to commit to long-term.