How to make your fitness equipment and trainers keep up with all your member needs in the evolving data-driven world.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine’s worldwide survey of fitness trends for 2021, wearable technology, mobile exercise apps and outcome measurements all rank as a top 20 trend. There’s no surprise in a society where being data-driven was only enhanced by the pandemic, fitness centers must keep pace and continue to engage members.
The first step in doing so is recognizing and meeting these trends.
At the YMCA of Northwest North Carolina, Jordan Lloyd, the vice president of wellness experience, said the Y primarily uses Myzone as its fitness tracking technology and most members currently use it. The Y also switched its main member app to the EGYM app that has workout tracking capabilities, something members have a growing interest in each year.
“Members who use tracking technologies tend to have greater success in achieving their fitness goals than members who do not use tracking technology,” said Lloyd. “Members are also more engaged and are retained longer in our facilities when connected to our tracking technology. During the pandemic in 2020 while we were forced to shut our doors, 83% of our members who were active on Myzone continued to workout, use their Myzone app and remained a paying member of our organization even while we were closed.”
Lloyd further elaborated these tracking technologies also provide a social component. For example, inside the Myzone app, members can post and like other members’ workouts on a social feed.
Lynn Satow, the fitness director at the Shaw JCC of Akron, has also recognized the social benefit of tracking technologies among members of the J. However, she’s also noticed an increased interest in tracking individual fitness progress to share with others.
“In the last 18 months, we purchased new Spin Power Chronometers by Precor,” said Satow. “The J saw this as a benefit for members as we had multiple requests for some sort of data feedback in our Spinning classes. People are using their Fitbits, Garmins, Apple Watches, phones and other trackers now because they actually want to know how hard they are working, if they are progressing in strength or cardio output, and more.”
Because of this interest in tracking, Satow shared instructors and trainers will incorporate interval training into their sessions so members can view progress and cardio zones on their own devices. “Members are taught how to use and pace themselves as the trainer leads them through a session,” she said. “This is easy to incorporate and a member can use the knowledge during the ‘off’ training times when they are in the fitness center on their own.”
Another aspect of fitness technologies many became more familiar with during the pandemic is screen-mirroring capabilities and streaming. These technologies are an easy solution to begin removing barriers for members anxious about returning to in-person activity, or even just starting their fitness journey.
“Over the last several years, we’ve seen people paying more and more attention to their own devices and the pandemic has only accelerated this,” said Trevor Doden, the national YMCA and JCC manager for both TRUE and Octane Fitness. “With screen-mirroring, we allow the user access to their own entertainment — such as Netflix and other streaming services — without forcing them to login to or learn a new operating pattern. Members have become very efficient in navigating their own devices to find the entertainment they want because it allows them the most ease to finding their favorites and removes what could be another barrier to working out for some.”
Lloyd agreed fitness tracking technology will continue to grow in popularity. In fact, as technology gets better and more options become available, it will be critical for fitness centers to embrace new products. “We have seen year over year growth in our Myzone sales and project they will continue to climb throughout 2021,” he said.
In order to embrace the data-driven world, he said do the research. “Ask colleagues in the industry what their experiences have been with tracking technologies,” he said. “After narrowing it down, meet with vendors and ask for demos. When demoing you can experience pros and cons for each of the products before making a decision.”
While there can be a learning curve to incorporating new technologies, once your facility and members embrace the trends and remove barriers, the element of fun can come into play.
Satow said data using the built-in technology on equipment allows the J to hold contests in the fitness center and have fun while helping others progress with a goal. One example is a two-week contest on the rower to see who can have the best time on the 500-meter row. The J provides prizes for men and women.
Additionally, Satow described a wheel her team keeps in the fitness center for an “assessment of the week” contest. “At random times, we have members try an ‘assessment of the week’ such as how many pushups they can do without stopping,” said Satow.
If a member does the assessment, they earn the chance to spin the wheel for prizes such as water bottles, a free massage, free training, free acupuncture or a 15-minute stretch session with a trainer. Prizes for contests such as the 500-meter row include special-ordered water bottles, Gaiam yoga mats and more.
“Using technology in classes can be fun if the instructor wants to spur a little competition for HIIT classes or boot camps,” said Satow. “It allows for more creativity and encouragement.”