This past week, I had the opportunity to speak at the FitTechSummit, Europe’s largest conference on fitness technology, digital health, and active lifestyle.
I’ve been to quite a few fitness industry events in the past, and while this event shared a similar energy and passion that people in fitness bring to an event, one thing I really found intriguing was how “digital” it all felt! Everything from the branding, the sessions, and even the sound effects on the speakers stage just screamed, digital.
I thought I’d share some of my views from my panel for those of you who weren’t there. The questions posed to us in the panel, are top of mind questions I know gym owners think about all the time. My points of view BTW, are based on customers and data.
At Trainerize, we have over 100,000 fitness professionals training over 1M clients around the world on their Trainerize app. This wide market footprint gives us incredible insights, insights based on 1.5 million workouts, 2.5 million meals, and 5 million messages sent each and every month. Let these numbers sink in for a moment… this is close to 8 million core fitness events completed a month… These are real people, getting healthier each day, thanks to real human personal trainers. And it’s these people I represent, when I get up on stage.
I have to also give a shout out to the rest of the panel I shared the stage with. I had the privilege to share the stage with Florian (CTO of e-gym), Roy Dowery (Boutique Fitness Group) and our host Janosch Marx (Fitness Management). *E-gym by the way, owns NetPulse, and so we had interesting perspectives on the questions and I appreciated some of the challenges he sent my way on stage.
Ok, now onto the questions we were asked!
First of all, the title was just awesome – Gym 2.0: Human-data love story.
And the description was even better: “Muscle factories are so yesterday – modern gyms are about community and clever data integration. In this panel, you will learn why connected gyms are sexy, how data can be used to make you fitter and why millennials are paying insane amounts of money to sweat in small dark rooms together.”
Question: What are the current challenges in using member data in the training process? How can connected devices be used by gym operators in order to improve their business?
I see two challenges here. The first one is that, data entry is boring. We need technology to enhance the training experience, and tell me about a time when you had a blast entering reps and weights. Or when entering the actual data of what you ate was fun. Also, how useful is this information to the person or even their coach? I think “emotional data” can be much more useful, relevant, and also fun to enter in. At Trainerize, we’ve been testing out a screen where a client enters a “Rating of perceived exertion” (RPE) after they’ve done their workout, so they can let their trainer know how they felt during the workout. The initial feedback has been extremely positive and how coaches use this information has been interesting to see as well.
“I see a future where emotional data and people’s perception to how fitness feels, becomes a more useful and important data point to track, that it can address the core challenge of data tracking in fitness not being fun.”
The second challenge is the disconnected experience between client management apps vs client engagement apps. It’s important that the end to end experience from finding, booking, paying, and training is a smooth integrated experience, and this will only be possible if all technology vendors and companies play nice together. Translated to tech lingo, it’s basically Open APIs. Many companies are taking an open API approach which is great, but there are still plenty of companies that are taking a closed approach which makes it tough not just for the consumer, but also for the fitness business itself. The more open vendors, equipment manufacturers, and technology companies are, the better off the health and fitness industry will be. I appreciate different strategic approaches, but staying closed for the sake of “owning data” will only hurt our consumers, and I see this as another major challenge to address.
context, the biggest opportunity in fitness tech
And in terms of the opportunities for gym operators, it’d be useful to first understand the opportunity around data. Yes, data is the new oil, but data from connected devices and apps is useless without context. Contextual data is where the opportunity lies. Gym operators have an opportunity to read in all these data points from devices and apps, and provide a personalized health and wellness experience to their clients and boost the connected training experience.
Data needs to be proactive, timely, and actionable to help clients actually reach their goals. Seeing that you took 10,000 steps today is useless. But imagine a world, where historical fitness data can empower a virtual coach to tell you exactly what you need right now, and what change you can make to your behaviors in that moment… then you start getting on a path to becoming healthier and happier. The possibilities in this area are endless… from fitness, to nutrition, to even improving daily habits.
Question: In yoga studios, for example we see that the members are highly involved with their trainers. If the trainer changes the club, the members often leave with him. Is this a threat that also applies to boutique gyms. What role do employees and trainers play within this context?
I think this threat is more about the “value drivers” for the gym. In the yoga studio example above, the yoga studio itself is simply an empty space, and the only value to the consumer is the instructor. Remove that one value driver, the instructor, and there’s little value left for the consumer. For boutique gyms, we’re seeing more than simply “the instructor” drive engagement and we’re seeing a variety of factors as “value drivers” drive the consumer engagement. With Orange Theory for example, it’s their integrated wearable technology and their effort oriented approach to the workouts. For Turf–a local Vancouver studio, it’s their focus on community, a healthy kitchen, and unique class offerings such as “The Class by Taryn Toomey”. So I feel that if a boutique gym has multiple value drivers that give them differentiation, then the threat of an instructor leaving isn’t a high one. Value drivers can be anything from community #tribe, a programming style that’s unique to your boutique gym #specialization, or music so dialed in that you feel like you’re going to a club! #fun.
I also don’t want to take away from the value good instructors provide. In fact, good instructors are probably one of the strongest value drivers, as they drive the engagement for the class and also form strong bonds with your clients. Those strong bonds formed with the clients, are seen as relationships with your brand… so investing in instructors, is an investment in brand.
Question: Many boutique gyms offering HIIT or cycle classes focus on millennials. If we have a look at the demographic development however, we see that in the upcoming years there will be a growing part of the population with 50 years and older. Where is this target group taken into account?
I think we’ll have to wait and see what level of fitness millenials will be at when they’re 50+. The current 50+ generation had different fitness and lifestyle options in their 20s/30s as today’s 20s/30s… and so training styles for both segments will probably be different.
But I feel that more than thinking about what millenials will need in 20 years time, it’s important that we study behavioral patterns of millenials as they get older, and adapt the solutions to what they need.
The above questions and my views give a quick glimpse into our panel’s vivid discussion. I hope it’s been informative, and if you’ve found this interesting, then I encourage you to attend one of the many fitness events during the course of the year. I’ve had the honor of speaking about digital fitness at CES, IHRSA, and FitTechSummit this year, and am looking forward to sharing more insights at future events!
CEO at Trainerize