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Health Club Operators and Personal Trainers Turn to Portable Devices

With the rise of smartphone use and the mobile application market continuing to grow, some consumers have taken their workouts digital, and that means that fitness facility operators must take personal training digital in order to compete, says Jeremiah Johnson, CEO of ETrainer Services LLC, Orlando, FL.

“Consumers are following cookie-cutter workouts to get their fitness fix,” he says. “While these apps and websites are no replacement for live trainers, it is forcing fitness professionals to digitize their operation to stay relevant in the marketplace.”

Although some fitness facility operators are investing in products such as the iPad, mobile devices such as these are not as prevalent in the fitness industry as one might think, says Doug Feik, a physical therapist and president of BioEx Systems Inc., a Smithville, TX-based company that is developing a web-based video product for iPads and other portable devices.

“While there are many iPads around, the percentage is still quite low compared to the total market of computers and such, especially in a niche market, and it makes it economically hard for companies to develop applications for them and make it profitable,” Feik says.

Laszlo Antal, lead developer for FitnessMgr, Dalton Gardens, ID, agrees that the majority of personal trainers still carry around pens and notepads, but that smartphones and tablets are becoming more prevalent on the club floor.

“In the future, we will see more mobile devices in the trainer and client arena,” says Antal, whose company’s FitnessMgr app allows trainers to track schedules and results in real time and for their clients to schedule sessions and access their own results, progress and food logs. “This frees up even more time for the trainers, so they can get right to what matters the most—getting results for the client.”

Independent personal trainers, studio owners, and corporate fitness trainers are leading the way when it comes to the mobile software trend, says Craig Schlossberg, president of PumpOne, New York, which offers the FitnessBuilder app for mobile devices. In contrast, he says medium to large gyms are lagging behind on adopting this technology.

GymIt, a low-price coed club in Brookline, MA, owned by Healthworks Fitness Centers for Women, uses iPads for selling memberships but not for its personal training department, says Matt Harrington, president of GymIt. Harrington bought five iPads for the GymIt facility when it opened its doors six months ago.

Four of the iPads are mounted near the front desk, and visitors use them to join the club, sign in as a member, leave comments, or make inquiries about personal training. Managers use the fifth one to fill out equipment inventory lists and record the mileage on the treadmills.

“iPads are more affordable than a desktop computer, and they’re more reliable,” Harrington says. “They are also really cool, and people see them, and they are wowed by them.”

The club has not given trainers access to the iPads quite yet, but Harrington says he is considering it. Before integrating mobile technology and software into his personal training department, however, the software would have to be affordable, easy to use and integrate with GymIt’s existing platform, he says.

“The beauty of iPads and the apps that work with them is that they are simple to use and anyone can use them right out of the box,” he says. “If we could find a solution like that, it would be worth using.”

When looking to invest in mobile software and technology for their personal trainers, facility owners are focusing on ease-of-use and portability. Although standalone kiosks can be helpful when it comes to self-service items in a club, they are not as convenient as smartphones, which can be slipped into a trainer’s pocket during a session with a client, Schlossberg says.

“We do not believe kiosks are a trend now or in the future,” he says. “Performing, tracking, logging and graph reporting are mobile, and kiosks are not mobile.”

Kiosks can, however, offer at least some of the same functionalities of smartphone apps, such as allowing health club members to book personal training sessions.

ABC Financial Inc., Little Rock, AR, offers software that can be used on a kiosk, which members can use to purchase personal training and book appointments, says Steve Ayers, senior vice president for sales and marketing for the company. Trainers simply put their availability into the software, and their clients do the rest.

iPhone apps also are being offered by companies including ABC Financial and Twin Oaks Software, Berlin, CT, to make scheduling of personal training easier.

The ABC Financial MyiClub app can be used on most smartphones and tablets and allows clients and members to manage their account and schedule online. They can book, reschedule and cancel personal training and class appointments. If they would like to book an appointment for something they have not yet purchased, they can pay for the appropriate item or package directly from their phone or tablet. It also allows the client to enroll in classes or group personal training events. If their membership gives them access to multiple locations, they can easily view the various class offerings at each club and enroll in the one that best meets their needs.

ASF International, Highlands Ranch, CO, provides browser-based Internet services for clubs and personal trainers— including billing, POS, and scheduling—that can be accessed from a smartphone or iPad, including signature capture contracts, according to Sean Kirby, national sales director for ASF.

Affiliated Acceptance, Sunrise Beach, MO, does not yet offer a mobile application but plans to in the near future, says the company’s Todd Kelley.

Motionsoft, Rockville, MD, offers scheduling, management and mobile products, too.

Some companies are even enabling personal trainers to keep tabs on clients during their off days or while they are on vacation. FitView, a company in San Jose, CA, sells an app that allows trainers to design workouts and allows members to track their performance on the go.

ETrainer allows personal trainers to send detailed workouts to their clients so they can meet their fitness goals, even when they are not at the club.

“The personalized services of most facilities stop when you walk out the front door,” Johnson says. “With ETrainer, personal trainers can assign custom workouts for their clients to complete at home or while on vacation. This goes beyond simply meeting a professional to get today’s workout. Instead, it becomes a 365, 24/7 experience to help clients to reach their fitness goals.”

Last year, PumpOne’s FitnessBuilder app also added functionality that allows trainers to send detailed workout plans to their clients to do at home. This has augmented the off-day training services available to clients, Schlossberg says. The program features 5,600 exercise images and videos and 750 pre-designed workouts that trainers can customize for clients so they do not have to create sessions from scratch.

Walter Fuller, owner of Gridiron Fitness and Nutrition, Moreno Valley, CA, has been using the FitnessBuilder app for the last two-and-a-half years. He pays $199 per year for the professional version of the application, and he says it was so easy to learn that he did not need to take any time off for instruction.

“The biggest advantage is the ability to send detailed workouts to clients that they can follow on days when they are not training with me,” he says. “My clients who have iPhones have all downloaded the app, and they love having the ability to track their workouts and receive custom routines from me on their phones.”

Like Fuller, other trainers also are scheduling, managing, tracking, and administering client sessions digitally. In the not-too-distant future, Johnson envisions that personal trainers will no longer walk around with pens and paper. Instead, they will leverage today’s mobile technology to improve tomorrow’s profitability.


ABC Financial,

Affiliated Acceptance Corp.,

ASF International,

BioEx Systems,

eTrainer Services LLC,





Twin Oaks Software, or

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