CONTENT BROUGHT TO YOU BY: MYZONE
We can all agree that digital fitness has arrived. In the last three years, wearable technology in general has grown from 5 percent to 10 percent to more than 20 percent penetration of the North American population, and according to the PWC global study on wearables, over 60 percent of those devices are considered personal fitness devices. Fitbit has gone public, and global brand Under Armour is on a buying spree of fitness and nutrition tracking apps. Further, the company performance metrics around Weight Watchers have all but fallen off a cliff in the past three years due to what its CEO refers to as "the headwinds of wearable technology." So welcome digital fitness to the stage.
The first question we have is this: Is digital fitness a threat to the commercial fitness industry or an opportunity?
The second question is: What should the club operator actually do?
Threat or Opportunity?
To be even handed here, there is an element of threat of substitution. We will acknowledge that. If an element of a trainer's value is accountability by coach, then a tracking app can somewhat substitute that element of value via the airwaves. If the value of a group exercise class includes social accountability, then a digital ecosystem can somewhat substitute that, too, via a leaderboard or social wall of content. If a club's value comprises recording bio measures and providing a sense of progress around health and fitness goals, then a digital ecosystem made up of devices and record keeping can somewhat substitute that as well.
However, just as the big box retailers such as Nordstrom and Macy’s embraced e-commerce, the commercial fitness industry also should embrace digital fitness and leverage the two spheres to grow. 2 + 2 = 5 kind of thinking.
According to the Endeavor Partners study on wearables in 2014, fitness trackers should do three things:
- Create habits via CUE, ROUTINE, REWARD.
- Provide social accountability via leaderboards and digital chatter.
- Reinforce goals via easy-to-view progress reports.
All three of these functions speak to member attendance and, therefore, our member retention strategy - the most potent ROI club operator lever of them all. So there is the first nod to wearable technology being an opportunity with our existing business model.
Beyond engaging the member in exercise, wearables must then provide insight and meaningful data. That is where personal training comes into play. As published last month in Club Industry, the ACE survey "How Will Wearable Activity Devices Impact the Fitness Industry" discovered that more than 70 percent of trainers have a device. Sixty percent who don’t have a device intend to get one soon. Further, these trainers want to incorporate tracking devices into their offerings. They want to deliver more value; they are just not so sure how to apply it. Here are are some tactics that will help both trainers and operators with their existing strategy.
What Are the Tactics That Work at the Club Level?
Trainers typically have a client once or twice a week, and they set cardio homework for another two sessions per week. Wearables should be used to keep that client accountable to the adherence of that homework, rewarding the effort, recognizing the session and playing the role of reward in the habit loop. A text message from the trainer in the evening saying, “I can see you knocked out an interval cardio session today as planned. Good work! See you tomorrow @ 7am!” is the basis of behavior modification. We all do more when coach is watching.
Trainers should consider moving beyond the 101 measure of steps and use 201 data to enhance their value. An example of 201 data would be heart-rate based data, which is most relevant given trainers are exercise specialists. Heart rate data can be used to show progress with fitness levels, leveraging simple measures, such as resting heart rate, ambient heart rate, delta heart rate and recovery heart rate. These metrics move quickly, unlike body fat that can take time. Further, it speaks directly to both fitness and heart health.
Trainers should break goals into the three horizons of long, medium and short term, and should house these horizons in one clean app. The long-term goals should be the big metrics, such as body fat, blood pressure and cholesterol, that are easily stored in an app. The medium-term goals should be monthly workload goals, such as sessions completed or minutes performed at given intensity ranges. (For example, not everyone should do interval-based cardio, maybe steady state is on order.) Short-term goals are the here-and-now of a session, which may be a calorie goal or a mode of training. The key is to find an app that collates all that on one platform that both the client and trainer can view simultaneously. Behavior modification, after all, requires instant recognition of the here and now, and progress toward the greater goal.
HIIT or SGT classes, which range between $10-$30 per class, train at high intensity to achieve EPOC, or after burn. That after burn of calories is only achieved if the member trains at high intensity. For that reason, live feedback that is made social in the given class will ensure adherence to the modality. Further, it will reinforce to the client why they are paying a premium for this class over regular group exercise. Attraction and retention of HIIT training.
Position a club-wide challenge in March and November, which are perfect times to engage the masses via the carrot of extrinsic reward. Members are starting to drop off the New Year’s resolution in March, and distractions are just around the corner in November. Running a raffle-based challenge where everybody can win a base prize for exceeding a minimum hurdle with a raffle determining the main prize will create a fun run impact at your club. It will engage the masses at a strategic time, just before their wheels fall off. Nice intervention.
Wearables are here, and wearables have true value for driving positive behavior and providing coaching insight. The key for any executive is to fold one of the above tactics into an existing strategy (onboarding, HIIT, personal training or retention) and extract value from their existing bricks and mortar business plan.
Emmett Williams is the group president and a ground floor investor in the international wearable technology brand MYZONE. In the past, Williams has owned and operated a chain of gyms, a fitness marketing company and a fitness equipment distribution company, giving him deep insight into the mechanics of the fitness industry and what drives the fitness consumer. As president of MYZONE, Williams spends the majority of his time working with both his team and gym operators all over the world on converging wearable technology into their bricks and mortar fitness model, helping clubs extracting lifetime value from their membership population with each strategy he deploys.