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Innovations in technology have made people's lives more productive and efficient, so it's no surprise that more club operators are adopting the use of advanced systems in their group fitness programs. Capturing data such as heart rate, calories burned, training zone and exertion has proved to be attractive to class participants. Heart-rate monitors and wearable technology help participants train at the right intensity based on their own body metrics, and challenge them to gain the desired results. Regardless of a participant's athletic ability or fitness level, tracking the information using wearable technology enables them to stay accountable and focused. Not only are members finding more value in their workouts, but club owners also are finding more revenue by providing such programs.
How It Works
The group exercise experience is significantly enhanced when technology is incorporated into the programming. Capturing information motivates members to exercise in their ideal heart rate zone and get the most out of each workout. This data, ranging from heart rate to calories burned, is displayed onscreen throughout a class and then typically emailed or posted online after the session. Because members are able to keep track of their progress, they are more confident in their training. Having context and insight into their training increases member loyalty to a club and overall demand for such classes.
James Guimond, a multi-sport coach, personal trainer and group exercise instructor at Charlotte Athletic Club in Charlotte, NC, has noticed a difference in the way members feel about group exercise classes thanks to wearable technology.
"The power and synergy of the group exercise format is magnified with technology since the participants cannot sit in the back of class and coast anymore," he says.
Jack Molesko, owner of Forge Performance in West Windsor, NJ, agrees.
"Having the direct feedback of wearable technology allows the coach or trainer to ensure no member gets left behind," Molesko says. "If someone isn't showing an elevated heart rate, maybe they need help or just a kick in the butt. Regardless of the specifics, effort is the key to success. Wearable technology in the form of heart-rate monitors provides a clear representation of effort."
Wearable technology in the group exercise arena has proven to engage members through motivation with visible metrics during and after the workout. Although members may not see immediate results in their bodies, they do have the numbers detailing their work, which is encouraging and helps to maintain memberships.
"Fitness is an ever evolving field that requires new and innovative ways to help people accomplish their goals," says Jacob Hoffman, chief operations officer at goTRIBE in Marina del Rey, CA. "We knew when we started goTRIBE that our members wanted more. Since then, we have been developing new and innovative ways to use the wearable technology with our members and the results [in member retention] we are seeing are amazing."
The key to engaging and maintaining members is to ensure that they completely understand the numbers they see in front of them on the screen. If members don't understand what the technology is doing for them, they won't completely grasp the value.
"Wearable technology is not just a fitness trend. This is verified with tangible and concrete results in every workout," Molesko says.
Greater Business Growth
Just as with other gym equipment, a club will have to budget for wearable devices. However, club operators are discovering wearable technology is worth the investment. Many clubs have seen a return on investment within the first few years.
"The cost of this technology has come down dramatically in the last few years," Guimond says. "We invested in wearable technology at a cost of about $7,000 in late 2011. We have offered technology-equipped classes, beginning in January 2012 (100 classes), and added additional classes to the schedule in 2013-14 (150 classes per year). We intend to offer more technology-equipped classes in 2015."
Similarly, Hoffman says: "We have worked hard at goTRIBE to keep our costs down so that we can offer affordable programs for our members. Most of the technology that the members use does not cost us or them anything. Sometimes there is a small one-time fee for the heart-rate monitor, but often this fee is waived."
Hoffman says that from the first quarter of business, his club had a positive return on investments largely because of the technology used in group exercise classes.
Additionally, club owners who choose to sell wearable technology in their pro shops typically find an increase in revenue. By displaying the value of wearable technology, clubs bolster accountability with their members.
The value is in the numbers that members see in their workouts and that club owners see in their sales. Adding technology to group exercise classes is proving to consistently create a unique setting that is both enjoyable and appealing to participants as well as advantageous to the club's bottom line.
Polar Club Solutions is a unique set of fitness services for club owners, instructors, personal trainers and, above all, club members. It brings together the benefits of heart rate training and individual guidance, along with the motivation and energy you get from group exercise. Visit polar.com to learn more.