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Health Club Management

Health Club Management

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Ask an expert: Is data-driven CV training a threat to gym-floor PTs?

More and more operators are investing in gym kit that uses data analysis to capture and relay user performance – a key role of the traditional PT. Kath Hudson asks industry experts if the growth of such tech could make the gym-floor PT redundant

By Kath Hudson | Published in Health Club Management 2018 issue 1

Data-driven training is becoming an ever greater part of the gym experience. By providing metrics, like power output, heart rate and leg speed, Wattbike has helped to transform British cycling fortunes on the world stage and is now a standard feature in many gyms. eGym can integrate with many cardiovascular (CV) equipment ranges, as well as apps, and many gym members are now using their own data-driven technology with Garmins, Fitbits and apps, such as mapmyrun and Strava. Furthermore, when Apple’s GymKit – which will sync with up to 80 per cent of CV equipment – rolls out worldwide, we can expect interest in data to skyrocket.

But how will data impact the industry and particularly the role of PTs on the gym floor? Will they see their responsibilities taken over by data-driven technology or could they use these innovations to make themselves more relevant than ever, helping members to achieve better results? We ask the experts…

Steve Marshall,

UK sales manager,

Wattbike

Steve Marshall
Steve Marshall

I think the goals of club members who like using data-driven CV equipment and those of the majority of PT clientele are currently very different. Many PT clients have no prior knowledge about training with heart rate, power and leg speed. Instead, their motivation is to build strength or to change their body shape. This has been a rich vein for PTs and is unlikely to disappear.

What has changed is that those who are confident using technology and data have usually educated themselves because they are training for a specific goal or sport, such as a triathlon or cycling. These customers are unlikely to book in for a standard PT session, but would certainly seek out a sport-specific coach who understands the data they train with. There certainly is a gap here and this is where the innovative PTs can really succeed.

In my experience, PTs don’t automatically head for the data-driven CV equipment, but prefer to focus on boxing, functional, weights and hard intervals. However, as more people are now using data-gathering technology, such as Garmins, Fitbits, fitness apps and our own Wattbike Hub app, PTs do need to make sure they stay educated on how they can use these tools, otherwise they risk missing out while customers get their PT advice online.

Currently, I don’t think data-driven technology provides any threat to PTs. While the market expands and demographics widen, there is a great need for PTs who can create personalised programmes, provide expert motivation and keep their clients accountable.

"Many PT clients have no prior knowledge about training with heart rate – their motivation is to build strength or to change body shape. This has been a rich vein for PTs and is unlikely to disappear"

Many people who use data are training for a specific sport or goal
Many people who use data are training for a specific sport or goal

David Minton,

Director,

The Leisure Database Company

David Minton
David Minton

As an estimated 80 per cent of CV equipment will be able to link up to Apple’s GymKit within a few years, the future will be all about data. Rather than threaten the role of the PT on the gym floor, I think data-driven equipment will have the opposite effect and people will need more help, advice and reassurance on how to interpret it most efficiently. And, just as the car industry is having to adapt to the presence of electric cars, the fitness industry will also adapt. It will be more software than equipment led.

With Apple, the largest tech company in the world, moving into our space and making it a data game, people’s perceptions of exercise will change. The gym is likely to be incorporated into everyday wellness habits like walking and climbing stairs.

Data will give PTs the opportunity to get more involved with their clients between sessions, give personal push notifications, see what their clients are doing when not at the gym and praise them. This innovation will also involve more people from different levels of society, as one of the reasons why lower income groups don’t engage is because they often don’t know where to start. Operators will be forced to adapt, because their clients will adapt, but they should embrace the change.

"With Apple, the largest tech company in the world, moving into our space and making it a data game, people’s perceptions of exercise will change"

Craig Swyer,

Marketing Manager (commercial),

Technogym

Craig Swyer
Craig Swyer

As a supplier of CV equipment that utilises data, we’ve done extensive research into this area and have identified two key groups of gym-goers who enjoy and seek out data-driven exercise. The first group is driven by a specific goal, such as improved fitness, weight loss or feeling more healthy.

They understand the benefits of exercise, and are hungry for data and guidance whilst they workout, but they are happy to do this unsupervised.

The second group is experience focused and wants PT engagement to enhance their experience and bring the data to life. As long as this group persists, and we believe it will, gym-floor PTs are unlikely to be made obsolete by technology.

We’re focused on developing innovative solutions that cater to both types of data-driven exercisers. Our latest product, SkillRun, is such a solution, with features like recorded videos and data feedback – which allows the user to view their real-time data on metrics, such as running power, cadence, step length and ground contact time. Usefulness of the latter can be enhanced and supported by a PT, further showing that as fitness technology increasingly embraces data-based feedback, the scope for PTs is likely to increase rather than decrease.

"As fitness technology increasingly embraces data-based feedback, the scope for PTs is likely to increase rather than decrease"

PTs may use client data to give feedback during and after sessions
PTs may use client data to give feedback during and after sessions

Andy Hall,

Sales Manager,

eGym

Andy Hall
Andy Hall

Members respond best to a personalised service, so there will always be a place for PTs on the gym floor. Recent advancements in digital technologies and the move towards a totally connected environment support their role, as it means PTs now have access to a rich source of data to further enhance their service.

With data-driven equipment, real-time digital training plans and digital tools available for managing members, PTs can improve their customer care while reducing time spent on admin. This allows PTs to actually be able to grow their business further.

Currently, between 8 and 12 per cent of members use PT services, but we believe effective use of data will drive up this figure.

Access to in-depth training data enables PTs to provide a more detailed and customised service. For example, by accessing and analysing data collected from multiple sources, including cardio equipment suppliers, body analysers, fitness trackers and apps, PTs can identify physical strengths and imbalances and set achievable, effective training plans tailored to the member’s ability, routines and work life.

Data is the next significant evolution for the industry. Many clubs have the same equipment, concept and offering, so the collection and interpretation of data creates a significant differentiator. It’s not only the key to improving fitness results but also to creating social networks and meaningful trainer-to-member interactions, which will strengthen the member experience in the gym. In turn, this reduces attrition, improves retention and, as a result, has a positive influence on the club’s revenue stream. Innovative clubs that embrace data and the opportunities technology brings will thrive, while those who don’t will get left behind.

"Currently, between 8 and 12 per cent of members use PT services, but we believe effective use of data will drive up this figure"

Data can be used to put exercisers more in control of their goals
Data can be used to put exercisers more in control of their goals

Mary Obana,

President and co-founder,

Koko FitClubs

Mary Obana
Mary Obana

Data-driven CV equipment shouldn’t be a threat to great trainers. Knowing some of the best trainers in the world, there is nothing that can threaten the value they uniquely provide: combining expertise and a fun, engaging experience, with a unique personal connection, to create a devoted following.

However, PTs who stand idly by, sipping a coffee while merely telling their clients what to do, will have to raise their game. Data-driven personal training will replace them unless they model the success of the best trainers, creating deep personal connections with their clients.

Koko FitClub is a technology-centric fitness concept. Our patented Smartraining System delivers automated, real-time one-to-one coaching, customising every workout to each member based on their goals, what they did last time, what they are doing at every moment during that session and their level of fitness. The end result is that they can benefit from world-class training, on demand, tailored to them and with quantified results. Despite this, we have some members who still prefer working with trainers.

We have learned that effective training involves not only guiding clients on each exercise or cardio session, but wrapping that guidance in an exceptional, engaging client experience so they continue to do it. Engaging client experience doesn’t end with the session and, to that end, our technology also includes a platform that delivers well-timed recognition of accomplishments, triggered by specific client activity.

"There is nothing that can threaten the value PTs uniquely provide; however, PTs who stand idly by, sipping a coffee while merely telling their clients what to do, will have to raise their game"

Technology can imitate world-class, tailored training with quantified results, but some members will still prefer to work with a PT
Technology can imitate world-class, tailored training with quantified results, but some members will still prefer to work with a PT
http://www.leisureopportunities.com/images/HCM2018_1data.jpg
As more operators invest in gym kit that enables data-driven cardiovascular training, are gym-floor PTs likely to see their role taken over by machines?
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