You don’t learn how to ride a bike by reading a book about it. You have to get on and start pedaling. The same is true of fitness technology: To learn it, you have to use it.

That’s why I recommend you become a fit-tech guinea pig—experimenting on yourself to see what works. Fitness technology offers motivational tools that can do the following:

  • Provide detailed data about health and fitness.
  • Show progress and improvements.
  • Help keep your clients on the path to success.

You’re already using technology in your daily business operations, so adding apps and devices to your teaching and training does not require a huge leap. Fit tech also enables you to interact with clients in ways that create opportunities for new services and revenue streams to help your business succeed. Bringing your clients and their training into this high-tech fitness world has to begin with you.

To enter the fitness technology maze, treat it the way you would any project. Separate it into five key steps:

Step 1: Build a Foundation

  • Create a gap analysis that identifies your needs, goals and standards.
  • Create an inventory of your current apps and devices (smartphones, wearables and heart rate monitors).
  • Consider your comfort level and learning ability with technology—and, of course, how much you can afford.

Step 2: Look for Must-Have Features

  • Strive for simple, noninvasive devices (for example, some of your clients may feel constrained by heart rate monitor chest straps or may simply hate having things wrapped around their wrists).
  • Start with free apps, but keep in mind that you get what you pay for.
  • Look for apps and devices that are easily accessible, work in real time and provide automatic or near-automatic collection of data.
  • Check on whether devices can connect to multiple apps across multiple platforms simultaneously, with minimal need for additional accessories.
  • Make sure apps or websites have statistical charts and trend analyses that you can review with clients.
  • Confirm that the technology performs basic data collection, including daily activity, average and maximum heart rate during exercise, calories burned and calories eaten, body weight and hours of sleep.
  • Consider advanced features that allow you to note subjective changes such as thoughts, feelings, attitudes, moods and enjoyment. These features enable you to track stress and readiness, and they give you a coaching opportunity to set goals, build motivation and increase compliance.

Step 3: Weigh the Technical Infrastructure

  • Consider the growth, stability, customer support and reliability of the fit tech you are thinking of experimenting with. Is it proven, valid and accurate? Is it constructed with open architecture that allows for new releases and enhancements? Did it get positive reviews and testimonials? Does it sound too good to be true?

Step 4: Start Your Experiments

  • Identify the fit-tech tool you want to try, and either borrow it or buy it. Then set up some baseline tests and training parameters.
  • Train with the technology as much as you can, collecting as much data as possible. The better you are at analyzing the data, the better you will be at creating and quickly updating personalized training plans (a nice additional revenue stream that enables you to serve your clients even when you aren’t physically with them).
  • Use several devices and apps side by side, to see which ones work best and which ones flunk the test of meeting your clients’ needs.

Step 5: Get Social

  • Look for fit-tech apps and devices that link to social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, KrowdFit™, Strava, MyFitnessPal and Endomondo. Social media features help you gain motivation from others and build additional accountability.
  • Use social media to create small groups, extending your business network not only beyond your face-to-face time but also beyond your current clientele.

To read more about how to prepare yourself for the rising wave of apps and devices, please see “Become a Fit-Tech Guinea Pig” in the online IDEA Library or in the November-December 2015 print issue of IDEA Fitness Journal. If you cannot access the full article and would like to, please contact the IDEA Inspired Service Team at (800) 999-4332, ext. 7.

Patrick Jak, MS

Pat Jak worked for several years in E-Business before changing careers. Now, he is the Director of Metabolic Testing at Todd Durkin's Fitness Quest 10 and Head Coach of the nationally ranked UC San Diego Cycling Team. Pat uses leading edge fitness technology devices and apps to train and coach individuals from all walks of life: from general fitness clients to performance focused athletes. He has been a trainer for over a decade and his workouts have been featured in Bicycling Magazine. Pat holds a masterÔÇÖs degree in exercise science. Certifications: IFPA, USA Cycling.

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