Fitness pros and brands expect the industry to shift toward using a lot more technology than we’ve seen so far. While it’s easy to agree that fitness tech is more than a passing fad, getting on board with the nascent tech trend does take some effort (unless you’re engrossed in it already). Read on for practical tips from the experts about weaving apps, wearables and/or activity trackers—and all their ensuing data—into your fitness services.
How Significant Is the Need for Fit Tech?
Fitness technology is new enough that there’s still room for fitness professionals to ask if it’s truly necessary in the trainer-client or member-gym relationship. Yes, it is, and it’s probably going to become more so. “Technology is changing how people approach their fitness goals,” observes Hayley Hollander, fitness director at Midtown Athletic Club in Chicago. “And the options are making them more aware of how fitness can be adopted into the lifestyle they want to live.”
Any debate about whether fitness pros want fitness technology to be part of their services is somewhat moot. Rather, the degree to which fit tech will eventually permeate the industry has a lot to do with the desires of future clients and prospects. Ignoring this fact is risky business, declares Bryan O’Rourke, MBA, founder and CEO of Integerus Advisors and president of the Fitness Industry Technology Council. “Technology is creating a wider range of choice to meet a larger potential market by giving people what they want at the price they are willing to pay,” he reports. “In today’s world, successful trainers and fitness brands must take a view of their services that’s designed to meet consumer wants and needs.”
Broaching the Fit-Tech Topic With Clients
If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to jump ahead of your clients with fit tech and make plans for merging it into your services or facility. Don’t wait for the demand to become so great that you appear “late to the party.”
Leading the charge might mean you’ll need to convince some current clients about the merits of using activity trackers, apps and/or wearables—and collecting data on heart rate, calories burned, calories consumed, food logged, steps per day, hours slept and more. Perhaps not all clients will buy into fit tech, but they should have the choice.
“Giving clients the choice to use [fitness technology] helps create ownership for the use of the device and an easier understanding of what it is doing for them,” notes Hollander.
Addressing Data Collection.
And what about all that data coming from apps and wearables? “When you’re getting to know clients or vetting their willingness to incorporate technology into their training, all it takes is a simple question: Would you be willing to share your data with me so I can review it?” says Patrick Jak, MSc, a coach, trainer and director of metabolic testing at Fitness Quest 10 in San Diego. “All clients I have asked this of have been more than open to this type of service—actually providing more information than I really want or need.”
Explain to clients why you’d like access to their metrics, and what exactly you’ll be looking for. Steer the discussion back to how tracker/app data can help clients get closer to their goals. Jak provides some examples: “With technology, my clients and I are able to track progress; avoid injury, overtraining and undertraining; push to new limits; personalize training; and share between open and private groups, even within a network of healthcare specialists,” he says.
“The data is quantified information that gives you more awareness to upgrade people’s programs for better results. It’s like balancing your checkbook and then making spending choices,” comments Darcy Norman, PT, of Truckee, California, director of the Performance Innovation Team for EXOS.
Factoring Fit Tech Into Higher Fees
One reason to build a strong case for fit tech with clients is that using it might reasonably warrant a fee increase. Guiding clients through the fit-tech experience and analyzing their data is a new, sought-after skill set for fitness pros. Charge accordingly. “Whether you are coaching on form or advising on the proper use of technology, in my view it is all billable,” says O’Rourke.
Hollander concurs: “I raised my rates simply because I knew I was offering something as part of my services [that clients] could not get anywhere else. It creates value, gives credibility to the programming and allows coaches to differentiate themselves from others.” Her main tech focus is with biofeedback: for example, measuring stress levels through heart rate variability, or measuring the intensity of a workout, an exercise or a training load through heart rate or percentage of max to calculate the client’s need for either recovery or more of a push.
Jak taps into an array of tech tools for his clients, including activity trackers, physiological sensors, social connection, analytical software, nutrition databases and video capture devices and apps. “I absolutely factor data analysis and time spent into my fees,” he shares. “While it takes some initial setup, when tracked regularly the program writes itself, and I find I spend less time writing programs and more time with my clients—enhancing the relationship, because we are able to monitor, tweak and watch constant progress.”
To read more about incorporating technology into your fitness services, please see “Adding Apps, Wearables and Tracking Devices to Your Fitness Services” in the online IDEA Library or in the September 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.