Virtual Takeover Transforms Gym’s Cardio Floor

Equipment manufacturers are screening a series of exercise hits to debut at your health club.

It’s never been a better time to be a consumer of exercise services.

Today, fitness enthusiasts enjoy access to an ever-expanding offering of workout possibilities, a high degree of personalization, and world-class guidance.

Credit goes to improvements in the programming provided by the cardio equipment in clubs, and to streaming services that usher interactive workout communities into homes.

Having grown up with—or gotten quite comfortable with—digital experiences of every sort, club members now expect novel, engaging, and entertaining exercise options to be available to them nonstop, 24/7/365.

Though operators have done a fine job of involving and activating clients in many areas of the club—think group x classes and small-group training—the cardio floor has been a rather solitary space. Members have tended to isolate themselves with ear buds, while focusing on a finite menu of exercise programs, workout metrics, and entertaining, or, at the very least, distracting internet choices.

No more!

“ members now expect novel, engaging, and entertaining exercise options to be available to them nonstop, 24/7/365.”

Today, the screens on club cardio equipment bring the world to members … and take members out into the world.

“We’re always trend-spotting, and utilizing a forward-thinking approach to ensure that we meet the needs, demands, and desires of today’s exercisers,” says Dan Toigo, a managing director of Freemotion. “We’ll continue to do so in the future.”

The following offers a preview of some of the fascinating features that are “now playing” on screens in health and fitness facilities worldwide.

SENZA-tional Equipment at SportsArt

Technology Sports Art Senza Recumbent Cycle column

SportsArt’s SENZA cardio machines allow exercisers to make use of either their own favorite workout app or a host of proprietary SportsArt offerings. SportsArt is based out of Mukilteo, WA. Utilizing new Anycast screen-monitoring technology, they can now conveniently stream their app of choice from their personal device to the equipment’s console.

Alternately, they can use the company’s SENZA touchscreen to access some 50 to 75 workout programs.

Among them is SENZA Journeys, which allows users to engage in walking or running sessions at various points of interest, such as Arizona’s Apache Trail; Mission Beach in San Diego; or the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Enhancing the immersive experience is dynamic speed optimization technology, which can fast-forward or slow down the video to match the exerciser’s pace during the workout.

“Virtual runs allow members to explore other locales and routes, which can keep them exercising for longer durations,” says Matt Thorsen, SportsArt’s product manager. “With SENZA Journeys, users also can change routes at any time, or stop and complete the rest of the same path during their next workout.”

Hydrow, Inc. Makes a Splash

Technology Hydrow Sunset Screen column

Cambridge, MA-based Hydrow offers more than 500 dynamic, on-demand, rowing workouts for the sport’s growing ranks of fans. The programs are led by the firm’s own athletes and enhanced with multi-sensory audio and visual effects to replicate the sensations of rowing outside on the water. The firm’s Live Outdoor Reality technology captures everything encountered during the live filming—from scenic surroundings, to wildlife, to boat traffic.

The recently introduced Live rows allow exercisers to participate in real-time sessions with Hydrow athletes, and track their progress and competition via a leaderboard.

A separate racing feature lets them choose a partner anywhere in the country, and compete on the basis of meters and minutes.

“Connected fitness platforms add an exciting layer to working out,” says Jon Gilson, the company’s director of commercial sales and strategic partnerships.

“When people feel as though they’re part of something bigger—part of a community—they look forward to exercise because of the emotional lift it offers.” However, solo rowers still have options—dozens of journeys that, though unguided, still feature scenic waterways and the rhythmic sound of oars hitting the water.

Not Just Any Ol’ Routine at Technogym

Technology Technogym CLIMB UNITY RACE column

Technogym utilizes its Unity 3.0 console to deliver video-guided workouts, known as Routines, that have been developed by its medical-scientific research team. Each is specifically matched to the member’s goals and the type of cardio machine being used.

Walkers and runners can follow a variety of picturesque outdoor virtual routes, e.g., Lake Tahoe paths or San Francisco streets. Competitive runners can race the members of other clubs, in real time, through virtual settings such as Rome or New York, by making use of the Technogym Versus program.

The Cadence Training regimen on the company’s SKILLRUN treadmill helps runners better manage their cadence at selected speeds by providing feedback on cadence, running power, flight time, ground-contact time, and other metrics. Athletes and HIIT fans can challenge themselves with the BootCamp workout, which combines running on the SKILLRUN with sled pushing, parachute training, and off-machine exercises.

“We’re shifting our focus from product features to the user experience by offering variety, personalization, engagement, and results,” says Mario Zambianchi, the president of Technogym, North America, which is based in Fairfield, N.J. “And we’ll continue to provide comprehensive, varied content for exercisers with different passions and aspirations.”

Freemotion Wows Gym Members

When it comes to iFit, it’s all about variety and the user experience.

Freemotion’s patented, connected fitness platform already offers some 16,000 workouts, including interval training and steady-state endurance routines, for users at different levels.

The sessions can be accessed via both the Logan, UT-based company’s home and commercial cardio lines—i.e., stationary bikes, treadmills, ellipticals, incline trainers, and rowers.

Led by Freemotion personal trainers, the routines are filmed in exotic locations, such as Iceland and Bora Bora. The system automatically adjusts speed, incline, decline, and resistance so users don’t have to bother with console controls. And, to introduce new challenges and maximize results, automatic adjustments subtly increase speed, incline, or program duration for each successive step in a progressive series.

“Connected fitness is about offering exercisers the very best experience, one that pushes and motivates them to achieve their goals,” says Toigo. “It’s our duty to deliver outstanding, personalized experiences that will wow gym members and keep them coming back.”

Matrix Fitness Brings World to Cardio Floor

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Exercisers on Matrix Fitness cardio equipment also can be transported, visually and experientially, to a wide variety of exciting and breathtaking locations worldwide. High-definition video footage, tapped via Virtual Active, can, for instance, lift them to the heights of the Canadian Rockies or the Italian Alps.

The cardio equipment speeds up or slows down to match the user’s pace, and its resistance and incline settings are preprogrammed to realistically replicate the terrain. Coached and uncoached Virtual Active regimens are available, and exercisers who wear headphones hear ambient noises, such as birds chirping or people talking, that reflect their virtual surroundings.

“Virtual Active is one of our most popular programs, and we’re continually adding workouts, with more advances coming next year,” says Andrew Kolman, the company’s senior director of technology and business development. “We’re focused on how we can elevate the experience to really drive engagement with members.”

Exclusive to the company’s steppers and Climbmills are more than 20 Landmarks programs, which invite users to virtually climb natural and man-made wonders, such as the Great Pyramid of Giza and the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Matrix Fitness is based in Cottage Grove, WI.

TRUE Fitness Stays in Sync

Technology TRUE Fitness Compass column

COMPASS is a premium, cloud-based, networked fitness solution that’s been developed by TRUE Fitness, based in O’Fallon, MO, for the Envision console on its cardio units. It’s loaded with a variety of workouts, but also permits members to custom-design regimens based on their specific fitness goals.

The system features artificial intelligence (AI) to track workout patterns, based on the parameters the user has set, and automatic built-in progression.

The new HIIT Dashboard streamlines the process for members who manually program their own interval routines, and for convenience, settings and speeds can be recalled whenever they log in. Using COMPASS’ Sync to App feature, exercisers can sync workouts and the corresponding data with a number of fitness apps, including Strava, FitBit, Google Fit, and MapMyRun.

“Today, members want data, such as workout summaries, to track and push to their fitness apps, or to share on social media,” says Jim Williams, the company’s cardio product manager. “TRUE is making bold platform investments to provide leading-edge tools that increase member engagement and retention.”

Octane Fitness Provides a ‘Straightforward Challenge’

Time-crunched exercisers can capitalize on the Max Interval routine on Octane Fitness’ Max Trainer and its new Rō rowing machine. This popular HIIT regimen involves 25-second sprints, followed by 80-second recovery periods, for eight rounds. Octane Fitness is based in Brooklyn, MI.

“Max Interval is a straightforward challenge that members appreciate because they’re finished in just 14 minutes,” says Chris Kvale, the company’s director of commercial sales in North America.

“And, given our zero-impact modalities and multiple resistance levels, exercisers of all abilities can enjoy the benefits of high-intensity regimens without any stressful pounding on the body.”

To facilitate bursts of cross-training and drive greater effort, Octane Fitness also incorporates unique Workout Boosters, such as X-Mode, GluteKicker, and ArmBlaster, on all of its machines. These prompt exercisers to perform one-minute intervals of various movements, including push, reverse, squat, and lower-body-only.

“It’s all about engagement today,” says Kvale. “If you’re not engaging—you’re going to lose.”

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Julie King

Julie King is a contributor to Club Business International.