Fitness industry needs to move beyond steel jungles: CI panel discussion

A panel discussion at the Club Industry show titled "Innovations that will change the face of the club industry" took a left turn from expected crystal-balling on future technology and equipment when panelists headed off to talk about what clubs in particular, as well as fitness in general, is doing wrong and should change to better capture the public's interest.
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A panel discussion at the Club Industry show titled "Innovations that will change the face of the club industry" took a left turn from expected crystal-balling on future technology and equipment when panelists headed off to talk about what clubs in particular, as well as fitness in general, is doing wrong and should change to better capture the public's interest.

"It hasn't been equipment that has led the revolution," said Michael Scott Scudder, a consultant and president of Fitness Focus. "This is an industry where the wheel keeps getting reinvented and that could be one of our problems."

Other panelists included Ken Lucas, president of Matrix Fitness; Rudy Fabiano of Fabiano Designs International; Ronale Tucker, editor of Fitness Management; and Roy Simonson, CEO and founder of Free Motion Fitness. Add up the years in the fitness industry among them all and it'd be more than a 100.

A thought-provoking aspect for the 125 or so event attendees who showed on Oct. 11 for the talk was that there was really no mention of what trick piece of equipment, LED display, or high-tech feature may be on the horizon that could change the face of the industry.

Instead, panelists all focused on the emotional element of becoming fit, working out and using equipment.

Lucas called many clubs boring, monotonous and seas of steel sticks. He encouraged all areas of fitness to look beyond that and focus on color, design, layout, entertainment and emotional impact.

"The space we create controls us," he said, talking about the importance of eliminating harsh angles since energy doesn't flow in 90-degree turns, of thinking in colors since the mid-brain responds to that, and considering what an aging population may want or need.

"The world today is more about variety, choice and options," he said. "I wholeheartedly believe that as an industry we are obligated to re-examine every aspect of what we do."

Fabiano also touched on emotional impact, saying that exercise is not just "about being fat, but it's about how you feel about yourself." He continued with Lucas' theme, but added "softness" as an element that clubs and the industry should consider. Fabiano also said that equipment often just scares people and that the industry puts too much emphasis on big pieces of steel. A workout, he said, should be like a great meal: You ease into it, get your mind and body ready for the main part, you have an appetizer (the warm-up), then you get into the main course (the workout), then you ease out of it (cool down) and leave happy (dessert). A workout is about awakening and energizing.

"If your mother doesn't feel comfortable," he said as an example, "you're not doing a good job."

Simonson, the founder of Eagle then developer of the ground-breaking cable motion machines, didn't miss a beat in following the session's theme when his turn rolled around.

"We do a pretty good job of creating nice generic stuff," he said, also forecasting that group programming would get bigger because of the need for and desire of social contact.

"I have a love-hate relationship with this industry," he said. "I love what it can be, but I hate how it is represented to everybody. We have to get people up and moving, and to get them up and moving, they have to have fun."

Scudder summed up the tone best when he said that equipment changed the industry in his youth in the '70s (LifeCycle, Nautilus machines, for example), "but it won't be equipment this time that leads the revolution."

SNEWS View: It was refreshing to hear several industry veterans speak so candidly on themes that we at SNEWS have profound appreciation for and agree with. OK, that neat new console or the big motor may be so tres cool -- to the inventor -- but consumers want liveliness, fun, color, a smile when they do a workout, and a reason to keep doing it. Those big, gray, square pieces of steel (at least many are gray now instead of just black, huh?) aren't going to keep the industry growing and allow us to reach that other 85 percent of the public that doesn't regularly exercise or know the pleasures of doing so. We'd like to see more free-thinkers like these panelists jump with both feet into the waters of color, softness, fun and flowing design to make fitness as fun as it should be.

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