Back to the future: The technology of IHRSA 2012

It may not be flying cars or hover boards, but the technology brought to IHRSA 2012 was pretty interesting, with more companies jumping on the web-surf-while-you-work-out bandwagon, and others giving users the option to take in the beauty of the National Parks while on a treadmill.
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Hollywood got the future wrong: It's 2012, and we still don't have flying cars or hover boards. But the fitness industry might be inching closer given some of the technology options manufacturers brought to IHRSA this year. Though the majority of new and improved gadgets are designed for commercial settings, there are a few fresh consumer options.

At IHRSA, Fitness manufacturers launched interactive products to teach users how to properly perform exercises, allow them to connect to other exercisers, give them the option to surf the web while working out and make them feel like they’re on a nature run rather than a treadmill.

Don’t miss a thing

Customers want access to news and celebrity gossip all the time — that’s why so many of them are bringing iPhones and iPads to the gym. With new technology from Precor and TechnoGym, iPads and iPhones can stay in the locker, or even at home.

Precor introduced its Preva Net, which allows users to read their favorite magazines, watch television or read the newspapers.

“It’s our new way of presenting the Internet on exercise machines,” said Doug Johns, Precor’s vice president of global marketing and product development. The technology also offers users a variety of guided and interactive workout options.

In addition to giving users access to news, Preva Net gives gyms and facilities the option to enable the system to browse the web.

Johns told SNEWS that eventually the technology would allow facility owners to communicate with their members, but said that functionality is not yet in place.

TechnoGym is no stranger to offering web browsing and television on its consoles, but this IHRSA the company launched its Visioweb and Wellness Cloud. Vizioweb allows users to surf the web, update Facebook and Twitter, watch TV, connect with an iPhone or iPad and play games. Plus gyms can use the device to promote club events, show short videos or communicate with members.

Tracking workouts

The real fun with the TechnoGym technology comes with the Wellness Cloud. Users can make a profile for themselves, pinpointing their goals for wellness or weight loss. They can then pick training programs from a library, track their results, challenge themselves and do workouts outlined for them by their personal trainers. Facilities can sell personal coaching services to bring in members who want to track both their gym and outdoor workouts.

Another similar program is MyZone, which had a soft launch at Club Industry but went all out this IHRSA. Clubs install one system in the gym and sell fitness belts with an embedded chip that’s compatible with that system. Then users with belts can track their workouts.

"The goal of this product is to really help the clubs increase their average length of stay or reduce their attrition,” said MyZone’s Mike Leveque. “It’s introducing fitness without walls.”

Plus, Leveque said, the technology could help attract people who are not comfortable in gyms yet.

Help consumers properly strength train

Consumers are often intimidated by strength equipment. That’s why at this year’s IHRSA there were more strength products with easier-to-understand instructions and other user-friendly features.

But what about those companies that haven’t gotten around to changing their strength equipment as much? There is FlexTech from A2D Fitness Systems, which set up camp at the Nautilus booth because several of its instruction consoles are on Nautilus strength equipment.

Malcolm Smith, CEO of A2D Fitness, demonstrated the retrofit device, which can be mounted on any strength equipment currently in gyms or stores. In its idle state, the screen has the option to display advertisements and promotions for fitness classes. Users insert their flash drive (on which they will have installed their profile and workouts) and do the workout as per the instructions from the device.

A2D Fitness Systems has a consumer version that currently fits on Bowflex products.

Nature indoors

Many people prefer outdoor workouts to indoor workouts, but there are those times when getting outside is not possible. Enter Life Fitness and its new Lifescape Series, which helps users stuck inside on a treadmill feel like they are traipsing around in the mountains or in several National Parks.

If it’s not nature users are craving, they can also access on-demand movie trailers, music videos and television shows. Exercisers can create a personal profile on Lifescape so the technology will remember what they like to listen to or watch while they’re working out.

Lifescape also tracks how many workouts each machine has, the average duration of those workouts and the total workout hours, making it easier for facilities to know when to replace machines.

--Ana Trujillo

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