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Why the fitness industry must fully embrace virtual training
A lot has been written recently about what the millennial generation expects from the fitness industry – and quite rightly so. This is definitely the generation that’s the driving force behind many of the changes the industry is going through.
In this article, Nicola Joyce looks at how technology in the form of virtual fitness solutions is answering the need for responsiveness and flexibility that is such a feature of the millennial market. She also suggests that virtual training should also be a force for good across other consumer groups.
What matters to millennials?
Much has already been said about the characteristics that define the millennial generation: their deep desire for connectivity and community, their need for instant access, their love of variety as consumers. They need to be stimulated before they’ll spend money, and engaged if they are to stay. Get it right, and they become loyal customers who will make savvy use of social media to support a brand’s own messaging.
There’s certainly an appetite for fitness-based technology. Increasing usage of on-body solutions like fitness trackers, smart clothing and other wearables suggests that people are hungry for more. So although virtual training may still be a juvenile sub-section of the fitness industry, there are success stories driven by enthusiastic innovators and smart early adopters.
There is still a place for video as a training tool. Video has its roots in the early days of home workouts, where millions of people bought workout programmes on VHS tape. Typically these workouts feature a group and instructor - often a well-known industry name - demonstrating the session.
This format is fairly easy for fitness facilities to understand, implement and adopt. Relatively little technology and infrastructure is needed, as the video can be delivered by CD, DVD or internet streaming. Video therefore still has a big role to play, especially when it used creatively as one component in a wider virtual training solution.
Virtual reality is another technology that has a lot to offer the fitness industry. Delivery is mostly via computer, gaming platform or internet streaming. Unlike video, with virtual reality a user’s movements influence what happens. The more advanced solutions provide an interactive 3D virtual world, with wireless sensors letting users see their virtual self on screen in real time.
There are however logistical challenges. With most virtual reality platforms, clubs need to ensure there is one console or other device per person. Also, internet streaming can be demanding at peak times or when sending data to multiple bikes, rowers or other kit. The broadband strength available will affect the quality of what the user sees.
Consumer trends are driving virtual training
What’s happening with virtual training is very much being driven by the way people’s lives have changed in recent years. First of all, there’s connectivity. Virtual training solutions literally connect users with a world of fitness that reaches beyond the gym and far beyond the limits of their own lives. It also connects them with other fitness users at a similar level, who share their passions and goals.
Then there’s the demand for instant access to whatever we want to see, hear or do. Virtual solutions respond to fitness users’ need for fitness ‘around the clock’, side-stepping class timetables, staff availability and PT bookings.
It’s also about ultimate flexibility. Today’s fitness customers want solutions that fit their lifestyles, not the other way around. Virtual solutions allow users to work out around families, shift work and personal timing preferences.
The leisure industry is waking up to the fact that virtual training solutions can play a significant role in customer engagement, motivation and retention: three challenges that face every fitness facility and personal trainer. We must engage users’ minds, and not just their muscles. By giving customers data and markers of improvement, we can help them build and maintain motivation.
The industry needs to look beyond millennials
So it’s clear that virtual solutions can help our industry keep pace with other forward-thinking consumer industries, responding to user demand and engaging with tech-savvy customers. But can this technology go beyond the millennials to reach the people least likely to engage in fitness? The way that Pokémon Go came out of nowhere to be heralded as part-solution to childhood obesity is certainly an indicator that this broader engagement is possible.
The health and fitness industry walks a fine and privileged line. It has the power to tackle immense issues that threaten the physical wellbeing of vast swathes of the population (and their offspring). But the industry’s critics say it isn’t responsive enough. The fitness industry, they say, has yet to wield its impressive power in any meaningful way, and this is evident in the obesity crisis and burgeoning health problems of our nation.
We cannot get complacent about those people who arguably are most in need of our industry. We must not passively wait for them to seek us out. We need to reach out and engage with them, with the tools they understand and the technology they already use – or we must work hard to help people embrace new technology that has so much to offer them.
How FunXtion brings virtual training into the fabric of clubs
To see how a virtual training solution could fast-track your functional training area into the digital era, take a look at FunXtion Interactive. This fantastic tool for individual and group sessions lets your members do a functional workout whenever they want, track their progress and connect with other members.
You can also get in touch with use to learn more about FunXtion Interactive. Email us at [email protected] or give us a call on:
UK: +44 (0)1733 313 535
USA: +1 (614)-706-4462
Germany: +49 (0)2921 590 10 70