This article was originally published in Inside Fitness Magazine.
Written by Kevin MacCauley, CEO of Upper Hand.
The fitness industry has experienced a tremendous amount of disruption over recent years, which has been especially expedited in response to COVID-19. The pandemic has led to an explosion of smart at-home fitness equipment, transforming the industry as we know it. However, while many people have traded gym memberships for home gym equipment, expectations of fitness equipment users have risen to meet the traditional fitness experience.
Humans are social by nature, and the gym provides a different, competitive experience. The boutique fitness industry, for example, is built on the experience of a crowded room packed full of energy. Words of encouragement from an instructor and competition between you and your classmates elevate the workout experience. Components such as the quality of music, instructor motivation, and competitive atmosphere shape your perception and satisfaction, ultimately determining whether or not you are likely to return.
When fitness businesses began to close their doors in response to the pandemic, the phrase “home-gym” took on a new meaning. Suddenly, crowded facilities were found empty and fitness studios and gym goers alike found themselves navigating this unknown territory. Many companies had anticipated the future of smart fitness equipment and have since found the opportunity to fill the void of an immersive experience through leveraging smart technology, changing the landscape of the fitness industry not only in the present, but in the future.
The idea of connected fitness has quickly transformed from supplemental fitness trackers to sophisticated equipment with smart technology that embraces the idea that we can still work out together while alone and achieve the same level of post-workout satisfaction. Peloton was the first to break into this new market with the release of their first bike in 2014. Since then, countless other exercise bikes, treadmills, and gym equipment have entered the market, aiming to offer the same in-gym experience from home.
Many smart fitness equipment options are now flanked by large screens that stream live classes with real instructors that can interact with users. This production element gives the illusion that you are present in a live studio class. Leaderboards allow users to see where they stack up compared to other people in the class, replicating that in-class competition that draws people to boutique fitness studios. However, the ability to access this content anywhere and anytime, makes it increasingly desirable for busy people.
So, what’s next?
At home fitness equipment will continue to shape the future of the fitness industry through increased use of data and analytics to individualize and enhance user experience. Some companies have already leveraged AI and predictive analytics to offer real-time feedback to equipment users. Tempo, for example, uses built-in smart sensors to correct form and provide immediate feedback during weight lifting sessions. Similarly, Tonal uses AI to make weight recommendations and dynamically adapt to your strength as you continue to progress.
It is important to remember that Peloton built a digital fitness experience because they understood the value of an in-person class. In order to continue to break into the at-home fitness equipment market, companies will need to find a way to leverage a combination of both digital and physical workout experiences.
Throughout the sports and fitness industry, the use of augmented analytics in user experience has proliferated. Fitness consumers no longer just want their data in one place: they want and expect that data to tell them what to do when they get on their smart at-home equipment as well as when they step into the gym. As we continue to navigate the future of at-home fitness, imagine the possibilities to deliver value to fitness consumers both in a studio and at home.
Kevin MacCauley is the CEO and founder of Upper Hand, the leading provider of full-suite sports and fitness management software that enables businesses to achieve more while doing less. Its award-winning software has undergone tremendous growth as it continues to reinvent the sports and fitness industry and drive world class customer experiences. For more information, please visit www.getupperhand.com. Twitter: @GetUpperHand, LinkedIn: Upper Hand, Instagram: @upperhandsoftware, Facebook: GetUpperHand