Mr. Green

Spas, Health & Fitness

How to Pump Up Your Hotel Fitness Center with Cutting-edge Fitness

By Bryan Green, President & CEO, Advantage Fitness Products

In the world of high-end hospitality, unique services and luxury amenities can make or break guest satisfaction and retention, and a fitness facility is certainly not an exception. As consumers continue to focus on active, fitness-friendly getaways, it's all the more critical for spa and fitness center managers to stay on top of the innovations that can set them apart from the competition in the ongoing battle to win and retain new customers.

Currently, the hottest new technologies in the fitness world are challenging hospitality professionals to enter the digital age, as virtual-reality-based, and other new digital technologies and software are re-shaping the way people exercise.

Hi-Tech Performance & Function Over Form

Two distinct developments are now converging and taking the fitness industry to an entirely new frontier. First, there's been a dramatic shift in fitness away from the more aesthetic focus on developing a harder and more attractive body. While aesthetics remain a priority for many, the industry has become more focused than ever on "performance" in day-to-day life endeavors. Whether for a parent trying to manage the non-stop energy of a home full of children, or a high-powered executive traveling extensively to drive a company's bottom line, life is unrelenting. It's challenging and today, more than ever, demands high-performance.

The second development is the overwhelming and rapid influence that digital technology is having on fitness and exercise. Just as with entertainment, from television shows to video games, the fitness world has become a haven for interactivity and reality-based experiences. Digital technology has allowed us to "personalize" basic pastimes and activities like never before.

These two converging forces in the industry are creating a totally personalized and interactive fitness experience, focused on functional fitness measures that enhance performance in life.

Fitness "Fun & Games"

The preponderance of interactive digital gaming products, like the popular Wi gaming device, allow consumers to become a part of the virtual worlds within the games they play. One trip to a local arcade/entertainment center will find hosts of kids engaged in break-dancing competitions or martial arts battles against "virtual" opponents. This technology makes perfect sense in fitness, where exercise programs are found in these same competitive, gaming-based platforms. Some are calling this movement "exergaming" for obvious reasons.

Examples include Motivatrix, a company offering the MX 10 Workout Master that offers up to 20 different options of gaming-based exercise programs. For example, "Zak Attack" combines martial arts in a gaming format where the user punches and kicks virtual targets, earning points along the way. Or with "Dash, Dart & Jump" users can jump, sprint and kick point-bearing targets, while also avoiding oncoming dangers and obstacles as they traverse through a virtual world, much like classic video game titles of the past such as Sonic the Hedgehog or Super Mario Bros. Another company, Xavix, offers martial arts-based exercise programs led by Jackie Chan himself. And I-Tech fitness is offering the XRCade, a gaming-based destination that is created within an existing health club or fitness center that offers a variety of interactive, virtual-reality gaming-based exercise options.

**PERSONAL Training...Wherever You Go **

A simple USB compatible storage device - those stick-of-gum-sized cartridges that allow for portable downloading and storage of significant amounts of digital data to and from computers - are becoming extremely influential in this techno-fitness movement. A growing number of products are now capable of interfacing with these USB units to access personalized information about the user and literally tailor exercise regimens based on each user's specific level.

Fitness equipment manufucturer Star Trac offers software, featuring pre-designed cardio and strength programs that allow users to track their progress at home. The idea is that Gyms will sell the software-loaded USB sticks to members who will plug them into Star Trac's E Series cardio equipment and/or the company's new Koko strength training machines. The performance data from each workout is stored on the USB stick and can be downloaded onto personal computers to track progress in detail.

As if those advancements were not enough, more and more products are now interfacing with the popular Apple iPod devices that can store both data and video. For example, the Nike Plus system is based on footwear containing a sensor that can compile data associated with cardio training, including mileage, pace and other variables. This data from the chip can be transferred to a personal computer for performance tracking. Originally designed for outdoor use, this system has expanded to accommodate indoor usage in gym settings through a variety of products by manufacturers, including Precor, Technogym, Star Trac and Life Fitness that are compatible with iPod technology. Now, Nike Plus-equipped footwear can relay data to a user's iPod which can then be docked to these machines allowing performance statistics to be captured, transferred to personal computers and incorporated into each user's ongoing performance tracking.

**Additional Odds and Ends **

While these interactive digital products certainly carry an overriding "wow" factor, I would be remiss if I didn't mention some of the exciting new products that didn't quite carry such a space-age and high-tech appeal.

TRX Suspension Trainer - Continuing the "performance" theme, Fitness Anywhere continues to turn heads in the industry with the extremely simple and practical, yet highly-effective TRX Suspension Trainer. This product literally spawned an entire category, "Suspension Training" where the sole means of resistance is the user's body weight. A simple system of heavy-duty straps is anchored to an overhead weight-bearing support (ceiling beam, door, wall ring/hook, etc.) allowing the user to suspend their body in various positions to target specific body parts through body-weight, resistance-based exercises. By merely adjusting body position, (center of gravity) users can easily vary the amount of resistance involved in exercise movements and thereby progressively increase the level of difficulty as their strength increases over time. Fitness centers are finding that this product allows perfectly for outdoor group exercise programming, capitalizing on breathtaking vacation environments.

Workout 180 - Another exercise system based on body-weight resistance is the Workout 180. The product allows for up to 80 different exercises, including push-ups, biceps curls, squats, yoga positions and much more. Workout 180 features a push-up and dip bar, balance/instability base ideal for core exercises, and resistance bands, all within a compact and user-friendly system. This product is ideal as an in-room fitness solution that can be stored conveniently and utilized within tight confines.

Good Vibrations - Since 2007, vibration-based exercise has emerged rapidly in the form of what many refer to as "Acceleration Training." The technology exploits an innate response to disruptions in stability along with acceleration of g-forces, via a platform that vibrates anywhere from 30-50 times per second. The body's natural response is to contract its muscles for each and every vibration. This significant amount of muscular activity in such a short time frame renders full workouts to be done in merely 15-20 minute sessions, ideal for the busy traveler or vacationer who needs more time for a variety of activities. To illustrate the emergence of this vibration training category, last year, a handful of companies, led by category pioneers Power Plate, were on hand at IHRSA (International Health, Racquet Club and Spa Association), the fitness industry's biggest annual event. This year, that number exploded with at least 15 different manufacturers, including Power Plate, VibraGym, Itonic by Free Motion Fitness, Maxuvibe, Pneumax and FitVibe among others.

Elliptical Evolution - Elliptical trainers have long been a favorite at health clubs and gyms. They offer a more complete cardio workout, targeting both upper and lower body simultaneously along the way. Recently, manufacturers saw a need to breathe new life into ellipticals with advancements allowing the machines to accommodate varying stride lengths and planes of motion, customizing the experience to the tendencies of the specific user. Precor's AMT (Adaptive Motion Trainer) led the charge for these elliptical advancements and remains the standard. Other companies like Modus USA, Octane Fitness and True Fitness were on hand, jumping into the fray with their own advanced elliptical offerings. But nothing has quite measured up to the performance of the Precor unit and its ability to truly adapt to the user's unique movements.

It's clear from these various products that the shifting paradigm toward performance or "function over form" and the impact of the digital revolution are the factors currently dominating the industry and dictating its future. Now the challenge falls on fitness center and spa managers within the hospitality industry to get educate themselves to these new innovations, and the unique ways they can increase customer satisfaction and ultimately, the bottom line.

Bryan Green is a fitness expert and advisor to core & non-traditional businesses alike in industries including hospitality, multi-family housing, corporations, and Academic institutions. Mr. Green serves as President and CEO of Advantage Fitness Products (AFP), a leading provider of innovative fitness and wellness-based solutions for commercial facilities worldwide and specialized residential environments. AFP offers expertise across multiple facets of the health & fitness industry, including facility design, equipment supply, and ongoing support. The company is headquartered in Los Angeles, with additional offices in Miami, New York, San Francisco, Phoenix, & Las Vegas. Mr. Green also serves on the Editorial Board for Fitness On-Site Magazine, and advisory boards for leading industry equipment and content providers TechnoGym, Star Trac, & Netpulse. Mr. Green can be contacted at 310-559-9949 Ext: 110 or bgreen@afproducts.com Extended Bio...

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