Will Technology Replace Personal Trainers?
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the monthly newsletter of
Fitness Industry Technology Council

February 2015 Edition

The Fitness Industry Technology Council is a group of professionals representing leading companies and organizations in the fitness industry. FIT-C:
  • seeks to grow the fitness industry
  • improve fitness user experience
  • mature the collection of real-time wellness data through the creation of interoperability standards for technology-based fitness devices

Will Fitness Technology Replace Trainers?

Article by Josh Trent.  (Josh Trent, NASM-CES, CPT, HLC, is a corrective exercise specialist and participatory sports technology expert with a decade in the fitness industry.  Follow Josh on Twitter@wellnessforce, or through his website

Brick & mortar fitness clubs, gyms, studios and health spas are about to go through a massive wardrobe change.
With wearable technology sales forecast to exceed 19 billion dollars by 2018, business leaders in the fitness industry are lacing up their running shoes extra tight in preparation of the expected growth among fitness wearables and their influence on gym member’s expectations.
As Apple’s HealthKit receives API requests in the thousands, app developers and mHealth companies are scrambling to answer the increased demands and active lifestyles of this new breed of consumer.
The important question to ask, that will truly make or break whether or not the local corner gym stays in business by 2019, is will these traditional gyms be able to adapt and change fast enough to satisfy these savvy mobile members?
To Wear Or Not To Wear?
The answers to a thriving future for the industry are now being powerfully delivered by thought leaders in the fitness technology space such as Bryan O’Rourke, president of the Fitness Industry Technology Council and Harvey Spevak, president and CEO of Equinox Fitness. (See accompanying column in this newsletter.)
These captains of progress are among key leadership that are driving increased interoperability and the acceleration of wearable technology as a fundamental part of a future gym member’s ecosystem.  Spevak notes that the rise of digital health technology represents a massive opportunity more than a threat, and foresees that as more people integrate digital health devices into their workout, it will boost interest in those who want to get fit by making it easier for them to track their progress.
Equinox, which operates high echelon health and fitness clubs in nine different states, was the first national fitness chain to partner with Apple when it launched its HealthKit app last June. The mega-brand took it one step further by engineering and integrating its own digital platform with Apple. This has proved to be highly successful in allowing their personal trainers to track, adjust, and truly customize a member’s experience based on real biofeedback and physical activity data in real time.
"What most people don’t know is how to use that information,” Spevak said. “We can track our members’ information. Starting this year we’ll start giving them customized information around what programs and services are better suited for them.”

In Walks The New Member
The gym member of the future will be connected to the IOT 100% of the time; checking texts from their smart watch and getting push notifications from FitBit on their iOS while they run on a treadmill that’s recording data directly into a smart fitness app.
In 2015, the waters in the digital health ocean will begin to swirl with the launch of Apple Watch that will change the face of the wearable technology with its empowering companion: HealthKit. As Apple has taught us through its slogan “Think Different,” in regards to wearable technology, it’s not always the first to market who wins the prize of more business, it’s ultimately the one who offers a differentiated product that can seamlessly empower a consumer.
What if health and fitness clubs are fearful or resistant to this wearable fitness technology?  Well, we all saw what happened to Blockbuster.
Trainers & Personal Accountability
As wearable technology like FitBit, Google, and Apple start to grow and gain mass-adoption, the integration of every workout made and tracked digitally will be highly appealing to gym members. But will fitness wearables slice into a personal trainer’s profit and clientele? Absolutely not.
As long as professional trainers are embracing the technological changes and expectations of mobile members, using CRM software like amSTATZ and FitBit to track and maintain a close relationship with their clients, the only danger to losing business is if trainers don't care enough to deliver what their clients truly deserve.
Even as digital health is still in its infancy, the technology and the overall experience are only going to get better and eventually will serve millions of gym members every day - driving more positive habits, improved accountability, and better compliance in their workouts.
The Future In Fitness
When digital health technology and the fitness industry join forces in the battle against obesity and inactivity, everyone wins - including personal trainers.

                                    Bryan K. O'Rourke
                                         CEO, FIT-C


TUES 2/17/15 @ 2:00PM EST - "Health and Fitness Applications: What's Happening?" - FREE ONLINE SEMINAR from FIT-C's 2014/2015 Technology Working Group. Bryan O'Rourke hosts Brent Drake (Under Armour Digital) and Mike Marsham (Good Life Fitness) to discuss developments with apps in the health and fitness space.

If you want to be "up" on technology, don't miss this FIT-C complimentary webinar.  Advance registration necessary:

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Is It Foolish to Think Technology Won't Replace Personal Trainers?

(Re-print of a recently-posted Club Industry ideaXchange blog by FIT-C CEO Bryan K.O'Rourke at

Wearables, smartphones and apps for health and fitness were all the rage at CES this year. I know because I attended, but interestingly a lot of leaders in the health club industry didn't.

Why? I am not sure, but in a recent CNBC interview, Harvey Spevak, Equinox's CEO, touched on what might be a reason and perhaps the biggest elephant in the health club industry room when he answered this question posed by one of the hosts of the show: "In fairness, most training isn't brain surgery. It should be fairly easy to recreate in a 
semiconductor the type of advice or the type of program your average trainer would give you. Once you can take in the various metrics of how a person is, what their weight is, how they perform, how flexible they are, the information technology should be able to supply the rest possibly in video form. I'm just wondering how that cuts out your premium proposition, which is personal training?"
Spevak replied: "There is absolutely no replacement for hands-on expertise and experience. We think this is all additive and complimentary because our population, the luxury consumer, wants the information to better inform how they should train when they are with us and even when they are without us. So our philosophy is we are going to help our members to be always on 24/7 in terms of thinking about that information."
In referring to wearables and apps specifically, Spevak opined, "We are in the early stage, the software's not there, the hardware's not there and so it's going to take time, but by 2017, they are predicting over 60 million devices will be sold."

Absolutely no replacement? We are in the early stages? Now Spevak is a visionary I deeply respect, and Equinox is certainly a luxury brand with an enviable market position. And although the thinking of creating a fitness experience inside and outside of their clubs is an intelligent realization of what is happening with customers' expectations, the view that "there is absolutely no replacement for hands-on expertise and experience" is one that the health club industry in general better rethink.
Today, there certainly are replacements for personal training in health clubs. These exist in the form of applications such as and content providers such as They also exist in new business models such as and among many others. Will traditional personal training in clubs go away? Of course not, but it would be naive to think that alternatives for traditional face-to-face training don't exist. In fact, alternatives are growing rapidly and creating a new wave of consumer choice. For a brand such as Equinox, which is focused on luxury consumers, this might not be as big of a near-term threat. For other brands, however, this might be a different story as less expensive digital alternatives could take away business. has more than 30 million users, and many platforms offer premium services for less than $10 a month with some being free.
So this begs the question: Will digital fitness alternatives grow the pie for clubs or shrink it? Can technology provide alternatives for personal training?

What do YOU think?  Email Bryan with your thoughts.

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Some Great "Quick Reads"

PricewaterhouseCoopers predicts “DIY Healthcare” will be the top trend of 2015.  “Do-it-yourself healthcare”, including mobile apps and consumer medical devices, is set to be the top healthcare trend of 2015.
Is FitBit fearless of Apple Watch?  URL:
Swatch Plans Smartwatch to Compete With Apple Watch’s Debut  URL:

ALTIMETER's "The Inevitability of A Mobile-Only Customer Experience"

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Excerpts from Adobe Analytics Article on "Mobile Mind Shift"

Writers Thomas Husson and Julie A. Ask report that "most brands will under-invest in mobile"...but that "Brands embracing the mobile mind shift will pull ahead of those treating mobile as just another channel."

Forrester forecasts that "42% of the total population globally will own a smartphone by the end of 2015."  Forrester also believes that in 2015, the gap will increase between marketing leaders who re-engineer their businesses to deliver valuable mobile moments and the majority of marketing executives, who will continue to take a myopic approach by considering mobile as just another digital channel.
Pew Research Center says "58% of U.S. adults own a smart phone; and 42% own a tablet."
Leaders Will Re-Engineer Businesses To Deliver Mobile Moments
1. Mobile will fuel a massive technology and spending arms race. Mobile-shifted startups and marketing leaders are putting pressure on competitors by elevating customer expectations based on innovative ways to win, serve, and retain customers in their mobile moments.

2. Re-engineering organizations and processes for mobile will take priority.

3. Mobile-enabled business models will disrupt the value chains of entire industries.

4. Mobile innovation will accelerate in emerging markets.

5. Business and technology strategies will shift from apps to experiences. Consumers will spend more time on mobile phones but with fewer apps.

6. Mobile advertising will start breaking its desktop shackles. In particular, the combined explosion in consumer adoption of larger form factor devices and 4G services will make mobile short video a more powerful advertising tool.

7. Branded content platforms will start to emerge in mobile.

8. Mobile moments will shrink to micro contactless ecosystem moments.
Forrester defines micro moments as those mobile moments that require only a glance to identify and deliver quick information that customers can either consume or act upon immediately.

9. Mobile privacy is the next differentiator for mobile experiences.

10. Apple will boost mobile wallet and cloud payment technology options.

To get your copy of the entire report, click this link:

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Copyright © 2015 Bryan K. O'Rourke, All rights reserved.

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