Smart and Fit

Monitors, trackers and apps are helping trainers and their clients get smarter about fitness

Technology has taken over most aspects of our lives. It connects us not only with others, but with ourselves in a variety of ways – from our sleeping habits to steps taken throughout the day. Thanks to wearable devices and apps, we are becoming even more in tune with ourselves and our goals.

In the world of health and fitness, technology helps to motivate the masses through tracking steps, recording workouts, measuring heart rates and encouraging everyone to live a healthier lifestyle. Whether in a fitness studio or at home, smart technology is providing the tools to get smarter about fitness.  

Orangetheory Fitness is an international franchise that utilizes smart technology in its studios to enable clients with personal health information and competitive motivation. The program features wearable heart rate monitors to track the five zones of heart rate training – ranging from very light activity to all-out effort – during hour-long, high-intensity interval workouts. According to Dylan Lambertson, studio manager at Orangetheory’s East Lansing location, the OTbeat chest straps and arm straps are 99% and 96% accurate, respectively.

The information gathered from the heart rate monitors is displayed on the individual fitness equipment as well as three large TV screens in the room that project the clients’ names for everyone to view. It inspires a healthy dose of competition and community to the workouts, and Lambertson said the trackers are the ultimate motivator for clients.

“It’s a great thing for us, because it actually helps members push themselves more than just having someone in there coaching them without a wearable,” he said. “They can actually see real-time results throughout class and over a period of time watch their heart be healthier. It pushes them to a whole new level of fitness.”

After class, members receive an email summary detailing their calories burned and metrics to track progress. The Orangetheory Fitness app, launched this past summer, also makes it easy to access information from previous workouts.

In addition to its own line of wearables and app, Orangetheory Fitness is continuing to find ways of utilizing technology to serve its members, from monitoring their 1-mile run time every six months to launching an InBody body composition reader machine.

“Technology is the way everyone’s going,” Lambertson said. “I think a lot of members get a lot more out of it because they actually see what’s happening. You can see sweat, but to actually know what you did in an hour is such great information to have.”

Of the personal devices clients use for tracking their activity, Lambertson said the AppleWatch is the most popular.

“We have members who love taking classes because of what it does for their goals on their watch,” he said. “It’s keeping people more accountable and more aware of how to work out.”

With its own heart rate monitor and metrics for measuring activity, the AppleWatch is one example of how users track their goals inside the gym and beyond.

Matt Warner, a personal trainer since 2002 and owner of The Training Factory in Okemos, agreed that fitness trackers have been a game-changer for the industry. The biggest impact on the overall fitness of his clients? The simple Fitbit.

“It’s a change in lifestyle,” Warner said. “It makes them more aware about trying to get to the recommended 10,000 steps a day. Certain people are going to use it more than others, of course. But it’s all about awareness.”

Beyond step counting, Warner said wearable devices can provide instant accountability, pointing to features such as alerts to keep users from sitting for too long and prompts to complete daily goals. Another benefit is in the subconscious decisions made throughout the day, such as eating better.

“You put a little more time into workouts, and you eat better on those days,” Warner said.

With all of his personal training clients, Warner uses a heart rate monitor to record a perceived exertion. The data provides a baseline and, in some cases, a wake-up call.

“They don’t realize they need to work a little harder to get to where their heart rate needs to be,” he said. “It becomes a fun way to compete with yourself to know that you’re working hard.”

Warner plans to add a heart rate monitor concept similar to Orangetheory Fitness at The Training Factory, with client data posted on a screen inside the studio. “It’s all about accountability,” he said.

A popular amenity at The Training Factory is access to its Peloton bike, which offers on-demand and live-streamed cycling classes.

“They have their own built-in community,” Warner said. “People come in at lunch to do an on-demand class and think they’re the only one, but they realize 700 others are riding the same recorded class. You can compare it to next time. It helps with your effort level.”

The Peloton is one of the latest pieces of fitness equipment implementing the newest in technology for connectivity and personal data tracking.

Signing up for classes at fitness studios has also gone the way of technology. Apps like MindBody and ClassPass allow users to scan through class offerings, sign up through their phones and even sync with fitness trackers to record activity data. Even if fitness studios don’t have their own apps, these options help them connect with new and potential clients in a convenient way.

While smart technology can be to blame for the problem of inactivity, the fitness and tech industries are working in tandem on solutions to get people more aware, more accountable and more active.

 

Let’s Get Digital

Looking beyond the ubiquity of technology in fitness studios and gyms, there are a growing number of options for people interested in exercising from the comfort of their own home, on their own time. Convenience and connectivity are the name of the game, and smart technology is making it easier than ever.

Among the most popular home fitness options comes from Peloton, deemed “the best cardio machine on the planet” by Men’s Health. In addition to dozens of live classes for its Bike, Tread, and App, Peloton offers an on-demand library of classes with varying lengths and formats for users to choose from. The Peloton Bike and Peloton Tread are an investment; along with a $39 per month membership, the Basics Package is over $2,200 for the Bike and $4,200 for the Tread. The Peloton App membership, a more accessible $19.49 per month, gives users the chance to stream a variety of workouts at home or on the go on their tablet, phone, TV or web browser.

Another feat of fitness technology is the Mirror, named one of the best inventions of 2018 by Time magazine. A full-length mirror when it’s off, the Mirror connects users to an instructor and classmates with its interactive display. Over 70 new live classes are offered weekly, in addition to a library of on-demand classes, ranging from cardio and strength to yoga and boxing. At $1,495 for the equipment and $39 per month for a subscription, Mirror is another cult favorite that comes at a cost.

Beyond fitness equipment, personal trackers such as the AppleWatch, Fitbit and Garmin give users a wealth of information about their health and that extra nudge to keep on moving. Those who track their activity throughout the day are all too familiar with parking farther away, taking the stairs and sneaking in extra steps on walks to hit their goals. Whether working out at home, in a fitness studio or just going about your day, wearable devices are an approachable way of getting in tune with your heart and your health.

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