This fall, my gym buddy acquired wearable technology. You know the drill: a sleek-looking wristband; an endless stream of personal fitness data collected, analyzed, advertised on social media; a self-regulated, continuously fine-tuned fitness plan based on the constant feedback. All well and good, but suddenly I found myself going to the gym on my own a lot more. With a sort of built-in trainer and a shift in fitness goals (now, instead of running for thirty minutes on the treadmill, she aimed to take 10,000 steps per day) my friend seemed not to need the gym so much any more — at first.
Wearable technology trends certainly threaten to change both the fitness and sports industries. With the ability to stay minutely informed about their progress toward fitness and competitive goals, exercisers and athletes acquire a level of self-sufficiency they haven’t had before, along with the realization that fitness and practice are everywhere, not just in the gym, not just at the training center.
But rather than fear these trends, our industries must embrace them. They’re inevitable, so there’s no reason not to. And once we accept and fully understand them, we can start thinking creatively about how to turn them into an advantage. The questions become not “How can we compete with wearable technology?” but “How can we incorporate wearable technology?” “How can we help our members or our athletes understand the data their devices are giving them?” “How can we be indispensable to wearable technology users?”
As I mentioned, my friend’s attendance at the gym waned only at first. After a month and a half or so, I began to see her back in her old places: on the treadmill, in the free weight area, in spin class. She was still wearing her bracelet.
“What happened?” I asked. “Did it stop working?”
“No,” she said. “I just missed everyone.”
For me, that reply seemed to answer many of those questions above. Even if you have a social media cohort that witnesses and observes your progress as you work out, the one thing fitness devices can’t give you is a community. Exercisers want other exercisers to work out with, plain and simple. Seeing others push themselves in the gym helps us push ourselves; commiserating with the person on the treadmill next to yours eases the pain; asking a trainer about the proper form for push-up rotations leads directly to improved performance and better results. As facilities that serve the fitness and sports industries, we have to jump at the chance to provide members and clients with a community, to make them feel nurtured, needed, and connected. Then they could wear entire suits of technology, and they’ll still show up at our doorsteps.