Guest Column - February 2008
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From Design to Technology

Individualizing the Fitness Experience

By Curtis Moody

Today's society is progressively productivity-driven: From increasing your company's ROI to maximizing the amount of time you spend with friends and family, an emphasis is placed on both the quantity, quality and outcome of a person's performance. Having permeated every aspect of our increasingly busy lives, this input-versus-output mentality is following people to the gym, as well.

Whether training for a race, following doctor's orders to get fit and lose weight or just finding tranquility at yoga class after a long, stressful day, motivations to exercise are plentiful, and steps to achieve individual fitness goals can be just as varied. To effectively serve a diverse membership, fitness facilities are expanding their offerings to help people personalize and establish their exercise routines. From facility design to innovative fitness monitoring technology, there are more items on the market today than ever, allowing fitness enthusiasts to not only customize their workouts, but also individually monitor how far they've come—and how far they have left on the road to their personal fitness destinations.

Ready, Set...Calculate

The majority of cardiovascular equipment—treadmills, steppers, exercise bikes and elliptical machines—has built-in monitors that predict and display how many calories the exerciser has burned in his or her workout, average and target heart rate, and time and distance traveled. Above and beyond these basic features, some technologies have advanced to incorporate personal entertainment choices with TV screens in each individual machine.

The Hadley Park Community Recreation Center in Nashville, Tenn., which serves pre-schoolers through senior adults, is just one facility that features these technological attributes. Cardio machine users can plug in their personal headsets and step in time to their favorite rhythms or spin their way to health while watching a much-loved show on a bank of television sets mounted on the surrounding walls.

Offerings such as these greatly increase a facility's competitive edge, encouraging current members to continue visiting, while attracting new members to join. However, although well developed and as precise as possible, monitoring technology that is shared among multiple users is difficult to personalize to an individual's age, height, weight, athletic ability and other variables. Because of this, personal tools to monitor fitness programs are taking the gym by storm. Some of these technological innovations can fasten easily to a person's body via a strap, and can be personally programmed and calibrated to an individual's specifications. Not only do these solutions enhance the accuracy of calculations, but they also allow the exerciser to monitor his or her body's reactions regardless of the activity or location.