Before You Go - September 2013
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Right on Track
Air Force Base Uses Networked Fitness to Track Workouts

By Deborah L. Vence

Service men and women at Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota now are able to set fitness goals, track and upload workouts in the gym directly from their fitness equipment and even outside using their mobile device, thanks to a special networked fitness solution.

The Preva networked fitness solution—designed by Precor, a home and commercial fitness equipment manufacturer—includes the company's 880 Line of cardio equipment with interactive P80 consoles, personal accounts and a mobile app to provide the foundation for the base's "SOAR into Shape," a weight-loss and health competition that rewards participants with points for achieving weight-loss milestones and workout targets. Grand Forks is the first U.S. military installation to set up a comprehensive networked fitness solution.

"Networked fitness was created to meet the evolving needs of operators and their exercisers," said Brent Brooks, vice president of networked fitness for Precor. "For the operator, this includes better managing their business with solutions that improve equipment utilization and enhance exerciser satisfaction and facility usage. For the exerciser, it's new tools and experiences to entertain and set, reach and exceed their goals.

"With the ever-tightening relationship consumers have with smart phones, tablets and the Internet, exercisers expect a more connected and/or interactive experience in their facility. Operators that provide this capability differentiate their facility from others and are more likely to attract and retain exercisers," he said.

The way it works is that users set up an account on a P80 console, on which they set a weekly objective for the number of workouts and associated goal for calories, distance or duration.

"Logging their workouts, users can view how close they are to reaching goals while receiving achievement badges to reward their hard work and dedication, an incentive that keeps exercisers returning to the gym on a regular schedule," Brooks said. "The mobile app for the iPhone enables exercisers to track their entire fitness program from anywhere, including workouts on non-Precor equipment, group classes or outside fitness activities, such as hiking."

Moreover, the fitness solution enables exercisers to share their workout data with their personal trainers, who can then evaluate their progress and offer suggestions on how to achieve or raise their fitness goals. Exercisers also can stay engaged with their goals by being awarded achievement badges that they can share on social networks such as Twitter and Facebook.

"For example, the 'Golden Gate' badge is rewarded for burning 232 calories, the average equivalent of walking from one side of the Golden Gate Bridge to the other," Brooks said. "Grand Forks also offers other point-based incentive programs where exercisers can earn prizes like water bottles, T-shirts and more."

To boot, management benefits are available through the fitness solution for Grand Forks Air Force Base sports and fitness center staff. For instance, a special business suite enables operators to monitor equipment usage, determine peak usage times and quickly identify potential service issues. In addition, a message manager enables operators to send targeted messages letting exercisers know about personal accounts, special events, competitions and personal training offers. Equipment also can be remotely upgraded over the web.

Carol Muir, fitness director at Grand Forks Air Force Base, said the beauty of the fitness solution is the way in which it helps the exercisers focus on setting and achieving goals.

"We're always on the lookout for attractive new services that make the time our patrons spend in the facility enjoyable and productive. The greatest opportunity for us to engage with exercisers is to help them set a defined fitness target and then provide the motivation to get there," she said. "We see Preva as a much more strategic and long-term approach than relying on the latest exercise fad or wearable device."

To boot, another benefit of the system is that since the personal accounts are cloud-based, service members can continue to work toward their fitness goals even after they move to a different base. Furthermore, taking into consideration the impact of the personal accounts on the success of the "SOAR into Shape" program, Grand Forks Air Force Base—home to more than 2,000 active service men and women and their families—is considering other ways to extend the use of personal accounts, including a fitness integrity competition among the base's squadrons.

"Beyond making our exercisers happy, it has given us a platform to build on," Muir said. "It's the long-term strategy we've been looking for."