Web Exclusive - January 2015
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Fit in '15

By Emily Tipping

Every year, the American Council on Exercise turns to its experts to assess what fitness trends might be likely to make waves in the coming year. For 2015, ACE-certified Personal Trainer Pete McCall, MS, covered 10 upcoming trends in a blog post on the council's website (www.acefitness.org/blog/5145/10-fitness-trends-to-look-out-for-in-2015/), based on his own ideas, as well as those of other educators and industry thought leaders.

The trends include continuing growth in personalization and interconnectedness, as well as more intelligent program design. Many of the trends themselves are interconnected, as we discovered when we talked with Anthony Wall, ACE's director of Professional Education.

When you look at things like social media and social networking, wearable technology, online coaching and training and more, he said, "It begins to look like a spider web, with the client at the middle, and all of these different spokes are starting to have a far-reaching impact on what they do. And when you pull one of those spokes, it affects everything else."

Take the trend in wearables, for example. While people have been wearing heart-rate monitors for years during their workouts to keep track of their intensity, over the past several years, wearable devices that monitor calorie burning, sleep habits and more have seen rapid growth. Apple's new iWatch takes it even further with a dashboard of health data to help consumers live healthier lives.

How does this trend act as a link to the rest of the fitness web? It affects everything from interconnectedness added to the latest fitness equipment to the ability for personal trainers and group fitness instructors to give more personalized feedback.

"In a group setting, for example, everyone in class wears a heartrate monitor, and is assigned a unique code," Wall explained. "That data that is collected, in a group setting, can be displayed up on the screen, and it allows everybody to see how everybody else is doing. It allows the group to understand where they are, should they be working harder? It allows instructors to hone in on people and tell people to speed it up, but without singling anyone out."

With so much information on their performance literally at their fingertips, however, education becomes even more important, Wall said. This presents an opportunity for clubs and trainers to help consumers come to a deeper understanding of the various indicators of health and performance.

"The technology provides a lot of information, but consumers say, 'So what? It tells me all these things—hours of sleep, training zone'—but it's not something the average consumer understands," Wall said. So clubs and we here at ACE can open that discussion up and talk about: What is a training zone? Why am I using it, and why might it be important for people as a marker? It's something we're going to promote: education about that data. We've got to educate the end user about the importance of that data."

In addition, the rise in the wearable technology has the potential to create a lot of confusion among consumers. "There are products that don't do much more than all the other ones out there, and there's a landscape where people have no idea what's the best," Wall explained. ACE plans to investigate further, exploring how people use the technology, what information they get from it, and how they share it to help consumers know which product is best for them.

Another trend that branches off from the increasing use of technology and growing interconnectedness relates to cardio and even some of the traditional pin-loaded strength training equipment, Wall added. "We'll continue to see growth in how they collect information and how they make it so users can create and track programs," he said. "Companies are manufacturing equipment where you can put in a personalized ID, and those pieces of equipment—as long as you're hooked up to a network in the club, you can go to any club and it'll track your workouts," he said. "As wearable technology increases, equipment manufacturers will incorporate that into what they do, too."

Social networking and social interaction also will have an increasing impact, Wall said. "We continue to look for ways to incorporate social interaction, whether that's working in small group training or within the club environment, continuing to build social interaction with like-minded people," he said.

You can get a group of people into a gym who all have a similar goal, but that doesn't mean they are likeminded, he added. "As groups create those social interactions and experiences, and as they look for ways to bring more likeminded people together, we'll see more success. It's creating that group experience, social support and external motivation—the desire to come and meet other people and have some accountability."

You can use social media, wearable technology and social networking to extend your reach and bring people together in this way.

Incorporating all of these new ways of collecting and understanding data, reaching out and bringing people together, and sharing results will be a new challenge for health clubs and personal trainers, but technology certainly isn't making these professionals obsolete.

"All of these are only tools to help people," Wall said. "The person still has to do the work. If you don't actually do the work, nothing's going to happen."

Having someone in your corner to help motivate you and help you understand how to make the most of the tools you have at your disposal is crucial to success.

"We talk about behavior change and health coaching, and that's becoming much more prevalent," Wall said. "Having that support group, health coach or mentor—those people are going to have a big impact on your likelihood of success."