Today Your Fitness Center, Tomorrow the World
By Judy Geer
Fitness, too, is becoming more global thanks to technology. There are now numerous ways to connect with other people around the world and take advantage of programming and events that offer motivation and inspiration for all ages. It's easy for you to help your members take advantage of this from the comfort of your own facility.
Here's a sampling of global opportunities in fitness:
Online Logbooks: A number of fitness-related Web sites now offer online logbooks, and many of them are free. These generally allow users to record workouts, track progress and even analyze trends in performance. Online logging is quick and easy, and the feedback it offers generally makes it much more encouraging than a hand-written log.
Worldwide Ranking: Find an exercise machine that offers an accurate, comparable score on its performance monitor, and it is likely the company's Web site will include a worldwide online ranking of best scores. This means that anyone using the machine can enter their score and see how they rank in the world. It's a great training goal and a great way for users to measure their fitness.
Events and Challenges: The key to successful fitness is finding an exercise that you enjoy enough to stick with. And one of the ways to make exercise enjoyable is to participate in events with other people. You can provide your patrons with this connection through online tools. Some fitness machine manufacturers offer a full annual calendar of online challenges. Competitors don't need to be fast. They just need to go the distance, enter their workouts online in a specified place and work until they meet the goal, at which time they may even be eligible for a certificate or other prize. There also is a growing number of challenges that support worthy causes.
Virtual Teams: Some online challenges are team-based. This offers a terrific opportunity to get a group of friends together—or meet new friends. The team can be a physical team such as your fitness center members, or it can be a virtual team composed of people from anywhere in the world. There are teams of people over 60, teams of people trying to lose weight, teams of cancer survivors, teams of college alums—the possibilities are endless. Again, find a fitness equipment manufacturer that supports this kind of event and use their products to start building camaraderie at your facility.
Racing: If competition is what gets you moving, but you've already beaten everyone at home, you'll love Internet racing. You can find an opponent anywhere in the world, set a race time, connect—and off you go. Not all equipment offers this since it requires an electronic performance monitor that is accurate enough to be compared from one machine to the next. You'll also need to be able to put a PC near your equipment, whether it's an indoor rower, a bike or other exercise equipment.
Technique: Even technique coaching can be done online. With programs like YouTube and Google Video, it's possible to post and view video clips of fitness activities. Some equipment suppliers offer the service of reviewing the video and offering coaching tips to improve your members' technique.
Training Advice: Want to get fitter, stronger and faster? There are a number of online training programs and services now available to the public. Most of these will have a charge, at least beyond a certain basic level. Many focus on certain sports or activities. Some offer downloadable podcasts that members can listen to while they train.
Fitness on the Road: Do any of your facility members travel a lot? Technology may be able to help them find their favorite exercise machines when they're "on the road." Visit the manufacturer's Web site to see if they provide this service.
There's no need for your facility users to feel bored and alone while getting their exercise—unless that's the way they like it. Encourage them to take advantage of these global opportunities. If you can provide Internet access in the workout room, all the better! If not, you can at least send them home with a list of great links where they can record their workouts, join events, connect with others—and add a whole new dimension to the exercise they get in your facility.
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