May 11, 2021

How fitness became tech (at last)

For the last decade the world fitness association IHRSA has highlighted tech and digitization is a huge fitness trend. This seems like an open door, because many other sports have turned digital a long time ago. However, the fitness industry is not really digital and gyms today look very similar to those 20, 30, 40 years ago. There are obvious differences, such as big television screens (with ads), treadmills with Netflix and gyms’ consumer apps, but the way we train and achieve our goals has not significantly changed. So were they sleeping? Well, not anymore.

The restrictions of last year forced people to find different ways to workout. Gyms were closed and so members flocked to parks, their gardens and living rooms. When winter fell, indoors became the most apparent place to workout. Then a strange thing happened: what those people thought would never happen, actually happened. First they got used to training from their homes and gradually they started to like it. I know, mind-blowing!

There is no substitute for the gym, a trainer or group classes, but training from the comfort of your own home has benefits and could be complementary to training on-location. To make training at home more fun, phones and tablet were used to participate in online classes (I still do a couple of times a week) and people bought new fitness technologies. As a result companies like Peloton, Tonal, Ergatta and Fittar flourished, and as an example, market leader Peloton increased their paid subscribers by 5x, resulting in a 1B revenue last year. This means that users have shifted heavily to technology driven fitness.

Currently it's the spring of 2021, people are training in parks again and cannot wait to go back into their health clubs to workout. However, the market is radically different than 12 months ago and clubs face a very difficult task: how fast can they adopt tech and at-home fitness in their business models? If they want their members to come back (and stay), they need to develop just like their members have. For years the fitness industry had not embraced tech, but now its users have taken the lead.