Going to the IHRSA (International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association) Convention & Trade Show in San Diego on March 12-15 felt like going home.
I’ve been into fitness since childhood and have had the opportunity to make it a focal point of my career. Our marketing communications firm has been involved in the fitness craze since the late 1980s when it launched. I am just as excited today about the innovations I am seeing as I was when we worked with fitness stars like Kathy Smith, Denise Austin, Gin Miller and Johnny G and products like the Reebok Step, the Body Bar and the Body Ball.
The excitement at the 2014 show was palpable. According to the IHRSA President and CEO, Joe Moore, “It was one of the most high-energy and successful conventions over the past five years.”
“Numbers were up. Reviews are coming back very strong and all exhibitors are reporting positive results,” added Meredith Poppler, head of fundraising for public policy and global public policy for IHRSA.
One obvious change over the last few years is the ability for fitness trends to go viral. The launch of the industry's #WhyGetActive campaign, where people were asked to share why they are active on social media, went exceedingly well and started to go viral. The campaign highlighted the work that health clubs are doing to help more people make exercise part of their daily lives.
I caught up with some old friends, made some new ones and asked everyone what they thought the hottest thing at the show was.
New Ways to Cycle
I was so excited to meet up with Johnny G. The visionary who created spinning is now introducing Kranking, a cardio system that uses the upper body. “The Krank Cycle has a new niche. It’s perhaps the most innovative equipment at the show that isn’t recycled. It addresses an extremely versatile community from rehab to wellness,” said Johnny G.
Avid cyclists are going to love the new EVO indoor cycle bike, a bike featuring a no belt and no chain transmission. This means very low maintenance. “Our patented planetary gear set makes it happen. In addition, we have a sway feature that allows the user a more natural outdoor cycling experience. It allows a ten degree side-to-side motion that works naturally with each user’s ride,” explained Adam Smiarowski, national sales manager at Relay Fitness Group.
Wearable and Functional Fitness
The major themes at IHRSA served to confirm the industry trends: fitness is wearable and super functional. IHRSA this year also saw a lot of action in the virtual arena. Nearly all of the big players have an app or some way to train without a physical trainer.
“Even though we are still the new kid on the block, DISQ sits at the crossroads of so many of the industry trends. It’s wearable. Our app tracks progress and coaches, all of the movements are functional and you can use it anywhere,” said CMO of DISQ, Courtney Cesari.
Use Your Weight
One of the biggest trends is definitely using your own body weight for exercise. According to Michelle Austin, creator of the Fluidity Barre and workouts, “In Fluidity, we stand up in a neutral pelvis position at the Fluidity Barre and work against the resistance of our own body weight and the Barre to develop whole body strength and flexibility from head to toe, front and back, 360 degrees. It's this ground based, whole body muscle integration that strengthens our inner unit - very importantly our pelvic floor muscles, and our outer unit at the same time. The result is a proportionate, streamlined functional body." www.fluiditygym.com
Broaden the Audience
What can the average Joe do with your product? Appealing to a broad audience is smarter than limiting your product to performance. People are focused on cross training. They want to avoid the bulk. Everywhere you turned at the show, there was something different on how to cross train. Stroops provides effective and safe fitness tools for beginners and athletes that provide resistance, helping you become more powerful and faster.
One Size Doesn’t Fit All
“Fitness needs to fit into your lifestyle, physicality and age. Cybex provides a wide array of customizable options to individualize your workout experience,” says Lisa Juris, VP of marketing at Cybex. “We cannot impact your diet, but we can help you change your exercise in a positive way.” Cybex uses a scientific basis, founded through the Cybex Institute that is used in the development of their exercise machines. The company's equipment is created to be biomechanically correct to help produce the most advantageous results with a minimal amount of stress on your body.
The Athletic Look
The bodybuilder look is going out. The lean surfer look is in. "You have to train like an athlete to build an athletic body type, and that means multi-planar movements that engage the body and mind in challenging and unique ways,” said Mike Hartwick, founder and CEO of SurfSet Fitness. Exercises on the surfboard are designed to engage the core, stabilize muscles and shock the system to create real change inside and out.
So much thought goes into how to exercise, but not how to get people to exercise. The goal of Bling Fitness is to get people excited to work out. “We were there to introduce our colorful designer weights. The demand was incredible at the show,” said Stephanie Probasco, president of Premier Fitness Products. “Buyers were excited about the products. Women love taking selfies with them.”
Feeding at the Fitness Level
Performance Food Centers has been putting customized Juice & Smoothie Bars in fitness facilities for about 15 years, which is an obvious venue for blended protein drinks facilitating post-workout recovery. “Our point of difference in that arena has always been that we offer the 'cleanest' products based on natural, whole-foods nutrition. However, in the past couple of years, we’ve seen a huge migration beyond the gym and into the home kitchen, massage therapy studios, med-spas and more. The gym isn’t the only place that people exercise or need fast, healthy nutrition. People are really starting to embrace the idea that blending is a viable shortcut to getting quick, clean nutrition at any time of day."
"It turns out that a high-speed blender can be a soccer mom’s best friend. This was the primary motivation for the creation of our new product line SWIG, (Stuff With Infinite Goodness). The entire line was created to help people simplify nutrition by tossing stuff into a blender for a delicious, nutrient-dense smoothie,” says the marketing director at Performance Food Centers, Owen Rothstein.
People want a realistic eating plan. Mental health is also vital to the success of any healthy program and it’s dependent on your DNA. “GenoVive starts with DNA testing to determine a person’s metabolic state and has a team of experts design meal plans around the results along with emotional coaching to stick with it,” said Dr. San San Ng, VP of scientific affairs at GenoVive.
Water bottles are getting a run for their money. “Bottle filler sales are going through the roof because people across the country are moving away from single–use bottles, especially in places like San Francisco where plastic water bottles are being outlawed,” mentioned Ted Hamilton, VP of emerging markets, Elkay, water cooler manufacturer.
I’m excited to mix up my workouts and diets and see their impact on my health and the industry.
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Nancy Trent is a writer and speaker, a lifelong health advocate, a globe-trotting trend watcher and the founder and president of Trent & Company, a New York-based marketing communications firm. Trent & Company grew out of Nancy’s personal commitment to helping people live longer and healthier lives. A former journalist for New York magazine, Nancy has written seven books on healthy lifestyles, serves on the editorial boards of several magazines and travels around the world speaking at conferences and trade shows on trends in the marketplace. She is a recognized expert in PR with more than 30 years of experience creating and managing highly successful campaigns. Nancy can be reached at (212) 966-0024 or through e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also visit www.trentandcompany.com.