We already have a Pro Shop department in our magazine, and we have a Product Beat e-newsletter that we send out before our shows. So what can we call this post about the vendors I met at the Club Industry show in Chicago? If we take the Pro from Pro Shop or Product and add the word Beat, we get Pro Beat! And that works, because we're all professionals here.
So without further ado, here are some of the vendors I visited at the show, in chronological order:
Polar: The Polar booth looked a little like the jewelry section at a department store. Those weren't just any watches Polar had on display. Rather, Polar was introducing its new line of training computers inside colorful watches that are without the use of a chest strap. The four models were the FA20 (suggested retail price: $119.95), FT 40 ($179.95), FT 60 ($239.95) and FT 80 ($349.95). The range of the models is from the average walker or jogger (FA20, which measures both the quantity and quality of your steps) to those on a more serious cardio and strength program (FT 80). My favorite part of the watch is the little "Polar man" inside the watch that indicates your activity. In an extreme workout, the Polar man is running really fast. If there's no activity, the Polar man sits with his back against a wall. (How do they know me so well?) I also found out from Polar's Jesse Harper that Polar is working with Dr. Kenneth Cooper, our Lifetime Achievement Award winner, on youth fitness education.
Paramount: Long known for its strength products, Paramount is getting into the cardio game. Last March at the IHRSA show, Paramount introduced its new line of treadmills. At Club Industry, Paramount introduced its line of elliptical machines. There's a small LCD screen on the ellipticals in which you can choose the graphics you want displayed. The backgrounds are an outdoor track, farmland, hills and a desert. A club or a university can personalize the screen with their own logos for when the elliptical is not in use. Jim McIntyre of Paramount says the company has increased its new products by 30 percent since 2006. McIntyre also says that the industry as a whole is coming out with new designs of machines every five years now instead of every 10 years.
WaterRower: This is truly an international product. The salesman from WaterRower I talked to is from Great Britain, the PR people are from Canada and the product is made in the great state of Rhode Island. We did a story a while back in which I read that rowing, compared to other forms of exercise, uses all the muscles of the body. And, as WaterRower says, rowing works up to 84 percent of muscle mass and burns 1,000 calories per hour. This product was invented 20 years ago as a way to train indoors in the winter months for rowing competitions. There's no need for oars here. You pull back with a handle connected to a cable, and the harder you push back with your feet, the more resistance you feel. (Believe me, I tried.) The WaterFlyWheel at the base of the non-electrical machine gives you that connection with the water. Prices range from $895 for the basic model to $1,795 for the higher-end model.
CheckFree: My talk with CheckFree at the show was not about software, although the company did recently introduce its CheckFree Compete program. Our talk focused on CheckFree's sponsorship agreement with Karen Woodard-Chavez, one of our columnists, for Webinars and speaking engagements. The goal of these engagements, according to CheckFree's Ron Poliseno, is to help the industry stay on its feet. Woodard-Chavez is planning to provide a "soft skills" education for club operators to help them increase and retain membership and to help operators find existing dollars from existing membership by selling additional services, such as personal training. Poliseno hopes Woodard reaches the 12,000 to 15,000 "at-risk" clubs, those with a member base of 1,000 to 5,000 members, in which a 10 percent hit to their bottom line could be detrimental to their business. Poliseno also says there may even be a two-day boot camp set up in the future about this topic. More information will come out later this year.