When Mike Leveque resigned as president of Star Trac last year, he began searching for a new challenge. Leveque believed the number one problem in the industry was attracting and retaining members. The solution, he surmised, was member engagement.

That line of thinking led Leveque to a new company called MyZone, which uses wireless and cloud technology to monitor physical activity on a heart rate-based system. A user wears a belt with a memory chip that tracks his or her data, which can then be uploaded wirelessly at a club or fitness facility.

“We don’t want to direct people away from their clubs. We want to direct people into their clubs,” says Leveque, the chief operating officer of Chicago-based Creative Fitness Marketing, the exclusive distributor for MyZone. “We consciously developed the business model to where the user has to go in. We’re rewarding the frequency of visits back into the club.”

Like MyZone, Polar Electro Inc., Lake Success, NY, and Ekho, Minneapolis, are companies that bring a different approach to the monitoring and assessment of club members, says Thomas Kulp, the former chief motivational officer at Universal Athletic Club, Lancaster, PA. Kulp, now an industry consultant, visited these companies and others in the assessment/testing market in March at the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) show in Los Angeles.

“You’re always trying to figure out as a club operator, ‘How do I get somebody something more exact?’” Kulp says. “The people who really got it [at the IHRSA show] were those people who were trying to make the experience better for the member. A lot of these companies were trying to find ways to make it more convenient and more personalized.”

At the show, Polar displayed its Cardio GX, a heart rate-based system in a group exercise environment, such as cycle classes. The Bluetooth technology was designed for professional sports teams, Kulp says, and the wireless signal designed for club usage, particularly was engineered to work within a 300-foot range. A report on a user’s activity can be emailed minutes after the end of a workout, similar to MyZone’s system.

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Ekho’s Team System, also designed for group fitness platforms in clubs, allows monitoring of up to 50 participants at once. The system’s data can be displayed on a computer screen or projected onto a wall with real-time heart rate information and can motivate a group during training.

Scosche Industries, Oxnard, CA, produces the myTrek wireless pulse monitor that is mounted on a Bluetoothenabled armband. The system feeds realtime data to an iPhone or iPod Touch through a f ree myTrek app. The myTrek monitor is available at 24 Hour Fitness clubs and on 24 Hour’s website. Scosche made a formal announcement about the partnership with 24 Hour last August.

Club operators want to be part of a member’s fitness and wellness for the rest of that member’s life, but operators do not want to be the only solution for a member’s fitness and wellness, Kulp says.

“These [products] aren’t going to get you fit,” Kulp says. “They’re going to help you monitor and assess where you’re fitting. As you start doing better, I think you start looking for other ways to improve, and where you go to get the information on how [to improve] should be your club.”

MyZone uses a metric called MyZone Effort Points (MEPs), which accumulate every minute that a user spends in five intensity zones based on an individual’s maximum heart rate. MyZone also calculates calories burned and duration and time of activity, and it can monitor and track weight, muscle mass, body water percentage, metabolic age and body fat percentage.

MyZone, which began installation last November, has about 60 club companies on the system, Leveque says, including Snap Fitness, Chanhassen, MN, and East Bank Club, Chicago. A number of other clubs and chains are undergoing strategic testing to better understand how to best employ the MyZone system.

The club controls all of the users’ data in the MyZone system, Leveque says, but a user does not have to be in the club to record the data. For instance, Leveque went on an Easter morning 6-mile run with his daughter—information that is listed in the notes section of his MyZone account. Leveque burned 811 calories, and his average effort was 80 percent during the 54-minute run that day. However, that data was not uploaded to the system until Leveque visited his local club the next day.

Coming back to the club is what these assessment tools are all about. Kulp says that the assessment companies he visited at the IHRSA show are keenly aware of the importance of creating a better experience in which members will want to participate.

“Therefore, they’re going to frequent your establishment to get that experience,” Kulp says.