Pabst Blue Ribbon. Big headphones. Bill Clinton. Do you know what all of these have in common? They were once popular, then they were not, and now they are popular again. I don't think you can be a card-carrying hipster if you use the standard-issue iPod headphones. In fact, here is a little known fact: Other than the Great Wall of China, the only other visible structures from space are those ridiculous oversized headphones.
And you know what else is cyclical? Fitness. I have been in this industry for 10 years, and I have (finally) lived through my first full cycle. It looked something like this chart. (Forgive me if I forgot anything, but I think you get the idea.)
So I am somewhat skeptical when I read about the death of the latest fad. Progress, whether in club management software or how we work out, is inevitable. But unlike technology that never rolls back (I don't use my AOL account and have no plans to go back to it), in fitness, a fad that has lost its luster will eventually be rediscovered. Someone will give it a new name or a new angle, add pop music, update some of the movements, and there you have it—it is new again.
So let's go back and look at a specific year. Lots of groups put together a fitness trends list. I reviewed the American College of Sports Medicine's (ACSM) list, and here are the top five trends on its list for this year:
- Certified and educated fitness professionals
- Strength training
- Fitness programs for older adults
- Exercise with diet for weight loss
- Childhood and obesity prevention
This list is a good one, but it is difficult to determine what year it refers to because the trends on it are applicable to any number of years since 1999. And just to prove my point, here is another list of the top five trends from another year:
- Educated and experienced fitness professionals
- Strength training
- Children and obesity
- Personal training
- Core training
So what about business trends? Are those recycled, too? Well, let's take a look at the major business trends in the industry over the next two years—according to me. And since I am the guy doing the writing, I am going to make a top three list of how our business will continue to change:
Multiple boxes inside the box. It is not enough to just offer yoga as a premium service. Now you need studios within your club for CrossFit, boxing, Pilates and a spa for good measure.
Growth in the mid-market. ($24- to $50-per-month clubs). We are a good four years into the high-volume, low-price (HVLP) explosion. And a lot of the new people that the HVLP clubs brought into the fitness fold are going to start looking for a more complete fitness experience. These people are still value buyers, but they will want more in their fitness experience. What better than the next tier up?
Big data is coming. As more and more competition comes in, the only way to compete is to collect more and better data. And data without a data warehouse is like a hipster without Ray-Bans. If you do not know what big data is, or what a data warehouse is, you better. Because the big boys do, and it is what is ultimately going to separate the winners from the losers.
And here is a bonus one. Jawbone. Fitbit. Nike. Big companies. All of these companies are building wearable fitness gadgets. And that means consumers (our members) are going to have more data and more information at their fingertips, which is similar to trend No. 3 except that it is filtering down from the business to the consumer.
So, before you change the flooring in a room, sell an old piece of equipment, replace an instructor or even consider a name change to a newer brand, think about this for a second: More than 188 brands of Greek yogurt are on the market. It took only 2,000 years for that to come back in style. That, and ridiculous-sized headphones.
Hossein Noshirvani is the executive vice president for Motionsoft, Silver Spring, MD, and is the head of Motionsoft's marketing team. He has been involved in the health and wellness industry for more than eight years. Noshirvani shares his experience of working with the best and the brightest in the health and wellness industry regularly on Motionsoft's blog: The Circuit Blog.