Only about 30 percent of those who start an exercise program stick with it for longer than six months. The retention rates for those who hire personal trainers for support is nearly double that percentage. However, the cost for personal training is such that only between 5 percent to 15 percent of a club's population can afford trainer rates.

At one time, many in the industry believed that online personal training was the answer to the high cost and time constraints that can make traditional personal training cumbersome. Experts felt that it would also be a conduit to attract and retain members and generate new revenue streams. The early versions of these projects mostly proved to be disappointing because they were complicated and incomplete for trainers and clients to use. Many also didn't address the idiosyncrasies that are elemental to a close relationship between a trainer and a client. Other trainers felt that technology-based programs were direct competitors of their services. After the initial introduction of this technology, usage dropped and the technology sparked conflict between trainers and vendors.

Technology-assisted personal training programs are experiencing a resurgence. Some models are even starting to use podcasts as ways to deepen client relationships, create community between like-minded exercisers and even create content to be played on MP3 players while exercising in a facility.

Vendors have begun to make much more intuitive and comprehensive online tools that include not only planning and programming capabilities but also added nutrition, behavioral change components and the ability to modify programs for special populations. As importantly, trainers have discovered how to use online and other technology-based tools to make their training more robust. Most exciting is that using technology also helps them leverage their time much more effectively. In cases where this is working, facility owners are offering a much more comprehensive group of services in their sales and marketing efforts. Consider the possibilities.

Few relationships are more credible and trusting than those between trainers and their clients. One survey of trainers showed that when provided with a product recommendation from their trainer, clients acted on those recommendations more than 80 percent of the time. Using technology can also be a powerful ally in executing other programs including the ability to touch clients when they're not in your facility. Clubs can reach out to new exercisers or those who might be exercising at home and capture greater in-depth data and personal information on your club's personal training clients to better serve their needs. Technology can serve as a vehicle to promote additional programs, classes, nutritional offerings and equipment updates for your customers. Your staff members can use personal training technology as an additional sales tool to sell trial-based members and create loyalty with longer-term clients.

Successful technology-enhanced personal training programs can add tremendous leverage to reaching prospective members who may not have visited your facility but live in your geographic area.

Early technology-based platforms were fraught with problems that helped neither the trainer nor the client. Now that we've entered a new phase where facility owners, trainers and their clients are more comfortable using technology, it becomes important to take the right steps and deploy correct resources when integrating these programs into your offerings. Clubs can tap into this market by using or creating a program that is understandable and easy to execute for your trainers, test driving online programs before purchasing them, and considering mixing traditional personal training with online and even phone coaching. You can also conduct hands-on training to show trainers how to use this technology in practical and creative ways, and develop a strategic plan for using technology-based training to promote other programs and services.

You must keep these tips in mind as you move forward to integrate any new technology-based personal training system into your club's offerings. The merging of traditional personal training and technology is evolving rapidly and is becoming a highly leveraged system for forward-thinking facility owners. Do your homework, and determine whether these services will improve yours.


Gregory Florez is CEO of FitAdvisor Health Coaching Services and First Fitness Inc., which was rated as the No. 1 health coaching online training service by The Wall Street Journal. Gregory can be contacted at gregory@fitadvisor.com.