In both our professional and personal lives, from the time we wake up until the time we turn in, we are becoming increasingly tied to technology, especially mobile devices. Smartphone usage alone in the United States is expected to reach 137 million in 2013, according to eMarketer. While exercise was once an opportunity to disconnect, our desire to be connected has begun to infiltrate fitness and health clubs. Mobile fitness apps, virtual trainers and on-demand workout videos have placed fitness at our fingertips.

Given this fact, the possibility exists that individuals will opt out of traditional health club memberships, group fitness classes or personal training sessions, electing instead to rely on some form of fitness technology as their guide. As an industry professional, it is likely that this shift will require you to reevaluate your role as a wellness facilitator and the types of programs you are providing.

Invest in your people first. In order to remain relevant amidst advancing technologies and stay competitive in the marketplace, it is essential to improve the quality of services being delivered. This does not mean breaking the budget with the purchase of new equipment. Instead, devote your energy to creating a new culture in the wellness department and on the fitness floor. Recruit, train and develop employees who are genuine, qualified and invested in the mission of your organization. Create and clearly present the expectations you have for your staff and the responsibilities they are expected to carry out. Then, require and encourage professional development by way of continuing education and team building. Doing so will unite the members of the wellness department in pursuit of one vision, ensuring that the needs of every member are met. With highly qualified fitness experts in place, your people will be able to outperform any online program available for download.

Give them what they want. Another strategy for keeping current members engaged while attracting new members is to provide innovative programming that requires professional coaching and supervision. Current trends in fitness reveal the popularity of functional training protocols, kettlebell workouts, and suspension systems. While it is possible for individuals to employ these training methods on their own, or as instructed by virtual trainers, offering safe, effective, result-based programs are likely to attract attention.

Taking a closer look at programming options, trendy fitness programs in a small group setting have the potential to attract participation from Generation Y, Millennials and Baby Boomers. With a relatively small investment in equipment, it is possible to keep your members focused on your instructors, not a website, for their workouts.

Create a community to foster accountability. With 51 percent of consumers using their smartphones during a workout, it is important that we know what they are doing. Listening to music, tracking pace, charting workouts, recording meals or sharing results with friends are among the most common uses. Lab42 research found that 74 percent of consumers believe technology has had a positive impact on their fitness plan and overall motivation. This information should not come as a surprise to fitness professionals. We know that recording workouts and meals will help promote consistency, just as sharing results will foster accountability and serve as motivation to continue improving.

Instead of being supplanted by websites and apps that are nothing more than a journal, take action. Create a community of like-minded fitness seekers that engages members as they navigate their path to healthy living. Present exercise and nutrition challenges to inspire progress, informative classes that impart knowledge and a rewards program to provide recognition. Offer a runners club, recreation league or swim team that can connect people without the need for an Internet connection. Finally, don’t forget to include programs and events for children and families. Promoting healthy habits and physical activity among the youth population will attract members, but more importantly, it will help combat childhood obesity.

Takeaway. With the right people in place to deliver programs that can’t or aren’t being offered online, you will have positioned your club to compete in a technologically diverse marketplace. More importantly, having developed a community among members and new culture among employees, you will be poised to exceed where technology falls short. While a mobile device is capable to make a workout, a fitness professional possesses the power to make a difference.

BIO

Joe Vennare is the co-founder of Hybrid Athlete and co-creator of Race Day Domination, a training manual designed to prepare competitors for success in any obstacle course race.