Indoor Cycling is Evolving: The Future is Content

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Any discussion of future evolution must first acknowledge the past. And no one can examine the history of indoor cycling without mentioning the father of it all, Mr Goldberg – or as most of us know him, Johnny G. Johnny had a problem to solve: how to train for an upcoming cycling event on a tight schedule during the winter months. By inventing a solution, the Spin® bike, he changed the face of fitness as we all know it today. Thank you, Johnny!

Johnny G launched Mad Dogg Athletics with his business partner in 1994 to develop the indoor Spinning® Bike and programme. Since then, indoor cycling has made a significant contribution to the GBP 73 billion (US$94 billion*) global health club industry. During that time, indoor cycling has taken many twists and turns, with reinventions both good and bad. Upgrades in equipment, growth of programming, redesigns to studio spaces – and the biggest game-changer of all, technology.

Technology was first introduced to the indoor cycling studio in the form of bike consoles. Metrics differed, but most gave RPMs, resistance, and time, with advancements including calories, heart rate, calculated watts or METS. The first consoles provided instructors with a means of connecting to riders’ intensity with something beyond Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE). This connection sparked a renewed focus on exercise training protocols and results.

As technology advanced, indoor cycling borrowed a toy from the outdoor cycling world – power meters – causing another massive shift. New indoor bikes perfected watts measurement. Power-focused training programmes flooded the market. Outdoor cyclists were finally loving coming inside! But as a large portion of the industry was focused on numbers and measurements, a secret influx of boutique cycling studios with no focus on watts, but a flair for fun, were staging an attack. And attack they did. Today, we stand in a busy market of number addicts, entertainment seekers, and those that fall in between – posing a challenge for gym owners. So where do we go from here?

Given the plethora of technologically advanced indoor bikes now available, indoor cycling classes are more engaging and immersive than ever before, and continue to be one of the most popular gym activities. This means that gym owners are often quick to invest in this area, but as we know, the in-class experience is just part of the story. What happens outside the studio is just as important. For example, what solution can be offered when all classes are full, causing some members to miss out? And how can the buzz of a studio class be replicated on the gym floor? Thankfully, as indoor cycling continues to evolve, it’s presenting new opportunities to enhance both teams and timetables – tying together gym and studio to create the end-to-end member experience that’s vital to every successful operation.

OPPORTUNITIES TO UPSKILL YOUR TEAM 

Fitness consumers are more knowledgeable than ever, and demand more – more coaching, more education, and more understanding of training methods and their benefits, as well as how to maximise the equipment they’re using. To evolve indoor cycling programmes, instructors cannot rely on the group cycling certification they took 15 years ago. Nor can they rely on good music and great jokes. They must know more. They must understand the physiology of the pedal stroke, the muscular coordination of a balanced effort, the relationship of cadence, resistance and watts, the cardiovascular effects of a variety of training protocols, the mechanics of a power meter, motivational techniques for individuals and large groups – all while playing good music and telling great jokes!

In order to provide indoor cycling teams with the education needed to deliver the set philosophy of a facility’s indoor cycling programme, operators can consider bringing in a Master Coach or an advanced training course, sending staff to trade show seminars or education conferences, sharing research articles and market trends, or inviting in guest speakers. Setting clear timelines and expectations for teams, and showing them what success looks like, is also highly recommended. Many instructors indeed teach on a part-time basis, therefore, time and resources might be limited. However, if the vision is clearly communicated and operators firmly believe in what it takes to upskill their teams, then they can provide their trainers with ample opportunities to develop professionally. Holding their teams accountable will result in great things.

BOOST YOUR TIMETABLE

Maximising technology can boost timetables when a studio schedule is jam-packed. While innovations – such as power meters – changed the face of indoor cycling, we’re now in the era of content-driven fitness. Many personal trainers see content as a potential threat to their livelihoods, but we must change that perception. When successfully integrated, content can significantly enhance a facility’s offering and elevate member experience. Content is here – we cannot deny it – so let’s make it our next big opportunity.

Despite busy studio schedules, members often complain that there isn’t a class that works within their routine. And the new generation of members today demand personalisation, flexibility, and constant connection every hour of the day. One solution to this challenge is through the provision of content.

Products such as the new Freemotion CoachBike™ have been created exactly for this purpose. The CoachBike allows operators to provide their members with interactive personal training experiences led by world-class coaches at any time, day or night. Far from replacing the physical coach or class, the CoachBike complements and supports the activity taking place in gyms, showing its worth at busy and off-peak times when coaches are either fully engaged in PT sessions or lighter on the ground. Essentially, this new breed of content-driven equipment delivers more personalised experiences, to more members, more often.

Not only that, the CoachBike can dramatically increase member engagement and motivation with the immersive experiences it offers, blowing away the four walls of the gym and transporting riders to global locations or invigorating studio classes to suit their tastes. Riders can be in Turkey riding a mountain trail, in Marin County, California, high above the Golden Gate Bridge, or riding in an instructor-led studio class with just the tap of a button, all while receiving form and technique cues and completing a scientifically designed workout protocol.

This evolution is the answer to the problems operators face, not the competition trainers might fear. Content can be utilised to introduce members to indoor cycling and drive them to the studio’s group classes. Additionally, content can be used to upgrade timetables, provide training options at any time, and attract those tech-hungry members.

When Johnny G first began leading spinning classes in his garage over 25 years ago, he was already a master of experience. Although he couldn’t envisage the colossal changes ahead, he knew that connecting, educating, and providing a clear vision were the keys to success. These same principles are as relevant today as they were then, with industry pioneers like Freemotion using them to lead a new era of content-driven fitness. The type of frictionless technology that drives results for operators, trainers, and members. Operators have the challenge to connect through content, innovate through education, and pursue success in everything they do. Indoor cycling has once again evolved so now is the time to get those wheels turning and start capitalising on the new opportunities it presents.

*Source: 2019 IHRSA Global Report

 

By Jill Drummond, Global Education Manager for Freemotion Fitness

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