A Commercial Gym in 2020

Training in 5 years' time.


We've talked about the future of fitness several times over the years (and we've got another Gymchat coming up on precisely that topic - let me know if you'd like to take part). Here's my own view of part of that world, looking at a commercial gym in 2020 - both from a client's and gym owner's point of view.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.




Part I : From the Clients' Perspective

I drive up to the local gym (and when I say 'I drive', the car actually did most of the work) and park out back. It's almost silent these days as nearly all of the cars are electric.

It's the first time I've been to this one (just moved here), and they want to ask me a bunch of stuff. A Personal Trainer asks about my training experience and goals, a blood test is taken and they ask a stack of preference-related stuff for my gym card. The music I like, whether I prefer hot weather to cold and so on. I also give them access to several of the items my watch records - heart rate, blood pressure and glucose levels.

The gym card is filled with all this info. As well as giving me out-of-hours access to the gym (mainly so I can train before work), it sets everything up the way I like it. The right weights (based on whatever it thinks is reasonable, or previous PRs), the right music, the right temperature in the area around me. There's a small black square for swiping the card next to every piece of equipment.

Side note : I usually wear a watch whenever I train, and it could certainly do all the same 'gym card swiping' stuff, but not everyone likes to wear one. So swiping it is.

After my training I hit the showers. Once again the gym card knows the basic settings I like, as well as learning as it goes. How hot the water is, the severity of the air driers, the - well, you get the idea.

There's a cafe & restaurant downstairs, but I go straight back to the car. There's a fast food place on the way home, and that'll be fine. Hamburgers once again.


Part II : from the Gym-Owner's Perspective

I love this new setup. We've had this gear for a few weeks now, and most of it's automated - so I get to spend even more time walking around and helping people.

There are three main areas I changed this time around (it was time to renovate the building anyway, so I did a little extra). They are :

All Electricity is Produced On Site

The first major change was to build a huge canopy over the main parking area, and cover it with solar panels. That provides enough electricity for part of the gym, as well as letting all the clients charge their cars. Small thing, but most of them seem to really like it.

The rest of the gym's electricity comes from solar panels on the roof. It really didn't take that many, and the guys also installed some batteries so we can use the excess in the mornings and evenings. Makes a huge difference.


The Gym Card System

This one took a little experimentation, but it's great the way it works now.

The basic idea is that we record all the usual info for each client, add a bit of health data and whack the whole lot onto a card for each of them. This card sets up each machine (or area, in the case of free weights) with the 'right' starting weight based on whatever the client did the previous time, their PRs and their goals. It learns as they go, so the starting weights automatically adjust over time.

It also adjusts things like the seat height, and fills the air with the type of music you like (or none at all). It's easy enough to override if you don't like something, but it works really well and makes your entire training experience a whole lot simpler.


Connecting Everything to the Gym Card System

This is ongoing, but we've already done a fair bit of it. Hooking everything up to the gym card, so everyone can customise things as much as possible.

The building's quite large, and the gym takes up most of it. Both the main training areas, and the various food, drink & change facilities around the outside. These are the ones we're gradually adding to the new system.

As an example, the main change areas. Inside each one is a row of giant cubicles, with a shower/toilet/bench etc in every one. Quite large, and extremely private.

There's a small swipe area on the inside wall, next to the main door. Swiping the card automatically adjusts the air temperature in the room, ambient music (if any), how hot the water is when you first start the shower - whatever the client has set up. There are also 'More like this / less of this' buttons beside each of the taps, air vents and speakers. Easy to adjust.

What next? Same thing for the rest of the place. We've already started work on the cafes downstairs, and we'll have the entire place done in the next 12 months or so. Should be great.


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Part III : 6 Months Later, From the Clients' Perspective

I've been coming to this gym for about 6 months now. I've never felt as fit as this, or as strong - fantastic.

The gym card thing is really cool, and I'd love to see it everywhere (particularly at home). I just swipe it before I start a new exercise, and it sets everything up automatically. Love it.

Something else I've noticed - and it's a small thing, but it really makes a difference - is that my workouts are now automatically recorded. If I want to see what I was lifting 3 months ago, or last week, or this morning - I can. I probably should've had this for years, but I've never been a big one for writing everything down. Having it done automatically is great.

Oh, the cafe. Again this is a tiny thing, but it's really cool (and this place is full of stuff like that). After my workouts, I've gotten into the habit of having a giant shake from one of the cafes downstairs.

It's always the same one (yes I could try other ones, but I really like the taste of this), and I can just swipe the card and say 'Same as last time'. I've linked the card to one of my bank accounts, so the payment is automatic.

Things I'd change? To be honest, nothing at all. I'm sure there are plenty of shiny new toys they could add, but overall I'd say it's fine. It's actually the best gym I've ever been to.


Scott Andrew Bird

Scott Andrew Bird is a writer, photographer and a guy who just loves this stuff. He's been at home in front of a computer for more years than he cares to remember (OK, 34) and is now making amends for years of many mistakes noted in the De-constructing Computer Guy articles (part 2) on T-Nation.

Find out what he's up to via Twitter, Google+, Facebook; and of course his online home. Enjoy.



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Of course, if you enjoyed these, I'd highly recommend grabbing the Strength & Fitness Newsletter. Delivered weekly, and absolutely free.

(there's also a Daily Update, if you're looking for an even larger dose of training-related goodness.)

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Look forward to hearing from you.


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