THERE ARE NOW 5500 gyms in Australia – more than ever. But, with the on-the-spot march of technology providing new ways for you to exercise in the comfort of your living room, will any still exist in a decade?
“It used to be that every home had a VHS and Jane Fonda’s exercise video was the top-selling tape of all time,” says Humphrey Cobbold, CEO of the franchise PureGym. “So, plus ça change…” As he points out, working out in your living room is not always comfortable, particularly with the size of new homes shrinking and the number of young adults living with their parents rising. “There’s an aspect of ‘getting away from it all’ to the gym. That will not go away.”
Besides, there’s no real competition. “People who also train at home are more likely to renew their membership, since they tend to be more committed to a fitness-oriented lifestyle,” says Nerio Alessandri, founder of equipment manufacturer Technogym. He is not the only industry insider who sees the lines between gym and home blurring. “Integrated tracking apps will allow a seamless transition from your home workout to your gym,” says Luke Barnsley, master trainer at high-end gym chain Third Space. Technogym’s cloud-based MyWellness app already does as much.
Big-box gyms also have a scale and spectrum of equipment that shoebox flats simply don’t. How and what you lift won’t evolve much. If anything, how we train has regressed to an old-school approach with the rise of functional spaces. What will change is how we track our training, whether that’s accelerometers on your barbell to count reps or algorithms to modulate your progressive overload. “We’ll train smarter with the kit we already have,” says Doug Tannahill, head of strength and conditioning at elite fight club BXR.
Commercial trackers that focus on cardio today will be able to gauge the quantity and quality of your reps tomorrow. “As you fatigue, the speed of your lifts declines,” says Barnsley, who believes that velocity will fast become a key metric for athletic performance and injury prevention. You’ll soon be able to log into your gym’s resistance machines, which will automatically adjust to your desired workload and preferred seat position. (Again, Technogym’s Biocircuit already does this.)
“The big innovation will be in personalisation,” says Alessandri. You’ll be able to take your favourite trainer’s class any time, anywhere. “An algorithm can never replace the human factor,” he adds.
Clive Ormerod, CEO of Les Mills, agrees. “Gyms won’t be built around robots, but rock star instructors,” he says. Les Mills’ classes are now taken in 20,000 gyms and countless living rooms, and Ormerod draws an analogy with how streaming songs has led to record live music attendance. Several gyms have set up talent agencies for their headliners.
Accountability and motivation are two of the gym’s other killer advantages, and tech will extend trainers’ ability to keep tabs on clients beyond sporadic DMs. So we’ll be saying goodbye to skipping the home workout.
THE GAME CHANGER: Artificial Intelligence
The HAL 9000 has effectively become your PT, thanks to apps such as Freeletics and Aptiv that use machine learning to tweak workouts with your feedback. But while AI won’t take the place of your trainer (instead, it’ll be a tool that PTs use), it will replicate his or her features. IBM’s Watson Cognitive Computing is used by GPs to prescribe treatments, but it also powers Under Armour’s Record system and Technogym’s forthcoming Virtual Coach, which will be able to shoot the breeze while devising workouts based on your goals. The smartest innovation will come when AI can look at your calendar and behaviour to tell you not just that you should exercise, but when and how.
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Adaptive In this brave around, 2020, never and newbies. resistance head of during an adaptive apply the precisely on the lowering stronger old gravity-THERE.
Eventually, wearables won’t be cumbersome accessories but under-skin sensors or reactive tattoos. Until then, these go a few steps further than glorified pedometers.
Stay on Form
Counted on by elite sport teams, the PUSH band attaches to your body or bar to appraise power and velocity for 400-plus exercises. We said one more good rep. (trainwithpush.com)
Find Your Limits
The first real-time lactic acid test, the K’Watch tracks this KPI to ensure you’re really training at your threshold (and still properly recovering). Not a finger prick, but still painful. (pkvitality.com)
Another watershed, LVL plumbs your blood H2O level via infrared. It also sheds light on your HR, activity, sleep and how these dictate your mood. (onelvl.com)
- Integrated apps will seamlessly monitor your progress at home and in the gym.
- From strength and form to power output, everything you do will be trackable.
- PTs will be the new rock stars – and you will want that selfie.
2. You'll Rest As hard As You Workout
RECOVERY WILL BECOME A CRUCIAL PART OF YOUR DAILY PROGRAM, FAR BEYOND SUPERSETS OF THE SAUNA AND STEAM ROOM
SERIOUS TRAINING demands recuperation. “While high-intensity and strength workouts remain incredibly popular, more members are incorporating recovery sessions – yoga, swimming and low-impact cardio – into their fitness plans,” says Lauren Wilson, Third Space’s marketing director. “Recovery is becoming a huge focus as we look to future-proof our bodies into our later years.”
Recovery will shift from being seen as an indulgence to a necessity, adds Matt Delaney, national manager of innovation at trendsetting transatlantic gym chain Equinox, which likes to talk about “health span” rather than “lifespan”. “Longevity will become a much bigger part of the conversation,” he says.
Functional training won’t go anywhere, nor will the pursuit of old-fashioned gains, but it’ll amend your scheduled workout accordingly.
strength coach, Tannahill is an osteopath who heads up the clinic that the Centre for Human Health and Performance operates within BXR. This kind of double duty is likely to increase. “The integration between medical and lifestyle will continue to grow,” says Delaney. “In the functional medicine space, many doctors are becoming health coaches, because they realise the best way to improve outcomes is to increase their reach outside of the clinic.” On the flip side, clinics will creep into gyms: some already offer GPs as well as physios and nutritionists. Similarly, body scanners that read your BMI, metabolic age and health score are already appearing in high-end gyms.
All manner of gym machines will beam your stats to assorted health-care professionals. “Connected products are already a reality,” says Technogym’s Alessandri, whose wares do just that. Delaney, based in the US with Equinox, envisions health insurance premiums being dictated by activity and sleep scores, with that information delivered to doctors or coaches, so they – or their AI equivalents – can make daily recommendations. But even if government-funded healthcare still exists, it may be forced to levy lifestyle-based costs for, say, the overweight or sedentary.
After your actual training, you’ll drink a shake or eat a meal prepped to your personalised nutritional requirements. Then, after soft-tissue therapy with a Theragun (or “Thera-phaser”, perhaps), you’ll go for an infrared sauna and steam, or downregulate in one of the gym’s mindfulness rooms . “Designers and architects will seek to integrate mindfulness at every touchpoint,” says Wilson. And those spaces will be intuitive. They will modify their lighting, music or smell to match your current, or desired, mood.
THE GAME CHANGER: DNA testing
No sci-fi soothsaying would be complete without it, and genetically determining your ideal dose of carbs, training and rest sounds compelling. However, the reality is that whatever consumer DNA tests tell you, the science at present isn’t so much in its infancy as embryonic. Identifying the presence or absence of individual genes statistically associated with those traits doesn’t mean you possess those traits. But the science will inevitably evolve, with AI to crunch the data and draw reliable conclusions. Hang tight.
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Holistic health hubs Bespoke supplements and cryotherapy will only do so much if you can’t switch off: a healthy mind is a prerequisite of a healthy body, not just a consequence. “Mindfulness will increasingly be connected to fitness,” says Delaney of Equinox. Indeed, luxe wellness hubs like The Well in Bondi offer weight training alongside classes in meditation, pilates, yoga and barre, as well as treatment services such as acupuncture, physiotherapy, psychology and naturopathy, plus a cafe dedicated to healthy refuelling.
- Giving it everything, all of the time, will be viewed as undisciplined.
- Rest days will be planned according to your health markers, not taken on a whim.
- Nutrition will be hyper-personalised via gut tests and blood-sugar monitoring
3. WELLNESS WILL BE A WAY OF LIFE
AS A DESTINATION TO SOCIALISE, “SWEATWORK” AND EVEN WORKWORK, THE GYM WILL BECOME INTEGRAL TO OUR ROUTINES BEYOND EXERCISE
AMONG THE MOST pronounced recent developments in the fitness industry has been the boom in group exercise and class-based boutiques, which offer an elevated “experience” (plus some expensive grooming products and Instagram-worthy decor) alongside your endorphin hit.
PureGym’s Cobbold offers some context: “Let’s remember that group classes and boutique fitness appeal to certain demographics, especially women aged 20-30.” It’s also for people with around $40 per class to burn – and voguish studios receive outsized press coverage for their distinctly boutique share of the market.
Nevertheless, gyms have been upping their class game and creating “shop-in-shop” experiences. So, with cult boutiques such as Barry’s Bootcamp setting up in Australia, will studios cannibalise gyms, or vice versa?
“There will be two types of clubs,” says Technogym’s Alessandri. “Boutique studios based on a specific training experience and full-service clubs offering a variety of amenities and programs with a social component.”
Group exercise will never be for everyone. But its rising popularity, whether at big boxes or small boutiques, is a strong predictor of the gym’s future as a hub of an increasingly precious commodity: human interaction. “Digital is huge, but ultimately people crave relationships,” says Les Mills’s Ormerod. And members of “Generation Active”, as he dubs millennials and Gen Z, “prefer to sweat together, rather than drink”. BXR’s Tannahill concurs: “Other generations went down the pub, but community is such a big part of gyms now.” The gym – really, “health club” – will supersede the golf club as a place to work out, work-work and play. “Friends will be made, and business conducted,” says Kerri Sibson, a marketing director in the construction industry.
Cafés and lounges for socialising and “sweatworking” are standard in many gyms, which in ahead-of-the-curve New York are verging on one-stop superstores. There, Equinox has created its first co-working space and hotel (see right). Unlike the golf club of 1990, however, the gym of 2030 will be inclusive. More and more clubs will seek to target kids and parents’ lack of physical activity, not to mention childcare costs.
CrossFit gyms like Hive Active in Sydney offer classes aimed at kids from eight onwards; Les Mills’ “Born to Move” initiative promises to instil motor skills and good habits in youngsters; while My First Gym puts babies in a gymnastics environment from seven months, with classes available in Parkour, yoga, boxing, dance, martial arts and ninja warrior on offer as your child grows up.
THE GAME CHANGER (Nearly) home gyms
Wellbeing obsessives may not need to move to be closer to a gym in 2030. Residential gyms are becoming more common, since they are such easy wins for developers: they fill commercial spaces with something more desirable than a convenience store and recoup costs via strata fees. Some are even open to non-residents. Melbourne’s Arthur Apartments (pictured) features a rooftop gym with a pool, spa and sauna and a view over Albert Park.
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Hotel healthcare Well-heeled wellness junkies in the US have been known to relocate to be closer to an Equinox. Now, they can truly live the company’s mantra – “It’s not fitness, it’s life” – in New York’s shiny new Hudson Yards neighbourhood, where the Equinox Hotel boasts five-star fitness facilities – a 5,600m club and a SoulCycle studio, along with minibars stocked with supplements. Closer to home, Brisbane’s Calile Hotel (pictured above) has a state-of-the-art gym where you can train solo or pre‑book a session with an experienced personal trainer. Afterwards, you can wander over to KAILO, the hotel spa, to recover with an infra-red sauna.
- From CrossFit boxes to boutique bootcamps, group workouts are here to stay.
- We’ll bring office work to the gym – and do gym work in our office.
- Kid WODs will develop a life of their own as gyms become more family friendly.