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Telegram & Gazette (Massachusetts)

For more than a decade, the trend in gyms has been to do more with less, as members forsake machines for the simplicity - and intensity - of weights, ropes, rings and other traditional exercise equipment.

Frank Nash Training Systems in Worcester is one such spartan gym, but it recently added a distinctly high-tech touch to its facility on Brooks Street in Worcester with the introduction of My Zone, a monitoring system for members.

Like other monitoring systems, including some found on wristwatches, My Zone tracks the user's heart rate and calories burned. But what sets My Zone apart, according to owner Frank Nash, is its focus on effort, calculated on heart rate and age. The percentage of effort is shown on a flat screen in the gym for all to see, a display that will prompt trainers and fellow members to shout encouragement - or kick your hindside, figuratively, if you're dogging it.

"With a watch, I'm just accountable to me," Nash said during a demonstration recently. "On the screen, I'm accountable to everyone in the club."

Frank Nash Training Systems has had My Zone for about a month, and about 55 members have signed on. There is a one-time fee of $70 for the monitoring belt, with the fee also covering maintenance and an app for the user's phone. Data from workouts is wirelessly uploaded from the belt, displayed on the screen in the gym, and later emailed to the user and stored on his or her Web page.

Nash said there are only a few My Zone gyms in the state, and his is the only one in Central or Western Massachusetts using the system. One reason for the dearth of such technology in gyms is because the industry tends to be slow to embrace change, Nash said, noting that many facilities are hanging onto their cardio and weight machines after investing heavily in them years ago.

The My Zone belt can be used outside the gym, for people running from their home, for example, but the data can only be uploaded in the club.

Nash likes the fact that the system recognizes effort, rather than just athleticism. "It's based on effort," he said. In My Zone competitions, in which members might get points for reaching a certain level of effort, say 85 percent, "The best athlete doesn't always win."

Nash and gym manager Diane Hastings said the system helps trainers coach and helps members set goals and track progress.

Since effort is displayed on the screen for all to see, members up their game and get out of their comfort zone. "It definitely makes you work harder, faster, more effectively," Hastings said. "We're very competitive with each other."

Nash plans to organize competitions in the new year, both internally and with other gyms.

He views My Zone as a tool to challenge members and help them succeed.

"Personal training works because of accountability," Nash said. "This just adds another layer of accountability."

"And it's OK for fitness to be fun."

 

January 1, 2014
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