Networking Takes Military Fitness Centers Into the Clouds

Integration of technology into fitness equipment creates new opportunities for facilities.

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There was a time when talking about clouds and fitness in the same conversation meant either a jaunt up Mount Everest or setting too-lofty goals. But as technology continues to evolve at a breakneck pace, so does the integration of technology in fitness equipment.

Today, that integration is making its way to military fitness facilities opening up a world of programming and back-end benefits for those in charge.

Grand Forks AFB's recently renovated, 118,000 square-foot Sports and Fitness Center is the first military center to install the networked Precor Preva 880 Line cardio equipment.

"We're always on the look out for attractive new services that make the time our patrons spend in the facility enjoyable and productive. The greatest opportunity for us to engage with exercisers is to help them set a defined fitness target and then provide the motivation to get there," says Grand Forks AFB Fitness Director Carol Muir. "We see Preva as a much more strategic and long-term approach than relying on the latest exercise fad or wearable device."

On the back end, networked equipment allows time and budget-crunched managers to monitor equipment usage and control content, in real time and with minimal labor.

"Being networked over a cloud-based infrastructure allows management to better achieve control over the facility, says Brent Brooks, vice president, networked fitness at Woodinville, Wash. based Precor, who spent 10 years in the Navy. "The asset management tools allow management to manage usage and downtime. It also offers new ways to extend their relationship with members of the facility."

Matrix Fitness says that its new app-based 7xi console allows military fitness operators a chance to ensure safe content to be viewed by exercisers at the facility.

"From the facility perspective, our app based approach saves them the headaches associated with open web browsing. They will not likely find their customers accessing inappropriate content while using the apps because this type of content is restricted by Facebook, Twitter and YouTube," says Andrew Kolman, Matrix Fitness' director of console technology. "At the same time, we have removed the opportunity for a user to download viruses onto the console or the facility network as the places that they are allowed to go are limited by the apps that we offer and the features that we open up."

For military members and their families, the networked equipment allows for better monitoring and motivating, allowing progress and success to be more attainable, while bringing personal entertainment to help pass the time away while logging miles on cardio equipment.

"There is a large population both in the ranks of the military and outside that have specific goals - be it to do better on the semi-annual fitness test or drop a few pounds - that have struggled to achieve them," says Brooks. "People are very familiar with games. Utilizing this type of technology we are taking those experiences and applying them to being accountable and reaching goals while having fun."

Matrix utilizes a more app-based experience with such familiar names as MyFitness Pal and Facebook to help members work toward their goals.

"From the user perspective, our app-based interface closely resembles the interface of popular smart phone and tablet products that are on the market today," says Kolman. "This approach allows the user to gain access to popular features such as their Facebook news feed, their Twitter feed and information about the weather in a form that does not require the amount of button presses typically needed to operate a web browser."

Be it to enhance back end management, keep members on track, or just entertain them, networked fitness seems to be the future of the industry.

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