Successful personal trainers get creative with accessories to keep clients' workouts interesting. Yet, sometimes the best fitness accessories aren't actually fitness equipment at all - like the Nintendo Wii video game system.
Though it's designed for home use, with a little imagination and a lot of foresight, Wii could spark dragging personal training sessions, and fire up your membership with innovative tournaments and competitions.
Studeo 55, Vancouver, Canada, was the first club in North America to integrate the Wii system into a fitness facility. "We are all about making fitness about the experience and having fun with it," says Matt Reid, general manager of Studeo 55. "The Wii at Studeo 55 is a benefit to our members. We do not charge for it, and it is definitely not used as a profit center. It is a way to increase the experience of our personal training clients. We see using the Wii system as a 'value added' [amenity] for our members."
Studeo 55 offers Wii not as a workout replacement, but as a workout enhancement. "Our goal is to have our members look forward to their training session, not dread it," Reid says. "We have used the Wii as a way to warm up, or [as] a fun interlude mid-workout. We have not suggested it to anyone as an alternative to traditional workout routines, [but] only as a fun way to elevate the heart rate."
Wii introduces a competitive aspect that gives a new dimension to personal training sessions. "We often use sports or games to help get more out of our clients," says Reid. "Often, someone is more likely to work harder if there is a level of competition. The clients love any way to compete with their trainer. Using the Wii is another opportunity to accomplish this."
Wii "is a unique way to keep our facility fun, and it is a great way to generate word-of-mouth [attention]," says Reid. "People will go back to their offices and talk about how much fun they had at the gym today."
Who's On Board?
Though Wii gets a lot of press - especially since its new, fitness-focused game called Wii Fit was released - not many fitness centers have invested in the video game system. However, that may soon change. "I do think [Wii] would be a good fit [for fitness centers]," says Onome Ojo, general manager of the Millennium SportsClub in Vallejo, Calif. "It's an attraction that is great for tournaments, club socials and health fairs. It's also important that our programming stay current and innovative. Given its Internet capabilities, why not envision club-wide Wii tournaments?"
Millennium SportsClub doesn't yet offer the Wii to members, but that may change soon. "We, in fact, purchased the Wii for [an] event, and have since considered making it a part of our regular offerings," Ojo says. "I haven't purchased the Wii Fit yet, but I have researched it; its applications could be useful for us. I have even considered making a Wii Fit room."
Nintendo has recognized Wii's potential as a fitness accessory, and has capitalized on that potential by creating Wii Fit. The game has about 40 different yoga, strength, balance and cardio training activities. The Wii Balance Board measures a user's weight and center of gravity, and then calculates body mass index (BMI) when told the user's height. Wii Fit tracks a user's "Wii Fitness Age" by testing the user's current age, weight and athletic ability. The user's personalized avatar, called a "Mii," changes its shape as actual user weight increases or decreases. It's a unique form of motivation: As users get thinner, so does their Mii.
Don't count on the Wii's mainstream popularity to be an immediate draw for new members. It may be difficult for people to envision how a home video gaming system can help them get a great workout at your fitness center, so it's your job to show them. Make the Wii station a mandatory stop on your facility tour, and consider hosting an open house event to showcase the Wii in action. Ojo introduced Wii to a group of potential members by adding a Wii tournament to the Vallejo Health Fair, which he organized. "The event was a great success," says Ojo. "It was a theme-park-style event called SilverLand, geared toward [older adults]. The Wii was a fun addition to our fair. Persons who had never been exposed to the Wii, let alone video games, were able to bat, bowl and pitch with ease."
It's also important to adjust your target market. Many fitness gaming options focus on snagging and keeping the interest of a young demographic. Wii's audience, however, skews older. "What is most surprising is how much adults enjoy the Wii," says Ojo. "While Nintendo has had the most success with younger video-gamers, the Wii is enjoyed just as well by adults."
There are limitations to what a fitness facility can accomplish with Wii. It's best used as an add-on to a fitness routine, and requires creative, enthusiastic and knowledgeable trainers to make the most of its technology. There are also other challenges to overcome, such as finding space to house the system. "Our Wii is set up in our Spin Studio, [which] has a large open area and a 48-square-foot projection screen," says Reid.
Mitigating risk is another concern. To minimize member injury and equipment damage, "we make sure the system is only used under direct supervision," says Reid. If your facility does decide to invest in a Wii, it's a good idea to check with a lawyer to be sure your liability waivers and insurance coverage are sufficient.
You won't see Wii on any trade show floor, and that's because it's designed for home use rather than in a commercial setting. Therefore, equipment maintenance is a significant concern. Because the Wii is not designed for clubs, there is a good chance it will suffer some overuse damage if installed in a fitness facility. And, though Nintendo does have tech support available, it likely can't offer the help you're used to getting when traditional fitness equipment is on the fritz. In fact, Ojo believes a commercial-grade unit is a necessary upgrade for the Wii Fit to find a permanent home in the industry. "The Wii Fit, if it should ever become a mainstay in clubs, would need a more durable format to withstand substantial use," he says.
This didn't phase Studeo 55 managers, however, when making the decision to buy a Wii system. "Consumer vs. commercial product did not come into the decision," says Reid. "We saw the system as a way to increase the members' experience, so we went for it." So far, the facility hasn't had any problems. "The Wii has done fine in terms of wear and tear," says Reid. "That being said, an employee is the one who sets up the games."
A New Kind Of Amenity
No matter how impressive a video game's technology is, it can't replace a personal trainer or a gym workout. "Fun workouts and great experiences develop an outstanding culture and result in great retention," says Reid. That's one reason he believed in Wii enough to take a chance and purchase it for commercial use. Whether more fitness centers will follow his lead depends on many factors. Still, no one can deny that the possibilities of this kind of equipment are exciting. "I believe health clubs should not only follow the trends, but create them," says Ojo. "The Wii's place in our industry is limited only by our imagination."
Wii Fit ActivitiesTraining on Wii Fit is divided into four categories: aerobic exercise, muscle workouts, yoga poses and balance games. The activities emphasize controlled movements rather than overexertion.
866 219-5335; www.abcoaster.com
The Ab Coaster is designed to deliver an intense abdominal exercise that is easy and comfortable to perform. It promotes core stabilization while exercising the abdominals through a full range of motion, and targets the transverse abdominus, obliques and the rectus abdominus. Its curved track mimics spinal flexion to reduce hip flexor involvement and low-back stress.
The Fitnus Chart Series offers a wide range of cardio, weight training, stretching, inspirational and heart rate posters. The colorful and detailed posters are available in paper, laminated and framed mountings.
800 775-9588; www.aquatictrends.com
The Aquatrend Water Workout Station is aquatic exercise equipment for practically any in-ground pool, indoors or outdoors. It provides a platform for strengthening muscle, increasing flexibility and promoting cardiovascular health for both general health and fitness, and for physical therapy and rehabilitation. The Aquatrend has a compact design and is manufactured of marine-grade stainless steel. At 37 pounds, it can be removed for storage, cleaning, etc. The Aquatrend Water Workout Station provides low-impact aquatic workouts for people of all ages.
Ball Dynamics International
800 752-2255; www.fitball.com
FitBall MedBalls with Straps incorporate functional resistance into group exercise. These large (8 to 9 inches in diameter), traditional medicine balls have an added twist: Two adjustable straps allow the user to grip balls more easily or perform one-handed kettle ball exercises. Users can add extra challenge to lower-body and core workouts by strapping a MedBall to both ankles. MedBalls have a hollow core, are made from rubber and can bounce. They are available in five progressive weights, from 2 to 10 pounds.
Bosu by Fitness Quest
800 497-8281; www.bosu.com
The Ballast Ball stays where users put it and stacks easily. It includes a foot pump and workout DVD. The Balance Trainer integrates balance into all aspects of fitness, sports performance or rehabilitation. It adds challenge and fun to cardio, strength training, sports conditioning, core training and mind/body workouts. Ideal for both static and dynamic balance training, it may be used with the platform side up or down. The Bosu Basic, or commercial grade unit, includes a foot pump.
Brendle Climbing Systems
877 BRENDLE; www.getfitclimbing.com
Brendle Climbing Systems sells three major climbing systems: FitWALL V series, a bouldering and top rope climbing wall; FitWall T series, a traverse climbing wall; and FitHILL, an incline cross training stair/hill system. All Brendle products are made from steel, stainless steel or aluminum materials. The manufactured modular sections can be powdercoated any color, have any image laminated onto it, are reconfigurable, have simple-to-change holds and are easily sanitized. These systems, plus bouldering caves, racquetball court conversions, competition walls, group workouts and more, are available online.
800 707-9616; www.brewersledge.net
The Treadwall M4 Series is a new Treadwall offering a compact footprint and quiet operation. Treadwalls help provide an engaging, full-body workout. Users can choose self-paced or continuous climbing, and which holds to use. The M4s use motor-free engineering and feature a new angle-changing mechanism. A goal-setting display allows wide programming options. Add the colorful KidWall option for younger kids.
866 547-4173; www.corepole.com
Made of cold-rolled steel, the Corepole provides strength and cardio training in one workout for one to up to 15 participants simultaneously. Designed for beginners to people training competitively, children, older adults and special populations, it comes with 20 sleeved resistance bands of varied strengths, 20 foot cuffs, a video and a manual. The Corepole offers a full range of motion, with 360-degree rotation around the pole and six anchor-height points for multi-planar workouts.
774 324-8000; www.cybexintl.com
Total Access products address the exercise needs of people with disabilities, as well as the active older population. The cardiovascular equipment and weight stacks feature raised iconography and color-contrasted handles to aid visually impaired people; swing-away seats and one-handed functionality to accommodate people in wheelchairs; and a Range Limiting Device (RLD) to assist people with limited ranges of motion. Total Access equipment is also appropriate and user-friendly for non-disabled clients.
866 4-efitness; www.efitnessmall.com
The Ultimate Core Fitness Combo includes the GoFit Ultimate Burst-Resistant Core Stability Ball and the ProGym. The GoFit stability ball comes with ball pump, two ball plugs and an easy-to-follow exercise wall poster. They are made of rubber, contain no latex and come in three sizes: 55, 65 and 75 centimeters in diameter. The ProGym contains two handles, three resistance tubes, two ankle straps, one door anchor and an exercise wall chart.
800 348-8371; www.fitter1.com
The new Xco Trainer builds muscle while strengthening the surrounding connective tissue and stabilizing the joints for a total-body workout. The design consists of an anodized aluminum tube filled with a special granulate. As users move the Xco Trainer, each movement creates a delayed soft impact as the granulate shifts inside the tube. This reactive impact, or overload, occurs when the motion changes direction from eccentric to concentric. Xco Training can be performed in a variety of positions and directions.
800 729-5954; www.harbingersports.com
The patented Wash & Dry leather WristWrap is designed for serious and heavy lifters who need the maximum in support. It offers a customized fit, and its reinforced wrap-around thumb design is durable and comfortable. The contoured wrist design eliminates bulk while providing needed support. It's designed with a left and a right, the extended length closure is fully adjustable and it fits a wide variety of wrist sizes.
International Play Co.
604 882-1188; www.iplayco.com
International Play Co. designs, manufactures and installs custom children's play structures. It also has toddler play structures for young children, obstacle courses for older children, sport courts, climbing walls and a complete line of outdoor fitness equipment for all ages. A complimentary design and consultation is available.
925 337-4205; www.marpokinetics.com
The Viper Rope Climber provides an upper-body strength or cardio workout in one exercise. Its levitating seat with counter-weight stack simulates rope climbing. Seven rope resistance settings and up to 250 pounds of weight assistance make Viper accessible and effective for a wide range of users. Keeping users close to the ground eliminates safety concerns associated with ceiling ropes. It has a small footprint and no electricity requirements, and its specially designed rope is soft, yet durable.
651 778-1975; www.nicros.com
Nicros offers products and services for the climbing industry, including more than 1,500 handhold shapes and training tools, and seven types of climbing wall systems. Landing surfaces, such as Nicro-Mat, Nicro-Mulch and Nicros-DropZone, are sold, as well as a loose-chunk rubber and Nicros' new gymnastic-like landing mats that velcro together to form a continuous padded surface in front of the climbing wall. For turn-key climbing walls, Nicros offers a training program for facility and staff called "Risk Management, Operations, Protocol, Evaluations and Safety concerns" (R.O.P.E.S.).
800 255-3700; www.nintendo.com/wiifit
Wii Fit combines both body testing and training programs, including yoga, balance training, strength training and aerobics. Users can set goals, log exercise activities, define personal profile settings and check daily progress with charts and graphs. Exercise accessories are available.
800 367-7393; www.optp.com
OPTP's classic Stretch Out Strap now comes with a new and improved booklet. This updated booklet includes detailed, four-color illustrations of more than 30 stretches, showing exactly where the stretch should be felt. It also includes cautionary stretches for osteoporosis, anatomy illustrations and more.
800 321-6975; www.power-systems.com
Designed for indoor use, Premium Kettlebells provide a total-body cardiovascular workout that incorporates swings, snatches, lifts and clean-and-jerks, while developing strength, power, endurance and dynamic flexibility. The vinyl-coated Premium Kettlebells are color-coded by weight and constructed of a cast iron bell with a solid steel handle. They are available in weights of 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 25 and 30 pounds. Instructional DVDs are available.
800 363-2671; www.rtfit.com
The Rotary Torso Bench positions users to eliminate spinal compression: lying back with hips and knees slightly flexed. With legs partially extended, rotating in either direction with a loosened grip on the handles, users engage core stabilizer muscles. The upgraded RT/Ab/Back makes the machine a three-in-one core unit. The Rotary Torso Bench is available in plateloaded and selectorized commercial models.
800 713-2880; www.sportsmith.net
Sportsmith provides strength and personal training products, including group exercise, strength and functional training products, and treadmill belts and rollers. Every person on staff is factory-service trained by brand-name fitness companies, including StairMaster, Star Trac, Life Fitness, Quinton, Precor and Schwinn.
800 222-7774; www.spriproducts.com
SPRI Products has manufactured and distributed rubberized resistance exercise products for more than 20 years. SPRI develops innovative fitness tools and supportive educational materials for everyone from the casual exerciser to the professional athlete. Equipment offerings include a wide variety of tools for strength, balance, sports conditioning, mind/body, aquatics and more, as well as instructional DVDs and training manuals.
True Fitness Technology
800 426-6570; www.truefitness.com
The TrueStretch 800ss is designed to stretch the body in all three planes of motion - sagittal (front and back), frontal (side to side) and transverse (rotational) - while keeping the user in natural upright positions with four points of contact, to ensure proper body alignment, stability and safety.
Unique Fitness Concepts
800 978-3481; www.uniquefit1.com
The Teeter Hang Ups F7000 Inversion Table can help users reduce back pain, relieve stress and muscle tension, stimulate circulation, improve posture, and increase flexibility and range of movement, and allows joints to naturally align and decompress.