It's about time gyms started playing catch-up with our gadgets. No more should patrons have to argue over which episode of "Glee" to watch or which Beyonce album to blast. (Shoot, if it were up to me I'd run my heart out to the Sex Pistols while watching "Doctor Who," the combination of which would surely empty most gyms.)
A platform released as a separate add-on screen by Netpulse in 2010 may just help those of us who don't know what we want figure out how to get it. (OK, I'll stop with the Sex Pistols.) The platform is now being embedded into the touch-screen control panels produced by the world's leading fitness equipment manufacturers so that we can fully customize our gym experience with such must-haves as social-media access (how do you tweet the pain of mile five in 140 characters or less?) and iPod/iPhone connectivity.
"The No. 1 reason why people quit heath clubs is boredom," Bryan Arp, then-director of operations at San Francisco's Embarcadero YMCA, said in an interview with CNET back in 1998 when Netpulse exercise stations first went online at that gym. (If anything, boredom may be an even bigger barrier in 2011 as our attention spans continue to narrow down to the width of a smartphone.)
Netpulse's partnerships with Life Fitness, Technogym, Matrix Fitness, Star Trac, Octane Fitness, and Woodway was on display at last week's International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association Trade Show in San Francisco. Netpulse reports that these companies account for more than 70 percent of global fitness equipment sales.
The touch-screen features now include: on-demand TV, personal playlists created beforehand or on the spot, automated workout tracking, iPod and iPhone connectivity to larger Netpulse-enabled screens, and frequent application and content updates.
"Fitness clubs will be able to offer individualized services and better maintain equipment through automated usage data, and most importantly, the members will have much more fun working out," says Arp, who is now, 13 years after our first interview, the CEO of Netpulse. "We believe this is the biggest fitness industry advancement in years, and we're proud to be the catalyst."