02 Dec 2021 HCM Handbook
 

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Health Club Management Handbook - Rule breakers

Industry insights

Rule breakers


Standing out from the crowd can give you the edge. Editor Helen Patenall rounds up the H&F club players breaking new ground and stealing the spotlight from their competitors

Helen Patenall, Leisure Media

TAKE A SOUND SPIN

Alternative fitness operator 1Rebel has opened the world’s first spin studio amphitheatre in Victoria, London.

The 7,000sq ft (650sq m) arena at Victoria’s Nova – a multi-restaurant development – houses an 86-bike studio over three stories, as well as an instructor platform that ascends and descends during spin classes via a remote control scissor lift.

1Rebel’s spin studio is home to a 3D sound system – second only to that at the Sydney Opera House – and a sensory shower system. It’s encased in industrial-modern copper piping and white-lacquered exposed brick, with a galvanized steel staircase featuring milky PVC drapery leading up to the changing areas.

Founded three years ago by Giles Dean and James Balfour, 1Rebel has three further sites in London, located at Broadgate, Bayswater and the Southbank.

1Rebel’s spin studio amphitheatre features an instructor platform that ascends and descends during spin classes
SPORT TECH HUB START-UPS

From secret music events for fitness to sports heatmaps and AI coaches, 16 innovative start-ups have been selected to launch London's new Sport Tech Hub.

Backed by London Sport, the Mayor of London and Sport England, the hub delivers a 24-week bespoke programme of growth acceleration support for Sport Tech, Fit Tech and Health Tech start-ups to deliver innovative technology-supported physical activity and sport nationwide.

The 16 SportTech, FitTech and HealthTech start-ups range from mass participation and active travel to social engagement and at-home fitness to immersive experiences, supported by partners including Fieldfisher, London & Partners, HubSpot, Crowdcube, RLC Ventures, Sponge Marketing and the Sport Industry Group.

"The 16 start-ups will deliver technology-supported physical activity and sport nationwide"

Here's just a few of the newcomers to watch out for. Racefully is the only app that enables you to run with your friends in real time, whenever you want; AktivKidz gets children active through challenges set by celebrities to attain points and prizes; Rabble enables immersive team games in your local community; Sweat & Sound runs secret, immersive fitness events for music lovers and creative spirits; and Return2Play is a concussion management and multi-injury reporting tools aimed at schools, clubs and governing bodies.

You can walk, run or cycle virtually in real time with people from across the world using the Racefully app

Racefully's co-founder, Chris Pointon, explains the inspiration behind his app: "Community is playing an increasing role in the running world, as demonstrated by successful initiatives like Parkrun's informal events. We wanted to extend the support and motivation that comes from running with friends to runners everywhere, regardless of where they or their friends go running."

Ariana Alexander-Sefre, founder and CEO of Sweat & Sound, tells us: "Our live music, multi-sensory approach is proving to be beneficial for mental wellness. For example, live music, as opposed to recorded, has been proven to improve the way our brains synchronise! We've also conducted surveys where 96 per cent of participants reported anxiety levels decreasing dramatically after an experience. We'd like to use this research to prove the importance of multi-sensory wellness in schools and disadvantaged areas, and to demonstrate its importance in mainstream media.”

Sweat & Sound takes a multi-sensory approach to promote mental wellness
FUTURISTIC FLOORING

The University of Oxford is home to Britain’s first LED-lit, smart glass floor. Designed by German company ASB GlassFloor and installed in collaboration with FaulkerBrowns and Beard Construction at the university’s new Acer Nethercott Sports Centre, the futuristic floor offers flexible underfloor lighting for customised line markings.

Perfectly suited for sports like badminton, basketball, futsal, handball, korfball, netball and volleyball, the ability to programme and control the floor’s markings in an array of LED colours and patterns via a remote touchpad allows players to avoid any of the confusion that can be caused from having multiple permanent lines painted over one another.

Customised and illuminated game lines eliminate any traditional sports line confusion

Dean Averies, director of Beard, said: "As specialists in the delivery of sports centres, we believe these smart glass sports floors are the way of the future, offering a sustainable hi-tech solution that outperforms traditional sports flooring."

Christof Babinsky, MD of ASB, added: "ASB MultiSports at Acer is the most advanced and durable sports flooring system in the world – individual game lines illuminated by LEDs (switched on and off at the push of a button) eliminate the confusing game line chaos in traditional sports halls. With a lifetime expectancy of more than 70 years, the system is engineered to last."

Britain’s first LED-lit, smart glass floor offers flexible underfloor lighting for customised line markings via a touchpad
THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX

Virtual reality fitness brand Black Box VR was named a Consumer Technology Association (CES) Innovation Awards Honouree in 2018 for its resistance-based gym technology.

The Black Box VR studio has developed a fully automated cable resistance machine that integrates virtual reality hardware and virtual eSport software.

The system uses an intense, time-dilated, custom workout while immersing users in challenging, gamified and competitive virtual reality fitness experiences, powered by HTC Vive software.

Chief creative officer Preston Lewis explains: "We believe that through innovative engagement mechanics, user personalization, real-time form tracking, coaching artificial intelligence, game mechanics, deep data analysis and artificial intelligence, we will be able to reach a diverse demographic of people. Our core age group focuses on 25-40 year olds who want to improve their health and fitness, have an affinity for games, and want workouts that are data-driven, engaging and time-efficient."

Ryan DeLuca, chief executive of Black Box VR, added: "For nearly two years, our team of veterans from the fitness industry and the gaming industry have collaborated to harness the power of virtual reality to change the landscape of results-driven exercise and competitive eSports."

Black Box VR was founded in 2016 by Lewis and DeLuca, after they had built Bodybuilding.com into a major supplement retailer.

The cable resistance machine immerses users in challenging, gamified and competitive VR work outs
SHOW YOUR TRUE COLOURS

Health club brand U Energy commissioned Rabih Geha Architects to design an underground project as "a place to provide respite from the hectic nature of daily life" in Beirut, Lebanon.

To encourage connection and interaction, the U Energy Beirut gym includes weightlifting areas, a stretching zone and spinning and yoga studios in an almost completely open space, divided by structural concrete pillars, thick black cords and industrial-style equipment. So members can work out with a trainer next to someone stretching, while others are boxing, creating a social space where they can pick up new skills and make new friends.

Taking inspiration from neuropsychologist Kurt Goldstein, who believes that light travels through our neurological pathways and affects the pineal gland in our brains – impacting our body, mind and emotions – the health club features three key colour schemes.

Green has been used to facilitate more enjoyable workouts owing to its healing effect, red to add a feeling of energy to keep-fit sessions thanks to its invigorating effect, and blue features in the weightlifting areas because of its calming effect which boosts productivity. Skylights also allow natural light to filter into the underground space, with parallel neon lighting strips creating invisible dividers by subtly highlighting the different zones.

Geha says: "The result here is an edgy and dynamic, motivational setting conducive to a healthy, energetic and comfortable workout. It is raw and industrial in style, allowing members to focus only on enhancing their wellbeing without the busy distractions of Beirut.”

The space is zoned by colour and simple black cords
BRING THE OUTSIDE IN

Buzz Gym’s latest site heralds its new Track & Field Zone – an area where the "outside is brought inside" thanks to artificial turf flooring, a training rig, sleds, tyres, HIIT equipment and a heart rate tracking system, so members can compete against each other and track their own progress.

A grass scent is also pumped throughout the 18,000sq ft (1,672sq m) facility in Oxford to further emulate the feeling of an outdoor training environment.

Launched on the back of a £1.25m funding package from HSBC, Buzz Gym’s chief executive, Adam Stowell, told HCM Handbook: "We’re constantly seeking ways to disrupt the standard gym trends and our Track & Field zone has been very successful. We selected the very best materials to ensure the artificial grass is as real to touch as possible and we even pump in a grass scent to make members feel like they’re training outside.

"The space has some key high-intensity exercise equipment like Sleds, Wattbikes and SPARC Trainers but also boasts a functional rig for suspension training and CrossFit style workouts."

The Oxford gym is the first new opening since Buzz Gym signed a deal with equipment supplier Life Fitness, which saw the company introduce a "transformed business model" to help with a UK-wide expansion. The chain will invest and install Life Fitness’s premium kit at its sites, as part of plans to combine affordable, no contract gym memberships with a premium fitness equipment offer and high-specification fit-outs.

Artificial turf flooring is combined with a grass scent
ACTIVELAB’S ACCELERATOR APPS

ukactive’s start-up accelerator programme ActiveLab aims to uncover innovations designed to tackle the UK’s obesity and inactivity crises. The bespoke 12-week agenda offers fast-track support to develop, connect and scale the best physical activity businesses delivered through workshops, collaboration sessions, 1:1 mentorships, sector expert sessions and events to connect businesses with key stakeholders from throughout the sector.

In 2018, ActiveLab’s cohort featured 11 start-ups, selected from 120 applications from across the globe, and included companies from the UK, US, Australia and Belgium.

The 2018 innovations included Walk With Path, which aims to help individuals with Parkinson’s to walk more easily and become more active; an app called TopYa that challenges children to compete with friends in a bid to boost activity levels; and a digital wellbeing coach supporting pregnant mothers called Baby2Body.

Melinda Nicci, chief executive and founder of Baby2Body, told HCM Handbook: "Baby2Body is the only data-driven and fully automated platform dedicated to optimising women’s health and wellbeing before, during and after pregnancy. What sets us apart is that every aspect of a user’s lifestyle is integrated into how we deliver the coaching experience: the growth of her baby, her fitness goals, nutritional needs, wellbeing support, and other personal metrics that we capture to deliver information, tools, and inspiration that is uniquely relevant to each user.

"No matter where she is in the world, as long as she has her Baby2Body app, she’s got her fitness and wellness coach by her side."

ukactive CEO Steve Ward said: "These companies prove that technology and innovation can be a force for societal good – helping guide people towards exercise and breaking down barriers to physical activity for vulnerable populations.”

Every aspect of a user’s lifestyle is integrated into the personalised new Baby2Body coaching app

Originally published in HCM Handbook 2019 edition

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