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FIBO Innovation Tour 2017


The FIBO Innovation Tour was held in the grand settings of the Onvotel Hotel Paddington on Thursday 26th January and hosted by Herman Rutgers of EuropeActive. The day was from the very beginning a superb collection of knowledgeable and successful companies who will have regularly attended and display at FIBO Exhibitions.

Morning Session

Entwined between the Onvotel Hotel and Business Suite of meeting rooms and split into Morning drinks of coffee, light refreshments with lunch to follow and an evening reception, the day was a surefire success. Members had travelled far and wide and the attendance list was full to bursting. The business side of the day listening to in some cases very young but successful and engaging presenters form the Fitness Industry was well worth the visit. On the downside there were a few empty rows at the front, to which was as a sold out event with a waiting list was disappointing as I knew people who wanted to attend but couldn't.

FIBO Introduction

Starting of the day was an engaging speech about state of the Industry in Germany from FIBO, where the first fact that struck me as significant was health clubs are now outnumbering sports clubs. Europe has a healthy 52 million health club members with 11.6 in Germany. Per population the country with the most attending health clubs was Norway. The average size of a gym was 1438 members and clubs may be increasing the cost of membership is lessening, so revenue generated is slightly lower on membership profit. What a club member expected from a gym was

  • Safety
  • Innovative products
  • Digital Solutions
  • Atmosphere
  • Community
  • Communication
  • Ambiance

The message that I took on board that what was being emphasized at this stage was the relationship between personal trainer was to be focused on as to encourage members to stay with existing clubs, Training and engagement with members was to be the priority. It was noted that this was to be of the highest standard if clubs were to be successful

What had been expressed is if the clubs want to succeed in this market they need to adapt to change and be innovative. The 'fixed contract' gym (LA FItness) mid range gym had collapsed so only the higher Market and Low Market (Budget Gyms) are now prospering. With the recognition to the growing rise of the Boutique Health club.

Afternoon Session

Talk by Phil Horton UK Active.

UK Active continue their high end connection to be the link between government and the Industry. Their non for profit organisation continues its drive and encourage the Industry to involve more people, to be more active, more often. And was particularly proud of its figures for National Fitness Day, which I happened to be involved with at my local Argos store and saw none of the glowing tales of what Phil talked about. In fact the local manager was under pressure to put on a fitness health day to which he had been given a few posters to put in the windows and have no budget to award prizes, no equipment to use and no staff to spare to create an activity and especially not staff that were qualified. It was more trouble for the Manager and at the end of the day it was a poor turnout and the message was lost.

What I found interesting was the relationship between Sport England and UK Active a natural partner it now seems, but when I was talking to them both in 2006 they were more opposite ends of the scale, with each saying if you want to create a sport for gyms then talk to Sport England, and Sport England saying talk to the then (FIA)

Morale in the Industry

What was not mentioned at any time was the morale of staff (personal trainers and gym instructors) to the industry and the reasons why these people leave and this had me worried.

  • Low pay
  • Pensions?
  • Capped Pay
  • No Unions

The turnover for staff and failure rate of those entering the Industry is very high and very hard to come by this information, I can not at this time give exact figures, but the groups I have been involved with would tend to agree (Personal Trainers Unite - 5000 plus members). Due to the high fall out rate of first year personal trainers the training provider program continues to engage bring new and would be personal trainers into the system - and so the stainability continues to roll with no real increase in pay or benefits.

While we did hear about what makes the Industry attractive to investors, there were no comments or mention of what it takes to keep existing personal trainers in the system and the benefits of maintaining staff moral.

The future ?

The Business mode for for the new way of training which seemed like something out of a Buck Rodgers episode and was quite an eye opener with both X Body and Miatech giving presentations. Although just starting off in the UK it is proving popular in Europe and has a very good business model to back up ROI.

World Gym Challenge

I did speak with several other fitness professionals there and it was concluded and agreed with that World Gym Challenge was just too far ahead of its time in 2006. The battles I had personally with the then head of the FIA David Stalker who told me Fitness is not a Sport , well I disagreed with him then , as I do now.

When I was a member of the FIA (Now UKActive) I kept talking of the importance of keeping records and data capture, that's what WGC does, focuses in Gym Sport to do it and it is now some sort of revelation within UK Active with their Promising Practise (right) initiative .

I think in all honesty the problem was not the concept but me, Richard Clarkson from Sport England confirmed this when I spoke with him recently. When you are passionate about something, its the hardest sell to let others who have no idea about about Gym Sports see your angle, especially if there is a cost implication. And just how crazy was it to try and impliment a Sport for Gyms!

I still claim to this day that Gym Sport is the only way to significantly improve Gym Fitness in a Gym. And that to focus on weight loss in a gym is a fools errand, where no significant gains can be made. What should have happened in gyms ten years is now only beginning to emerge and that is very frustrating.

Gym Sport

The problem is that Gym Sport only works the once. It's like football, its not an app, or digital platform, its the reality of entering a gym and all focusing together and competing in the same format to see end results improve. Oh I hear you say, that can never happen. Well let's think about the Olympics shall we ? And see what happens when you train for a single discipline year on year.

Lack of Motivation

The growth of CrossFit can be seen as an opportunity to exploit the gaps in the market. On numerous occasions I have been told that Ipersonally am of no importance to a gym. I was a sold member who loved my training and would stay fixed. Problem solved for the gym I joined, however, what happened was that 5% or so of committed gym members all experienced this, and they left to join to CrossFit. 5% of an area that may have up to 10 gyms is a huge breeding ground for expansion. , and that has a huge impact.

Mathew Janusek from Escape Fitness supplies 'Functional Gym Equipment and designs Gym Space asked the question," Why do you think certain gym failed" and I answered, "The cheaper gyms arrived". And to degree that is right, but also gyms arrived that challenged the 5% of members who liked going to the gym. And if you go to the gym 4 or 5 times a week, you are far more likely to stay, if you visit just once a week, the likelihood is that you leave and its far harder to recruit again someone who has left, then to keep existing members. When I left my last gym it could not have cared less. Gyms failed to recognise the imporantance of keeping existing clients and giving them something back. Members left the gyms in their droves and CrossFit prospered. Which is insane because the infrastructure of Equipment Venues and Members weighs far more heavily and in favour of gyms.


FIBO and all that represents about the fitness is spectacular. UK Active and Active Europe are doing a great job in advancing the media awareness in growing physical activity.

What I took away from the day was just how far it is removed from the gym I train at. There are no digital platforms , the lines of gym equipment including row upon row of treadmills, bikes, rowers are still there, there is absolutely no community feel, no challenges for members to take part and no recognition for any of the members. So what I was listening is filtering through no doubt, but there has been no significant change to the gym layout that I can see for the last ten years based on the gyms I have been to.

It was agreed by all that wearable is the new thing - apart from its not new. We have been wearing heart rate monitors for the last decade and I have noticed still in the gym that a lot of members are still not wearing anything on their wrist and bringing in a phone or mobile is tricky, you can put it down and never see it again, working out with it bouncing around is uncomfortable and there is a high risk of damage.

So although the digital age is with us and smartphones are absolutely changing fitness with 50, 000 apps in this market, nothing can actually beat the actual recording of timed based format for capturing data . A simple result based on time, is essentially all the data you need to capture because if it works in the Olympics, for decades, then it can work in the gym too.