Connected Fitness: What is left behind in the multimodal approach to fitness?

Huge
3 min readMay 3, 2022

With the connected gym equipment industry expected to grow to $1.048 billion by 2023, hybrid fitness has permanently changed our fitness experiences — and will only grow along with our connections to others in-person. And it couldn’t come at a better time as we come out of a pandemic with a larger-than-ever emphasis on personal health.

But look a little closer at hybrid fitness and you’ll see something new emerge, something that is bigger than just the category of fitness. It’s a new way of approaching consumer experiences. It’s what we call a multimodal approach.

What is “multimodal”?

Let’s break it down. The venue for fitness used to exist mainly in the physical. Gyms and studios were a destination for people looking to get a workout in, and with them brought routine, sensory stimulation, social communities and expertise. Today, we have additional modes in addition to the physical — digital, social and hybrid with even gyms adapting to outdoor programming during the pandemic. This is multimodal.

“Never has there been more consumer-centric demand for exercise options that accommodate a user anytime or anywhere,” says Sherrill Kaplan, Chief Digital Officer at Planet Fitness. “Gyms are a place to gather, interact with other humans, feel like a member of a community and take advantage of a variety of workout options and a plethora of equipment. Today, within that in-person experience, consumers more than ever also rely on digital platforms, content, devices, guidance, tracking, support and data to guide and measure their fitness journey. Therefore, the ultimate workout experience melds both the physical and the digital worlds.”

The multimodal approach is taking shape as the future of fitness, and there are implications for businesses and consumers. Just look at the history.

A closer look at the context.

Where exactly does multimodal fitness come from? The Apple health platform, which serves as a hub for activity, sleep, health records and lab, was an early driver of the trend of more connected ecosystems, as opposed to one-off fitness solutions. The Apple health kit opens more possibilities with the integrating of apps, kicking off a surge in not just fitness-focused users but app creators and founders. Enter: Waterminder, Lifesum, 8Fit, Sleep Cycle, iFertracker, iHealth MyVitals, Garmin Connect, Google Fit, Headspace, Strava, and more. From maximizing time and tools, to engineering self-improvement, consumers started gravitating towards this ‘do everything space’, where fitness and wellness converged through technology and were bolstered by social media.

Simultaneously, we’ve already seen a clear shift in mentality amongst the workforce when it comes to the office. After the pandemic accelerated remote solutions and made working-from-home part of a routine, it raised the question of whether or not a physical workplace was still relevant. Conversations regarding the gym are not dissimilar. The argument of returning to an office isn’t rooted in if we need a place to sit and type on a laptop, it is centered on how vital having a physical space to collaborate, share resources and build culture is to the success of a company.

For many of their members, Planet Fitness says the front door can be the heaviest weight at the gym. Therefore, the integration of digital has become a great gateway, or even, barrier-remover for their target audience. So if the accessibility of fitness apps and products means we aren’t virtual-only as much as we’ve become ‘virtual-first or virtually-paired,’ then many tech devices that share in the remote, connected fitness economy have become central to not just our workout routines, but also our sense of community.

So for brands that are either in the business of fitness offerings or business of digital innovation, the bottom line is that there is no longer either, or. Today’s consumer is in a third space — one we’re calling multimodal — which merges the best of both.

This piece was written by Huge Executive Creative Director Matt Hexemer.

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