Matt McGunagle is one of the many awesome people attending Motivate: A One Day Health and Behavior Change Summit. Sign up if you don't want to miss out on awesome conversations about psychology, health, fitness, and technology on 9/27 in Salt Lake City!
It’s sad to say this, but the tech community in Silicon Valley and San Francisco have a warped view when it comes to health/fitness. This community thrives off of creating products and services that “disrupt” (hopefully improve) industries forever and in regards to this the Bay Area truly is the center of the universe. Facebook, Google, Tesla, AirBnB… you can go on and on. But when it comes to health/fitness, the majority of tech’s attempts to change or improve the fitness industry have resulted in only a few successful companies who moved the fitness industry forward. When attempting to create any new business it only makes sense that the key principals in this venture fully understand the market and that’s where I believe most unsuccessful fit tech venture attempts stem from. If you asked a fitness professional what the most important problems in the fitness industry are today they would say something along the lines of this:
- The median pay for a fitness trainer/instructor was $31,720 in 2012. This is disgusting. There are many reasons for this which I won’t dig into, but it’s fair to say that fitness professionals lack the same respect as other health professionals.
- The health and fitness market is flooded with pseudoscience and misinformation that preys on fitness consumers. This results in individuals purchasing product after product without making any substantial progress that will turn into long-term change.
From an entrepreneur’s standpoint the health/fitness market is well worth chasing after, but these new ventures are overlooking the key issues listed above. There are fitness professionals who have spent years studying their craft, but still struggle to find clientele who are willing to pay for their services. Why would fitness consumers invest time/money/energy into a new fitness tech venture if they aren’t convinced of the value in working with a fitness professional in the first place? Many within the health/fitness industries are trying to solve these problems themselves, which is why I’m super excited to be of Coach Stevo’s Motivate Summit. It’s events like this where fitness professionals will need to collaborate with other industries and this is where tech comes into play. To me, a cofounder of a fitness software company, I just want to stress how important this relationship between the two fields really is. If you think about it, the majority of tech ventures into health/fitness are contribute to the problems listed previously. Instead of aiming to solve the important issues fit tech has mostly focused on products/services similar to these two:
- Workout tracking apps aiming to replace fitness professionals. Some major highlights feature workout programs to follow from celebrities and athletes. Oh joy!
- Wearables built to track your own health and fitness with much context. Most of these hardware devices are in reality glorified pedometers. You can also use a much cheaper watch that does the same thing without the fancy charts.
And what’s the end result of all this “disruptive” work? Fitness professionals and aficionados still overwhelmingly choose to use Excel and notebooks to track their progress. Fitness consumers still purchase miracle products and services time after time without getting results. Individuals with gym memberships (50 million in the US) still choose to use the treadmill 2-3x a week instead of paying for a single month of a training from their local fitness professional.
The tech industry hasn’t done a good job providing valuable services because they didn’t really know the problems they were dealing with in the first place. I know this is true because I’ve experienced it myself. When my team and I first started building StrengthPortal we thought we could build out something in 2-3 months and just let the business grow from there. We each had a personal connection to the health/fitness industry and were confident that we knew what we were doing. A full year later we are still working our asses off to deliver the valuable software that fitness professionals and consumers deserve (Sidenote - Not a complaint, I freaking love what I do). Once we dug into this we found that fitness professionals were delivering so much more value to their clients than we ever thought. The research, hard work, and relationships we built this past year taught us a lot:
- Fitness professionals are still in desperate need of smart tools and services that save them time, help them market their business, and maintain high-quality services.
- Fitness consumers want to know what really works regarding their own health/fitness and are willing to pay for a professional to make progress. Well marketed fitness products like P90x may have worked before, but communities are slowly deciphering who cares about delivering quality information and who is just squeezing them for every last penny.
Now that you’ve thought about this all what should you be excited about? Well, if the best fitness professionals in the industry are able to get results with just a phone, excel, and notebooks imagine what they will able to do once systems are built so that they reach an even bigger audience. Look at what WordPress and other blog platforms have done for the fitness industry alone by just making it easy for fitness professionals to put their content out there. There are companies building systems right now to leverage fitness professionals expertise. Leveraging and empowering fitness professionals who have studied and understand exercise science, nutrition, psychology, and how to build long-term habits. There’s hope and every single one of of us in the fitness industry should be working our asses to best take advantage of it. To reach and help more health/fitness consumers so that they don’t purchase another Dr. Oz approved supplement.
To wrap this up I want to pass along a few things you can do to help companies like ours and others getting into the space. These actions will all help tech companies as they aim to improve the fitness industry:
- Contact companies that are on the right track and let your voice be heard. Companies who are in their early stages need as much critical feedback as possible to ensure they build the right stuff. They won’t always be able to deliver the exact product you want right away, but every email, skype, or phone call helps. Dive into the product and/services and test them out with your clients. You can steer them into the right direction.
- Call out bullshit products and services using pseudoscience and misinformation to trick consumers. Educate your clients as to why the companies were wrong to do this. What was overlooked? Will this translate into long-term results? This is a great learning opportunity.
- Continue to educate yourself and provide fantastic service. The only way for fitness professionals to get where doctors and physical therapists are is to deliver results over and over again. It’s not a matter of if, but when.
About The Author
Matt McGunagle co-founded StrengthPortal, a cloud software service to make online training ridiculously easy for trainers and their clients. You can reach out to Matt and StrengthPortal through any of the following links: Website, Facebook, & Twitter. In his spare time Matt enjoys exploring the Bay Area with his girlfriend, deadlifting, and reading science-fiction novels. Sources