A digital bridge into people’s lives

By Ryan Hogan

It’s time for health clubs to own the digital and virtual space, says Wexer’s Ryan Hogan. He shares his views on a new era of fitness with Kate Cracknell

“The next career step for me was always going to be in tech. Quite simply it’s the way the world is going,” says Ryan Hogan, the newly appointed head of new business APAC for digital fitness expert Wexer.

He continues: “With my background in fitness, I ideally wanted a role that would bring tech and fitness together – and that in itself was very timely, because this is a pivotal period for the sector.

“Over recent years, we’ve watched consumer behaviour change the world over, with a move towards digital and tech. We’ve also seen some of the world’s leading brands turn their attention to fitness – the likes of Apple, Nike and so on.

“And yet the fitness industry has been very slow to respond. There’s still far too heavy a reliance on what’s found within the four walls of clubs and delivered via human interaction. The human aspect remains incredibly important of course, but the world around us is looking digitally. The fitness industry needs to keep up.

“This is one of the reasons I wanted to join Wexer. Many tech providers speak about their products and services as replacing gyms and the human experience, but Wexer talks about bridging the gap between clubs and the virtual world, bringing bricks and mortar into a digital era.

“For Wexer, it isn’t about replacing human contact. There will always be a need for that. It’s about helping health clubs catch up and respond to where consumers are now. That’s an approach I fully buy into.”

Venturing into new territory

Hogan continues: “Let’s take social media channels like Instagram as an example of where health clubs need to play catch-up. If you look at all the trainers on Instagram at the moment, they look great, but many have no qualifications at all. Part of me rails against that – the part of me that spent many years in the world of fitness qualifications, training people to be instructors – but at the same time I have to recognise that these digital coaches are getting people off the couch.

“So why are we letting the celebs own this space when we have so many great instructors of our own? What better way to deliver the authenticity consumers are looking for than by sharing true expertise in these online channels, using our own highly-skilled staff to represent our brands online?

“It’s about taking the human contact currently only found in our clubs and making this available in new, online channels. We need to own this space.

“In fact, generally, we need to get rid of our current reliance on physical visits to our clubs – on people having to actually come in and see us every day to access our content and our expertise. We need to be exploring ways to bridge the gap between physical and digital using apps, AI and so on.”

A coming of age, virtually speaking

And Hogan believes the fitness sector has come of age – that it’s ready for this bridge to be built. He explains: “We’ve been talking about wellbeing for years now, but I think it’s only now that we’re seeing the adoption of a broader, holistic agenda across the board. Our sector is finally realising that it isn’t just about coming in and flogging yourself in the gym – that in fact what our members do when they go home is far more important than the 40 minutes they spend with us, and that it goes far beyond fitness.

“With this in mind, apps that reach members 24/7, perhaps with elements of gamification built in to ensure wellbeing isn’t a chore… This is the future of fitness.”

Hogan concludes: “But of course, it isn’t just about health clubs reaching out to represent themselves in the digital world. It’s also about bringing the power of digital into clubs – and one obvious example is virtual fitness.

“This is why I wanted to join Wexer at this point. Virtual fitness is already a huge global trend and I expect there to be an explosion in this area in Australia and Asia Pacific over the coming months. Really, the time is now to get involved before you get left behind.

For more information about digital fitness please contact Ryan at: ryan.hogan@wexer.com