Will Tech Replace The Personal Trainer?
I landed my first job in the fitness industry in my late teens, spending a summer managing a Nautilus facility at our local YMCA. It was a small room with a simple circuit of machines, and my job was to determine the correct seat settings for members, teach them the proper way to use each machine and to monitor their progress. Record-keeping consisted of writing their settings and weights on a single piece of thick paper that we kept on file.
Strength training equipment, a pencil and a piece of paper. That was it. Nothing else.
Fast-forward to over two decades later: I'm sitting on a panel "Celebrity Trainers Who Use Tech" at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, discussing mind-blowing advancements in the world of digital health and technology. The conference is filled with the latest devices and applications that measure and track myriad health metrics, including body weight, body fat, heart rate, blood pressure, hydration status, caloric intake, daily activity and sleep, to name but a few. This new technology is allowing people to take control of their health like never before, even providing them with solutions for monitoring, diagnosing and treating various health-related issues.
There are also exercise video games with advanced technology that track movement, hundreds of thousands of free workouts available on the Internet, and countless "virtual trainer" apps available for your smartphone and device. Dumbbells are even becoming "smart" — the new upcoming BowFlex® SelectTech® 560 Dumbbells will be Bluetooth-enabled and capable of counting repetitions, sets, weight, and even monitoring lifting speed. Unreal.
So is technology sounding the death knell for personal trainers as we know them?
Sure, personal trainers need to embrace this technology or they will get left behind. Far behind, and fast. Just like the record companies completely blew it by erroneously believing that they could ignore downloadable music, personal trainers who fail to stay up-to-speed with the ever-changing landscape will find themselves scratching their heads and wondering what the heck happened to their business.
I do think the term "personal trainer" will soon evolve into something more comprehensive like "Wellness Coach" or "Health Advisor," reflecting the fact that the role of the trainer will expand even more into the areas of behavioral modification and nutrition.
The job title may change and the job description as well, but the job itself will remain. Technology will change what trainers do and how they do it, but there will still be the need for them. I believe the advances in digital health and technology will actually increase the need for fitness professionals for numerous reasons, including the following:
- More and more people are realizing the importance of taking control of their health, especially baby boomers, and they are willing to invest in it, including paying for a trainer.
- People are busier than ever before, and the new technology is confusing for many. They need advice on what technology they should purchase and how to use it.
- No matter how much data you have, it is completely worthless if it cannot be accurately understood and interpreted. Fitness professionals will help people make sense of their health metrics.
So fear not, personal trainer. Don't fight the technology. Embrace it. And remember, no matter how advanced the technology may become, there is no app, gadget or device that will ever be able to replicate the powerful one-on-one relationship that exists between a personal trainer and his or her client.