The smart future of fitness

Want to see the gym of the future? Visit Fitness First’s refurbished Bond Street club, also home to a world-first partnership with Apple. Tony Sarno reports.

Bond street in Sydney is Fitness First’s new flagship club. After its refurbishment in late 2017, it could also be called the world’s most advanced gym, with state of the art equipment, big screens, facilities and a lobby that looks like something out of Star Trek.

Bond Street is also where Fitness First partnered with Apple to launch the world’s first implementation of Apple’s new GymKit technology.

Introduced by Apple for second and third generation Apple Watches running WatchOS 4.1, GymKit means that accurate, detailed metrics from your gym equipment can finally be added to your daily activity summary.

Walk into a Fitness First gym, tap your Apple Watch onto your favourite GymKit-equipped cardio machines (made by Technogym) and the two sync and share data in real time to provide you with highly detailed stats from your session.

The NFC reader on your watch (the same technology used for Apple Pay) talks to the gym equipment and sends it information, such as your heart rate and calories burned, while the equipment sends back workout data such as distance, watts, speed and incline. The data is combined for a next level of accuracy, and is displayed both on the watch and the cardio machine at the same time.

When your session is over, the data is stored on the Apple Watch, added to your day’s activity list and wiped from the gym equipment.

The GymKit equipped Technogym cardio machines at Fitness First include treadmills, ellipticals, indoor bikes and stair steppers, and we saw them in action for the first time at the launch of the new-look Bond Street last year.

“We wanted to simplify the cardio machine experience and make it more accurate than ever before,” said Jay Blahnik, Senior Director of Fitness for Health Technologies at Apple, who was present at the Australian launch.

“With a quick tap on your favourite cardio equipment, you’ll see for the first time two-way data exchange in real time that will result in the most accurate measurements possible with less device management. Now, when Apple Watch customers view metrics during their workout, the metrics on the machine match what they see on their wrist.”

At Fitness First Bond Street we saw a great demonstration by a trainer, who quickly paired her Apple Watch with a GymKit equipped treadmill.

To say that starting a workout was simple is an understatement.

You just hop on the treadmill, hold your watch close to the NFC reader (which, in the case of the Fitness First Technogym treadmill, is to the left of the screen) and you get a haptic response from the watch with a symbol saying it’s connecting.

Next, you select the appropriate workout, hit the start button on the treadmill display and the screen changes over to the workout information panel. At this point your Apple Watch and treadmill are talking to each other, sharing their sensor data and displaying the combined results on both the watch and the treadmill screen.

At the end of the workout, all the data is wiped from the connected gym equipment and stored in the Apple Watch, where it goes into the Health app and the Activity app. If you walk away from the cardio equipment, the watch will see it’s separated from the equipment and will end the workout.

Here’s the process in action…

1. Connect

The connected treadmill at Bond Street automatically connects to an Apple Watch when the wearer holds the watch over the NFC sensor on the machine.

2. Get started

Watch and equipment begin swapping and combining data, delivering a more comprehensive picture of your stats.

3. At the end

The watch disconnects from the cardio equipment and presents a final, in-depth picture of your workout. It really doesn’t get much simpler than that.