December 11, 2017
Just tap your Apple Watch on eligible treadmills, ellipticals, indoor bikes or stair steppers and you’re good to go. For that breezy interface, “we took inspiration from Apple CarPlay and AirPlay,” says Jay Blahnik, Apple’s Senior Director of Fitness for Health Technologies. “It had to be super easy or else people won’t do it,” part of the initial problem. “We see a high rate of consumers start on machines with a quick start and they don’t enter data. This GymKit solution makes it seamless for them to quick start, but the data gathered is more accurate,” Blahnik explains, saying it was engineered to retroactively track your data, so you can even tap it right before you leave the machine to count the whole workout.
GymKit launches today with Life Time Athletic clubs and the GymKit-enabled machines from Technogym, which supplied two treadmills for us to try. Sure enough, a quick boink of the watch near the Near-Field Communication port and one tap of the Watch to confirm you want to workout, you’re off. Adjust the pitch of the treadmill and you’ll see your feet climbed rise on the Watch. The real-time, two-way data exchange is impressive, and your equipment workout data will get logged directly into Apple’s Health app, so you can deploy it later as you deem fit. (Curious how Apple engineers their health products? We visited their top-secret performance testing lab to find out.)
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What does one do with all this newfound, accurate data? Use it to paint a more holistic picture of your health and inform your workouts, says Blahnik. “You wear the watch all day, so trainers can look at more of your days and week, beyond when you’re in the gym, and determine how lazy or active your days are, how these workouts affect your sleep and so forth. All of this would ultimately factor into workout prescriptions,” he says.
Fourteen new Life Time Clubs are coming in 2018, all featuring Apple GymKit, plus Life Time has pledged to retrofit all their 2017 new clubs with software updates to push the new technology. Equinox will add it to their clubs in 2018 with GymKit-enabled cardio equipment from Life Fitness.
Our Fitness Editor Eb Samuel tried out the GymKit and had three quick thoughts he wanted to share.
1) Your next treadmill run still won’t truly feel like that 3-miler up and down hills you did outside last week, but with GymKit, you’ll be able to see exactly what was different. Your Apple Watch’s constant communication with your treadmill means you get accurate elevation gain, pace numbers and calories burned numbers, and the other metrics you’d get when running outdoors. That means you can compare your next treadmill run right alongside all those great outdoor runs, valuable info for hardcore runners stuck in the gym on a rainy day.
2) The convenience lets you focus on your workout. The inherent problem with relying on the information conveyed by most cardio equipment: you know it’s not accurate. Heart rate trackers on treadmills and stationary bikes have long been inconsistent, and I can’t tell you the amount of times my head is swiveling between checking my wrist for my heart rate and checking the treadmill display for my speed during a run. Now that all of that is in one place, that indoor workout offers far more piece of mind, letting you focus on pace, speed, and form.
3) This could be a real game-changer…eventually. Right now, GymKit is more of a convenience, available on the classic cardio machines (treadmill, stairmaster, elliptical, stationary bike) available at big-box gyms — and it’s not giving you a ton of information that those devices can’t do already. But there’s a good chance that this will eventually land on more intriguing devices, such as the Airdyne Pro (Schwinn is working with Apple) and the Concept2 rower, meaning convenient personalized calorie tracking during your next cardio row interval workout, perhaps even the ability to track other details within that workout. Add that in and GymKit, in conjunction with other apps, has the ability to become a valuable coaching tool in Crossfit boxes.