In the most upbeat presentation of the annual SFIA Industry Leaders Summit, Sarah Robb O’Hagan, president, Equinox, the parent of Equinox, SoulCycle, Blink and Pure, celebrated how technology giants, grocers and several other industries are all trying to capitalize on the robust trend around healthy living.

Said Robb O’Hagan, “Everyone wants to be in our industry. It’s such a big macro trend.”

Among the signs of momentum around fitness are sales of athleisure growing “easily double digit” while denim sales are shrinking. Organic foods are seeing increases at a 14 percent clip while the rest of the food industry is growing at 2 percent. She also pointed to interest in adventure travel as a “huge macro trend.”

Aspirationally, Robb O’Hagan, who prior to leading Equinox was president of Gatorade and held posts at Nike, Atari Entertainment and Virgin Atlantic, noted that Posh Spice, Sex in the City and luxury cars used to be status symbols but now it’s more about the fitness experience. For gals, it’s about “workout dates” with each other rather than drinking martinis in a bar. For guys, it’s spending a weekend tackling a Tough Mudder rather than the trip to Vegas.

Photo Credit to Business Insider

. Equinox Gym. Photo Credit to Business Insider

She also pointed at the explosion of fitness wearables in the marketplace as a sign that “people are more engaged in heath and fitness than ever.”

Robb O’Hagan said that with this trend, consumer goods companies and service providers have significant upside potential from rising demand for healthier options, even at a greater cost. To capitalize on the trend, companies need to recalibrate their offerings to make them more personalized, convenient, accessible, and relevant for their customers.

With reams of data around workouts, steps, sleep patterns and more, the big opportunity for fitness clubs as well as the overall sports & fitness industry is to help fitness enthusiasts understand that data. She noted that many people have already stopped using their Fitbits or get frustrated over their poor sleep patterns because they don’t know what to do with the data. Said Robb O’Hagan, “We’re data rich but knowledge poor. No one’s connecting the dots.”

The goal is finding a way to turn that data into “highly personalized motivation” and subsequently improve people’s lives. Robb O’Hagan said that while Equinox recognizes it’s essential to recognize the unique needs of each fitness enthusiast, the underlying push for all members is to get them to embrace three factors: Movement, Nutrition and Regeneration.

Said Robb O’Hagan, “A lot of people come to the gym to do their hour or 90 minutes a day. But if you’re eating and sleeping badly, the whole thing falls apart.“

Photo Credit to Equinox

Photo Credit to Equinox

The ‘Movement’ bucket urges athletes to focus on intensity, volume and variety in their workout. Many gym rats focus just on volume, or putting in their allocated time on the treadmill or cycle. But changing the intensity of the workout can be instrumental to overall health. Said Robb O’Hagan, “You need to mix up that steady run with high intensity sessions. You don’t want to be doing the same 45-minute treadmill run every day. Some days you’ll want to a 30-minute sprint. Other days you’ll want to a 100 minute adventure.”

Variety is key to an optimal workout, whether for runners or those dedicated to cycling, swimming or some other activity. She offered herself as a prime beneficiary of adding multi-dimensional movements when she joined Equinox as president in 2012. Robb O’Hagan stated, “I used to be runner like Forest Gump but I took up Pilates and cross-functional training and I’ve personally seen many breakthroughs. I thought I was fit before but I’m much better now.”

The next two buckets – Nutrition and Regeneration – are much less discussed in training sessions at fitness clubs or part of the discussion by the sporting goods industry in general but equally important to at athlete’s fitness makeup.

Robb O’Hagan, for example, said that at Equinox, the company’s mission is to help its members “maximize the potential within themselves.” And that involves not only understanding your performance on a treadmill, but, ”What’s the rest of your life approach? What’s the rest of the 23 hours of your day like?”

Nutrition is about getting members to “stop counting calories” but focus on the quality of foods, getting a healthy variety, and “getting the right nutrients at the right time.”

Regeneration focuses on sleep, recovery and mindset. Robb O’Hagan said “chronically-undersleeped” is a “really big issue” across the U.S. and getting a minimum of seven hours of sleep a night will “change your performance in life.” She noted that trying to sleep five hours a night is “equivalent to driving with alcohol in your system.”

Sleeping better can be as simple as keeping your bedroom as dark as possible and reading from a book rather than a lit-up iPad before bed. She said a studies direct links to sleeping well and achieving better workouts.

Recovery involves putting more focus on myofascial release and the benefits of foam rolling and other massage tools. Adds Robb O’Hagan, “It does make a huge difference.”

Finally, mindset deals with brain health. The issue is just starting to receive more attention with Alzheimer’s increasing given the aging demographic of the American population. Said Robb O’Hagan, “It’s about really focusing on things that engage your brain deeply and avoid doing very-routine activities.”

The key is using the increasingly accessible data around an individual’s health, food intake, sleep and other metrics to motivate members to embrace all the three buckets: Motivation, Nutrition and Regeneration. But Robb O’Hagan also noted that individuals are motivated differently.

Equinox breakers its members into three types:

  • The Mayor: Members who are very social in the gym and like sharing their experiences, including around fitness, on social media and elsewhere;
  • The Routine User: Members who “want to get in and get out” and would want information around how to improve the efficiency of their workouts;
  • The Lone Wolf: Members who are “incredibly competitive” and are “all about their personal best.”
Photo Credit to Pop Sugar

Photo Credit to Pop Sugar

As such, Equinox may offer Mayor members points for checking into group fitness classes and other prizes to motivate them. Routine User members are more open a simple breakdown of their health & fitness data to determine the best path to improve their results. Aimed at the Lone Wolf member, Equinox earlier this year launched “The Pursuit by Equinox,” which Robb O’Hagan compared to a “giant video game.” Bringing gamification to the indoor-cycling class, participants compete on their own or in teams to improve their mileage, speed or other performance metrics.

Robb O’Hagan believes many retailers and other vendors have the opportunity to tap personalized data to engage and form tighter relationships with customers.

“We believe everyone still has untapped potential within us,” said Robb O’Hagan. “But it’s all about how we serve up those motivations to get them there.”