It has been somewhere in the ballpark of one million degrees here in Washington, D.C. over the past couple of weeks. That means the indoor workout has been necessary for just about everyone.
But let’s say you’re sick of the treadmill, are paralyzed by the thought of a crossfit or spin class and are generally tired of the same old gym experience overall. Well, an alternative is creeping into the workout lexicon. It’s called the Fitwall.
The device looks like a magazine rack — albeit a tall, steel one with unevenly sized and spaced shelves. It’s about 7 feet tall, with the racks operating as handles and foot rests.
The Fitwall was invented by Doug Brendle and was initially sold as an individual unit to customers. Then Brendle teamed up with Joshua Weinstein, Ethan Penner and Anthony Westriech. Together, they formed Fitwall Ventures LLC. There are at least two patents on file under Brendle’s name relating to the Fitwall. But the company owns the intellectual property, said Fitwall CEO Joshua Weinstein via an e-mail exchange.
Fitwall’s focus is on more than just the technology. Instead, the team seeks to provide a full fitness “experience.”
If you’re looking for this experience, you can find it in La Jolla, Calif., which is where the only Fitwall studio is located. Another studio in Solana Beach is “coming soon,” according to the company Web site. The La Jolla location has been open for roughly six weeks, and Weinstein said it has “hundreds of athletes,” which is what Fitwall calls its members. Weinstein did not specify exactly how many athletes have joined so far. The club’s membership will be capped, however, at 300. There can be no more than eight athletes per trainer, he said. Any more than that, and another trainer has to be called in. The La Jolla studio has a total of 16 Fitwall stations. That means you will never be around more than 15 others at one time.
The company slogan is “train smarter,” and there’s more behind that than the Fitwall itself. iPads are connected to and positioned at the top of each Fitwall, and each iPad is connected to a sensor — or peanut — given to each athlete. The sensor, made by Polar Electro, transmits data continuously on the athlete’s performance throughout the 40-minute training session. According to Weinstein, that amounts to more than 2,000 data points collected per athlete.
Fitwall has a proprietary software platform called F_ROMM: Fitwall Results-Oriented Monitoring & Metrics. The platform measures and tracks an athlete’s “F-factor,” a proprietary measurement of their performance. The data includes heart rate and, says Weinstein, heart rate recovery. The platform also stores their data, allowing athletes and trainers to see their current activity relative to their past performance and relative to others in the room. The data are calibrated to take into account others’ fitness level. According to Weinstein, this calibration levels the playing field. In other words, a long-time couch potato can, with the re-calibrated data, take on the triathlete three Fitwalls down. Once the workout is done, the trainer reviews the results with the group, and then everyone gets a shot of cold coconut water and a chilled towel infused with lavender and mint.
In an interview with CNet’s Jennifer Van Grove, Weinstein said he wanted visitors to have the same feeling about the Fitwall space as they would an Apple store. And like Apple products, the experience doesn’t come cheap. A company spokesperson said via e-mail that packages “differ by market” and are “typically” between $100 and $300 a month. So, that means it could be more. And don’t bother showing up to the club with cash — it’s a cashless environment. Athletes’ credit card information is stored on a third-party server, and the front-desk check-in consists of an iPad, where the athlete’s data are stored. Instead of a front desk, says Weinstein, there’s a “hang out area.” In other words, this is not supposed to be your average, crowded, sweaty and, for some, intimidating gym experience — as if the price point and scented, chilled towels wasn’t enough of a hint.
“We have invested heavily in technology that transform this from a simple workout into a results-driven experience that is fully immersive,” Weinstein said.
The company plans to open locations on the east coast in 2014, starting with a studio in New York. The wall, which, according to a spokesperson, would retail for anywhere between $3,000 and $6,000 a pop, is not sold to individuals and is available only to a select clientele, such as professional sports teams, educational athletic departments, and military/special forces. Weinstein said the company currently is working with the Pittsburgh Steelers’ trainers as well as Olympic and elite-law-enforcement training centers.
So, this may be the future of fitness for some but not all — at least not yet.