Armed with smartphones, tablets and wearables sporting processors that rival the processor in a laptop, we have the capacity to be pinged almost anywhere we go. Gone are the days of being “off the grid” for classes or one-on-one sessions. So, how does all this access affect our exercise?
We reached out to one-on-one and group practitioners worldwide, including PTontheNet site visitors, to weigh in on whether today’s technology is boosting performance or dragging the training experience down.
- Compare the types of engagement with technology and their usage as reported by colleagues.
- Consider where technology may be useful or a distraction during workouts.
- Utilize phrasing, actions, or policy for managing policy engagement to enhance workout experience.
The Poll Results
Devices on the floor…what for?
In Parts 1 & 2 of this series, we discussed the potential compromise in our abilities to concentrate and to process complex concepts that occur when we are interrupted. Since concentration and the ability to execute complex process influences our motor skill acquisition and mastery potential, we asked respondents whether it is easier or harder now versus five years ago to have a session or a class where participants do NOT check their phones. See Figure 1.
The results to that question did not come as a big surprise, but the next response we received was unexpected. When asked about clients or members talking on the phone during a session/class/on gym floor today being higher today or five years ago, the results were more mixed. See Figure 2.
While the majority reported a higher incidence of phone usage in sessions today versus five years ago, the number of respondents that reported that the incidence of people using their phones was less likely totaled close to 40%. Why would the incidence of device usage during a session be reported as higher today by well over 80% but phone usage during the session hover at 63%? It became clear that people are using their phones during their sessions more frequently, but not to make calls.
What role does technology play in our clients’ bigger picture? How do they engage?
Since many of the survey responders reported being engaged with their device but not on a call, we were even more curious to know which reasons people cited from their clients and members for having to use their phones during a workout. Ironically, waiting for an important call took first place by a very large margin. See Figure 3.
Next, we asked professionals what percentage of their clients/class participants engaged in the following common practices and reported device-related behaviors. See Table 1.
||Percentage of respondents who said:
|Activity to engage with their device(s):
||25% or less,of people
||76%,or more of people
|Check,device during 1on1 session/class?
|Respond to something on the device?
|Take calls no matter who it is?
|Cause disruption with device (i.e. talking too loud)
|Interact,with you re. data from wearables?
|Uses,social media during/after/in-between workouts?
Do we make it official?
Given the prevalence of devices on the floor and the potential disruption, we asked whether respondents had a specific policy or rule regarding devices and, if yes, what is the policy? See Figure 4.
While many cited no formal policy, there were often informal understandings, as was cited by one survey responder from Australia: “There’s an expectation that you won’t use [your device] unless necessary.”
Other policies centered on silencing the devices or removing them altogether:
- “No cellphone usage on or around gym floor unless you are listening to music through headphones only.”
- “Emergencies only”
- “Turn off phones.”
Some rules were specific to members/clients:
- “If you can talk you can work!”
- “Please refrain from using your phone during your session.”
- “Please be considerate and do not use your phone on the gym floor.”
- “Phone to be off or on silent throughout class.”
Another survey responder stated simply, “When I train, my clients are not allowed to have the phone with them. They either put it in their gym bag or leave it in their car,” and that professionals should, “lead by example.”
A different responder agreed with the one above: “Set the example yourself - no phone usage during sessions or out on gym floor; kindly enforce policy set forth.”
Other etiquette philosophies specific to professionals included:
- “It should be compulsory for staff to put their phones on silent mode when they are active on floor and/or in PT session.”
- “Fortunately professionals have high standards. Be a professional.”
Certain policies, such as ones refraining from the taking of photographs, reduce the risk of complaints and litigation for taking photos or videos without permission. But policy may need to account for the productive uses of device cameras to record program elements for clients.
One survey responder cited policy banning cameras from the gym floor and went on to address another behavior that had become more prevalent: “No monopolizing a bench or machine to just sit and play with phone.”
Another responder echoed the previous one’s sentiments and addressed the common objections raised around not having the phone on hand in case of an emergency: “No use of phones for any reason on the floor. Emergencies can be handled at the front desk.”
Compliance is a frequent theme in workouts and the same holds true for inspiring people to put down their phones and get with their program. We asked respondents for their favorite tactics and phrases to get people to put their devices down.
Examples of what they shared with us include:
- “We turn off our phones before the workout.”
- “I wander off, I sit down, lie down and close my eyes.”
- “Take them (clients) outside.”
- “Look at them; Ask them to talk outside; Ask them not to talk because they disturb the other participants.”
- “I just keep them moving around the bags in one place under a tarp as we work outside.”
- “Remind them it's gym time not work time, tell them to take a break. Remind them there's heavy stuff around.”
Phrases (beyond variations of the often-used, “Please move your call off the gym floor.”):
- “This is your [body’s] time.”
- “Be fully present in the moment.”
- “Every time you have a look at your phone it's equal to a Burpee.”
- “Our time together is here and now. Set aside everything else except those around you.”
- "It can wait, but your fitness can't."
Another survey responder took a lighter approach, often using one or more of these three phrases when someone is on their device during private and group sessions alike:
- “Tag me in that post!”
- “Tell mom I love her too, send last emails and tweets, then switch all devices into the OFF mode, or airplane mode if you'd like to waste your battery...”
- “Hey Doc, everything ok?”
As we shared earlier, over 40% of respondents reported not having a formal rule regarding device usage. Even without an official policy though, there is often an unspoken understanding:
- “None of my [clients] uses his/her phone during session. If it ever happens because of an important call, I don't interrupt. Because they already know not to go for a long phone call.”
- “I may be the minority but most of my clients do not pick up their phone unless [it’s] an emergency. After their workout, they are more likely to use their phone to show me something on their device and/or check to see if they got any calls/messages.”
Is age a factor?
The client bases of respondents spanned many different age ranges. See Figure 5 for the breakdown.
We reviewed the results to see if there was a correlation between age and engagement habits and again, surprisingly, there was no clear correlation. We observed reporting results that both supported and contradicted assumptions that any age is an age where technology is or isn’t being used for a particular purpose.
For example, multiple respondents who reported a majority of younger clientele stated that their clients chose to schedule using the phone or in person, while other respondents with majority of their clientele above 55 or 70 chose to use text to schedule. Of the engagement categories named in Table 1, social media interaction had the highest level of engagement across all age groups.
The landscape of technology engagement across markers like user age, gender, and other metrics, is too complex to interpret the findings as any indication that age does not enter into trends in how technology is used by clientele. However, anecdotally, some responders found trends in distraction levels and even attendance: “I find the older generations are the most focused and consistent- they rarely find excuses to not come to class whereas the younger ones tend to opt out more often!”
Hand-helds are handy after all…
Devices have become a staple in the one-on-one session relationship between sessions. Many practitioners and instructors keep in touch via social media and other messaging platforms. The biggest development is the role of devices in scheduling. The methods may vary, but devices are used for the majority of scheduling and canceling appointments.
The “other” category in Figure 6 below included methods that didn’t necessarily involve a phone, such as setting up standing appointments and scheduling/rescheduling/canceling in person or using a third-party software that many clients accessed some of the time by a desktop or laptop computer.
Interestingly too, more people were reported to prefer text to all the other options combined by a margin of 3.8%.
Parting Suggestions for Positive Impact
When asked for one suggestion that would have a positive impact on our experience working out and being around others doing the same, respondents said:
- “Silence your phone.”
- “If you need to take it go outside or hallway.”
- “Keep it short and simple.”
- “Take some time to disconnect and re-centre.”
- “This is everyone's time for THEM, let it be that way.”
- “Keep your focus on your workout and not on your phone. If your workout is ON your phone consider printing it out before your workout instead”
One survey responder summed up the roles we and technology can play in our clients’ and class participants’ experience this way: “It all depends on, how we educate [our] clients. It's completely our job to tell [our] clients about the importance of training session. [The] more we educate them more they will get engage and responsible about their session.”
In Part 5, the final article in our series, we will look at some of the exciting technological developments on the horizon.
Finally, we would like to extend our gratitude to all the professionals who took the time to fill out our survey. Your responses were very honest and gave us a clearer perspective for this series. Special thanks to (in order of appearance of their comments in this article) Andrew Ellem, Jack Potter, Elizabeth Tretina, Abhinav Tomar, Van-der Kellen Loureiro, John Bauer, Nathaniel Mosher, and Steve Feinberg for your contributions and your willingness for us to share them.
Online poll. December 12, 2016-January 11, 2017. Lifemoves Health LLC 2017.