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FITNESS APPS: Tinder for fitness? We've got an app for that

Described in jest as dating apps for gyms, gym buddy apps – which help you find the perfect workout partner – have burst onto the scene. Kath Hudson reports

by Kath Hudson | Published in Health Club Management 2016 issue 6
Is an app the key to connecting your members socially? / PHOTOS: SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
Is an app the key to connecting your members socially?/ PHOTOS: SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

Members who make a friend at the gym are 40 per cent less likely to cancel their membership – this according to The Retention People’s TRP 10,000 report, the biggest and most comprehensive survey of member behaviour ever completed.

In this ongoing survey, the lowest levels of cancellation are being seen among members who report having made friends at the gym in the last three months, irrespective of whether this was one of their stated motives for exercising in the first place.

But whereas team sports naturally engender a social atmosphere and make friend-making easy, it’s less natural to strike up a friendship with a stranger on the treadmill next to you. Nevertheless, people do want a social experience at the gym, and in the past year a number of entrepreneurs have recognised this, creating internet dating-style apps for people looking for friends with similar workout habits.

Mark Spuy, co-founder of GymPal, says he noticed members looking lost when they had incompatible fitness partners – or indeed nobody to work out with at all. He therefore set out to create a way of teaming people up with suitable fitness friends. “By offering users the chance to find someone to exercise with, we’re providing a fitness social network that actually makes a difference to people’s lives,” he explains.

But while internet dating has been a huge success, do we need this sort of approach to make friends? Grant Hilton, founder of GymComrade, believes so: “People are reluctant to approach others in a gym environment: some are too afraid to ask for help and some just need a simple tool/app to make the initial introduction.”

Fitssi CEO Emily Stephens believes these apps could be transformative in creating social networks for exercising – a support structure she believes will be particularly relevant for women: “It provides them with a friendly environment to arrange meet-ups, and to find a strong source of support and engagement to stay active. But guys are of course welcome too!”

There’s been a rush of these gym buddy apps recently, with a number – all offering similar functionality – launching within a few months of each other. It will be interesting to see if the trend will take off and which apps will thrive. Whatever happens, one thing operators should take from this trend is that members have the appetite to make friends and be sociable at the gym. Any moves to foster this would be welcomed.

FITSSI

Originally launched in the UK in April 2015, the new improved version of Fitssi launched last December. With users now in the thousands, co-founder Chris Sweeney – a personal trainer – is setting his sights on the US market, and is currently looking for brand partnerships and ambassadors.

Fitssi is aiming to raise £150,000 in seed funding and Sweeney says the impending monetisation of the app – by adding an ‘Uber for PTs’ type function – will significantly increase its chances.

According to Sweeney, Fitssi’s USP is that it allows people to post messages and photos, and the friendship searches are very targeted. The next market on the hit list after the US is Australia.

GYM COMRADE

Gym Comrade helps people find like-minded friends to train with and offers easy communication to arrange workout times. Free to download, it has so far gained 1,700 users in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand with minimal advertising or promotion. More countries will be added in the coming months, with a goal of at least 10,000 users by the end of 2016.

GYMBUDDIESAPP

Described as a social networking platform for gym junkies, this app also helps people find others with similar workout habits and ability levels. Launched last July, the app allows people to set up routines and exercises and can record weights and reps. It also uses charting and visualisation tools to view data, so users can keep track of progress and identify areas for improvement.

GYMPAL

GymPal enables users to look up nutritionists, dieticians, PTs and fitness instructors in their area, as well as find a suitable training partner, new gyms or exercise classes and look up specialist food and supplement stores. 

Free to download, the app is set to make money by monetising advice from personal trainers, fitness instructors and nutritionists who provide their services through the app.

There are currently 1,500 members of GymPal worldwide, with the app also allowing users to send instant messages, videos and photos to each other.

The GymPal team is currently working on developing new functionality to allow users to interact directly with gyms and personal trainers via the app.

SPORTSBUDDY

“Our mission is to connect people through sports,” claims the team behind SportsBuddy. The app extends beyond the health and fitness club to encompass running, tennis, yoga and other sports. It also helps people discover venues, review matches and create events.

SWEATT

This app has been described as ‘Tinder for people in really good shape’. The founders say they created Sweatt because: “We believe that great dates and great relationships start with strong, motivated, confident people.”

Users are asked to provide information of their preferred method of working out, how many times a week they go to the gym, which diet they follow, their favourite workout and favourite time to work out. This is coupled with large photos

WELLSQUAD

WellSquad pairs people with partners who have compatible fitness goals, favourite activities, motivation levels and geographical location. The founders are aiming to create a fitness community similar to what Strava has achieved within the running and cycling arena.

The app is free to download and use, but is monetised through its WellSquad Squad Leaders functionality: PTs, fitness instructors and dieticians who deliver classes and personal guidance through the app. Users get an initial phone assessment, plus unlimited in-app messaging.

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