Italy’s role at the forefront of the fashion world is well known but in fitness, too, the country has long been firmly on trend.
Since 1983, Technogym has been revolutionising the environment in which people work out – stamping Italian style across gyms around the globe. First came the transformation of imposing steel structures into sleek, modern designs – before technological innovation became a guiding principle.
And having established a reputation for excellence in the field of fitness over the past three decades, Technogym’s position as a market leader has manifested itself in Rio de Janeiro this month, with Olympic athletes relying on the company’s cutting edge equipment to enhance performance.
Technogym is the official supplier for the games – for the sixth successive Olympics – and has kitted out gyms in the athletes’ village and at Rio 2016’s venues. Many of those going for gold in Rio are already familiar with Technogym as its gadgets and gizmos are key training tools for coaches and athletes alike.
“We have built 15 gyms in Rio and are providing equipment, digital support and trainers to help the athletes and their teams,” Technogym’s UAE managing director Michele Moro explains.
“It’s about helping athletes complete the last steps of the preparation, to manage the stresses associated with competition. It is the sixth time in a row we have been involved in the Olympics and is another wonderful opportunity, as well as being a big responsibility.
“The expectations of those athletes are getting higher and higher; there are thousands of people working day and night – sometimes just for 10 seconds that can change their lives or for one game. This means we need to be perfect, to have perfect equipment and provide perfect support for these men and women chasing their dreams.”
Preparation is everything for athletes and Technogym certainly views the four years between the games as important as the three weeks that make up the Olympics.
“It is in those four years that we develop the relationship and the trust, as well as through the previous editions,” Mori says. “So we need to be ready, provide what they need, be there and make sure that everybody will be focused on the objectives that many have been working their whole lives towards.
“We work shoulder to shoulder with the athletes – we see what they do, and try to get feedback to see what is next because in four years there will be another event.”
Helping athletes go ‘Stronger, Higher and Faster’ – as Pierre de Coubertin’s Olympic motto famously states – is a central tenet of Technogym’s philosophy. But there is no question that, from a financial perspective, the mass market of amateur fitness fanatics is more crucial to the company’s ongoing success.
We can’t have Olympic athletes everywhere but you can have a life objective, the gold medal you will personally be chasing. It is no less important.
So are its products built for the elite, trickling down to the grassroots? Or is it an amateurs-first approach?
“Often it is the same product, whatever the level,” Mori says. “At the least it is the same family of product, with slight variations. There is of course a wide gap between amateurs and elite athletes but Technogym’s aim is to accommodate as many people as possible.
“Events like the Olympics are designed to inspire, to encourage people to do what athletes do. Obviously we cannot have Olympic athletes everywhere, but you can have a life objective, the gold medal you will personally be chasing. It’s no less important.
“Of course there is certain equipment made for Olympic athletes that aren’t as helpful for beginners but typically, what we try to develop solutions that appeal to a cross-section of society.
“We recently brought the Skillmill to market, for example, which is a typical example of our mass market appeal. It is perfect for high intensity training, and can be used by anyone from rugby players to burgeoning cross-fitters.”
One of the key players in dragging gym-based exercise into the mainstream, it is a legacy of which the Italian fitness giants are particularly proud.
“Historically, most gym equipment looked like medieval torture devices. Gyms were intimidating places. But we introduced the Italian style and design to make the experience more enjoyable for a regular person. We wanted to attract new people to the gym and to change their lifestyle, that’s why we created more sports-orientated equipment. Suddenly it wasn’t just all about dumbbells anymore.
“Now the fitness industry has exploded. I like to use a restaurant analogy. There are hundreds of different formats of restaurants – fine dining, buffet, fast food and then sub-categorised into Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Lebanese and Indian. The fitness industry can be the same, there is so much choice now. Something for everyone.”
- 35 million people regularly use Technogym equipment
- The company is present in 100 countries
- 200k private homes have Technogym equipment
- Technogym has 300 patents
The digital revolution has brought with it new challenges, notably greater competition and an increasingly saturated marketplace. But Mori says the industry changes have been wholeheartedly embraced.
“Remember that technology, design and innovation are part of our DNA. Previously we were perhaps a little too out there, too ahead of the curve but now the fitness industry is moving so fast – we are at the heart of that.
“This gives us excitement and motivation. Developments like the app have been great because it helps the users and the operator to know more about needs. What is our base? What is our goal? The key to the success of any company is knowing about your clients, whether you deal in credit cards or fitness equipment.
“We are in a service and experience industry and I think in the app we have a beautiful tool, an opportunity to engage and excite more people and at the end of the day a healthier community.”
Here in the UAE, Technogym has had a presence since the mid-nineties, kitting out some of the country’s most luxurious facilities, including those at the Burj al Arab and Emirates Palace.
The fitness boom in the Gulf certainly shows no signs of abating and that is music to the ears of Mori and Technogym.
“The trends are always changing and we need to be on top of those, providing appropriate solutions. Classes have become really popular but still we are seeing a desire for people to make their fitness experience more intimate. So we’re talking about smaller classes or personal training, which have more interaction.
“Maybe you want to go into weights then you want to go into cross-fit; maybe then you will say that because everybody is trying to run a marathon I want to run a marathon or do a triathlon.
“The gym as we know it has changed beyond recognition. Now, the solutions are in our home, on the cloud.
“Fitness is now just one component now to be honest. In reality, it is broader and wider. That’s why we consider ourselves to be a wellness provider now.”
In terms of figures and reputation, the Italian fitness giants appear to be a picture of good health at present. Add a few Technogym-inspired gold medals in Rio to the equation and their rivals will not be able to hold a torch to them.
THREE KEY TECHNOGYM INNOVATIONS
First Generation Gym Equipment
“Arguably our most important contribution was the way we designed gym equipment at the very start. We made it look appealing, non-intimidating and sexy. We played a key role in making gyms are more welcoming place for people of all abilities. The equipment was, and still is, easy to use and makes the experience of training a smooth and enjoyable one.”
My Wellness Cloud App
“In this world of physicality and fitness, it is amazing that our most important development is not something that you can actually touch. The cloud infrastructure means that all devices and equipment are inter-connected. The interface is on whatever device you happen to be using and you can train for a marathon, set your goals. It really is totally personalised to reflect your own parameters.”
“A new innovation, it is a complete workout and is at the heart of our Olympic gyms. I can work on speed, stamina, strength and power and it is connected with the app, too. I can use it by myself or as part of a class, which is why it is probably our hottest product right now.”