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Tue 18 Sep 2007 04:00 AM

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A star-studded workout

Madonna is a fan of Technogym, Man U uses Flexi Bar - how future gym equipment is shaped by today's celebs.

The latest celebrity fads appear to be having a knock-on effect on what equipment hotels are choosing for gyms and wellness centres, as pop stars and sports professionals endorse product lines, adopt a new diet plan or embark on a unique keep fit regime.

Many stars adopt a hardcore fitness routine to ensure that they stay in tip-top shape, and with the world watching it is little surprise that the equipment and workout regimes followed by superstars such as Madonna or big name sporting identities such as Ferrari or Manchester United, are having an impact on the purchasing decisions of leisure managers wanting to provide a celebrity workout experience for guests.

It is little surprise that the equipment and workout regimes followed by superstars are having an impact on the purchasing decisions of leisure managers.

Gwyneth Paltrow favours yoga and a macrobiotic diet, Jessica Simpson uses a stability ball to keep her legs and bum in shape, while Madonna keeps in good shape with Ashtanga Yoga, as well as cycling, horse riding and a regular workout with Technogym's Kinesis and Wave equipment.

Pit stop power

Ferrari is known the world over for fast cars, but ensuring Grand Prix success often depends on having a fast pit crew. Being able to react in a second, go from inactivity to sudden bursts of energy, and endure the extreme heat and cold that can sometimes be involved in a pit stop requires high levels of fitness.

Ferrari has teamed up with Technogym to improve its performance at the side of the track. Ferrari, in association with Technogym, now offers employees a wellness project at its purpose built, state-of-the-art gym within the Fiorano practice circuit, equipped with the new Selection line machines and the Wellness System from Technogym. The company has also designed a special fitness equipment unit for Michael Schumacher to strengthen his neck muscles.

Technogym's podium-finish partnerships do not end there. Footballer Michael Owen co-launched a new health and wellbeing clinic in Bridge Trafford, near Chester, UK with Technogym as partners earlier this year. Designed by Michael's sister, Leslie Owen, the 10Bridge Clinic opened in March, and offers a range of clinical, holistic and complementary care.

"After the recent appointment as official and exclusive supplier of the Olympic Games Beijing 2008, Technogym is once again proud to be affiliated with celebrity launched high-end projects such as the 10Bridge Clinic in the UK," explains Michele Moro, export area manager, Middle East and India, Technogym. "The clinic is equipped with state- of-the-art Excite Cardio equipment in the rehab version, and also Kinesis Personal which is used both for specific rehab programmes and for the mind and body programmes."

The clinic has been set up by the England international and Newcastle player, along with his sister Leslie Owen and her partner, Rotherham FC midfielder Richie Partridge, and the former Liverpool FC physiotherapist Mark Browes.

"Leslie Owen will also be designing a footballer's home in Dubai and will be promoting the Personal Kinesis from Technogym range. Wellness solutions and optimum quality are ideals which Technogym continues to spread world wide," Moro said.

Technogym also played an instrumental part in Alinghi, Luna Rossa and Mascalzone Latino's preparation for the America's Cup, the sailing world's most prestigious competition.

All three teams trained using fitness spaces kitted out in Technogym units at their bases. More than 200 pieces of equipment were chosen for the teams' specific needs. Hundreds of exercises using the concept's full-gravity technology increased stability and flexibility of the athletes.

Madonna is another Technogym fan, and reportedly sent a thank you note to the company for the invention of the ‘Wave'; apparently it works wonders for her bum.

"Top sports team and events have always been our main focus to present and promote our quality, technical features, performance, medical and scientific research, and reliability, and have been a major role in positioning Technogym as the top brand in B2B," says Moro.

"Being chosen by top lifestyle and fashion brands, and persons [like Madonna] is also playing an important role in promoting not only Technogym as a company, but also Technogym as The Wellness Company," he adds.
Footy favourites

Raymond Sport is enjoying success with the new Flexi Bar system, favoured by football teams the world over. Manchester United, Bayern Munich and the German national team, are among the sporting professionals now using Flexi Bar.

"Having the backing and support of athletic teams makes a big difference in promoting the brand," says Kenny Hoellman, brand manager and master trainer, Raymond Sport.

Lance armstrong, tiger woods, tom cruise, clint eastwood and nicole kidman all favour star trac’s cv and strength lines.

"When the consumer sees an athlete use a product or support it, this automatically creates credibility for the brand."

Developed in Germany, the Flexi Bar was originally used by physiotherapists as a rehabilitation tool. However, with international sporting teams now using the unit, the company has rolled it out to the general public.

Flexi Bar is a flexible bar with balancing weights either end. The bar is shaken, which disrupts the core muscles that run the length of the spine, making the muscles in the back and abdominals work. This simple piece of core training equipment has proved so popular that the company has since developed Flexi Bar for Kids and the Flexi Bar Athletic.

"The desire for having a healthy and active lifestyle is on the rise all over the world. The steady rise in the need to be and feel fit has created great demand for fitness products. This in turn has a positive effect on any business, including ours, which provides quality fitness products," Hoellman says.

Raymond Sport is also seeing success with its elliptical cross-training units.

"Hotels have finally realised that elliptical crosstraining is the new running and these elliptical crosstraining machines are now the most popular pieces of cardio vascular training equipment in the gym," Hoellman adds.

"They have also realised that guests training in the hotel gym are a captive audience and are tailoring their entertainment/infotainment offering to their guests, and stimulating secondary spending within the hotel. They are able to do this using the innovative Cardio Theater and ClubCOM in-gym entertainment systems our company offers," Hoellman says.

Cybex hospitality

Cybex's exercise equipment is also a popular choice with sports professionals. A number of football teams, Olympic athletes and sports teams favour the US brand. The UK's exclusive Champneys hotel and spa chain has also decided to go with Cybex equipment in all its gyms, lending further endorsement to the brand.

"We have a very prestigious list of top corporations who have selected Cybex for their corporate gyms. This continues to be a huge growth market," admits John Young, senior vice president, international sales, Cybex International.

"All the sports teams, Olympic athletes and training centres that use Cybex do so because they themselves selected Cybex. We spend our money on R&D to ensure our products are functionally effective, providing the maximal training effect on the muscles without placing unnecessary stress on the joints," he says.

Cybex launched a dedicated hospitality division in February. The new division aims to position Cybex as a contender in the hospitality market for premium strength and cardio vascular equipment.
With the launch of products such as the LCX-425T treadmill and 425A Arc Trainer, Cybex is equipped to be a strong competitor in the hospitality market and says it will continue to create and package equipment solutions tailored for the hotel industry.

The Cybex product line includes a full range of both strength training and cardio training machines. Products and programmes are designed and engineered to reflect the natural movement of the human body, assisting each unique user - from the professional athlete to the first-time exerciser - to improve daily human performance.

Racing ahead

Cardio vascular and strength equipment specialist Star Trac also boasts a long list of celebrity consumers. Seven time winner of the Tour De France, Lance Armstrong; number one golfer, Tiger Woods, and movie stars Tom Cruise, Clint Eastwood and Nicole Kidman all favour Star Trac's CV and strength lines.

Stephen Jones, business development manager Asia and the Middle East, Star Trac Fitness Asia, says having such well known customers adds "a little extra pizzazz and credibility for a customer when choosing equipment."

"We are 99% B2B, however, the global increased awareness in living healthily is obviously fuelling the growth of wellness and fitness facilities worldwide, which is good for all," Jones says.

Star Trac has recently launched a range of pinless weight training systems. The Star Trac Impact strength line incorporates a new ‘LockNLoad' feature, an intuitive new weight stack engagement mechanism aimed at eliminating confusion, maintenance hassles and liability often associated with traditional weight stack selection pins. With one touch, users simply move the switch from the off to on position, and the desired weight is selected.

"Despite our industry's never-ending focus on improving biomechanics, ergonomics and product design in the strength equipment category, the basic weight stack and pin selection system has been largely ignored," says Jeff Dilts, product manager for commercial strength, Star Trac.

"Much like our cardio equipment displays, the user interface for strength training is just as integral to providing an intuitive user workout experience. With the introduction of LockNLoad, that interface has now been dramatically improved - thereby providing an array of benefits to the user and facility operator.

Silver screen

Star spotting looks set to continue as a future gym trend, with fitness fanatics preferring to watch their heroes on the silver screen rather than sweating it out beside them. Entertainment modules continue to be a hit with equipment users and developers.

"Personal entertainment solutions are a must for five-star hotels," says Cybex's Young.

The new Legacy 750T treadmill from Cybex is just one of many lines from the company to incorporate an entertainment module. The units are available with integrated Cybex personal entertainment monitors and come with handset controls.

Similarly, embedded TV screens, connectivity to personal media devices and vibration technology are all trends Star Trac's Jones sees continuing.

Star Trac introduced a new interactive cardio line earlier this year. The new E Series line of CV fitness equipment features a 15-inch personal viewing screen, iPod connectivity, composite audio/video inputs, and USB charging stations.

The E Series line includes total body trainers, treadmills, steppers, recumbent bikes and upright bikes.

Celebrity and professional athlete endorsements are certainly moulding the gym equipment of the future. However, not all celebrity workouts are making it into the mix. More bizarre showbiz favourites include Angelina Jolie's penchant for bungee ballet - but this is not something we expect to see in a Middle East hotel any time soon.

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