GroupFitPower has been honored to share the insights of a very talented and very successful fitness blogger and presenter with you in the past. She has provided a wealth of advice to us and we are thankful she let us pick her brain for this interview. Many thanks to Biray for taking time to answer some questions about who she is and what she does.
First, a little about Biray. Biray is the owner of Fitmaxx Institute (FMI), a fitness presenter, an author and blogger on Be Fit With Biray. As the Chief Innovative Officer of FMI, Biray leverages social media & technology to help devise a responsible, transparent, impactful, measurable company strategy. She is also the Director of Programming; her goal is to ensure that all workshops & courses offered at the institute are timely and cutting-edge. Teaching health and fitness professionals how to effectively integrate fitness and interactive technologies together in their services, products, and education has become her passion.
GFP: Tell us a little about how you got started in the fitness industry and how you became specialized in technology as it pertains to fitness.
Biray: My first exposure to group exercise was back in the 80’s when my mom took me to a jazzercise class. Since I was heavily into dance at the time, I suppose she thought I would enjoy it. I must admit, I did not quite ‘get’ the concept of group exercise and felt completely out of my element (not to mention, I was the only one there under the age of 30). Unfortunately, I never went back.
It wasn’t until my undergrad (having abandoned all hopes of a dance career and after gaining the infamous ‘Freshman 15’) that I started going to the campus rec center. When I saw fellow students teaching aerobics (essentially, getting paid to exercise), I immediately got certified and began choreographing my first step class. That was over a decade ago and the rest is history…
I first started relating technology to fitness when I studied video games in grad school. In looking at the cardiovascular responses of physically demanding video games (DDR, EyeToy: Kinetic – the Wii hadn’t come out then), I realized the potential of using interactive technologies to bring exercise to an untapped audience.
GFP: You have a lot to say about how technology and fitness intersect on your blog. What is your main message and to whom are you speaking?
Biray: My main message is simple: Embrace interactive technologies (web, mobile devices, exergames) and use it to enhance your professional efforts. The audience: health, fitness and wellness professionals.
GFP: We are a wildly technological society.
Biray: It certainly seems so!
GFP: What impact has technology made on the fitness industry, specifically group fitness?
Biray: If by technology you mean this current wave of web 2.0, social media tools (such as, blogging, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, podcasting, etc.) then I think blogging has had the most successful adoption rate by fitness professionals. Blogs are allowing instructors and trainers to connect with clients and gym members in ways that seem more relevant and timely. Blogs, collectively, are also anchoring our presence online and giving voice to our industry (as well as, to individuals). In terms of group fitness instructors, many have adopted blogs as a way to showcase their choreography, journal their professional experiences, network with other instructors, and extend conversations with participants beyond the gym.
GFP: What do you find to be the most underutilized tool currently available to group fitness instructors?
Biray: The answer isn’t in what digital tools group fitness instructors are or are not using. It’s in how they are (not) using them. Outside of its networking and marketing applications, it would be nice to see group fitness instructors leverage these tools to their fullest potential. For instance, non-profit organizations are combining the resources of the web to create educated messages, fuel voices behind issues, and gain universal support for their causes. (Imagine if instructors were to unite online and create a movement that demanded better opportunities and higher wages for their services?) The resources online are making it possible for people to create positive impacts. The question should be – what impact do group fitness instructors want to continue to make in this industry? (Then select the tool that best suits these initiatives.)
GFP: What are some practical ways group fitness instructors can enhance their skills and/or improve the experiences of their students via the tools you discuss on your blog?
Biray: One of the strengths in group exercise is the camaraderie we build in the aerobics room. Relationships are formed and a community is born. What keeps members engaged and coming back week after week is this sense of belonging. I think we can extend that experience into the online world. Whether it be in a Facebook group, a fitness podcast or an aerobics blog, these can help in targeting newer participants and retaining those members who irregularly attend our classes.
GFP: You mention in your biography that you “often wonder where the disconnect between ‘wanting to live well’ and actually ‘living well’ comes from.” What have you discovered and how can we better serve others who experience this disconnect?
Biray: For decades, fitness professionals have been trying to figure out how to get people to be more active (especially when we know it has many benefits). We have many health behavior change theories giving us insight into the psychology of this disconnect. And we have rich examples of interventions that encourage active lifestyles. But the fact remains that 76% of the U.S. population still does not get adequate activity throughout the day (25% of whom remain sedentary). Yikes!
What I’ve learned is that no one can really ever know why these ‘disconnects’ occur in other people (after all, humans are very complicated beings, right?). But we can design programs that positively impact the handful of folks we are fortunate to work with (whether that means using technology or not). People respond to different programs.
However, I have noticed a few trends while learning about these technologies and meeting techies and gamers outside the health/fitness industry. There seems to be direct correlations between media screen time (computer use, video game play, etc.) and sedentarism. And with the growing population of digital immigrants (and digital natives), this may be the reason why I’ve been so interested in trying to understand the sedentary, tech-savvy audience. I hope to effectively design and support programs and experiences that will motivate them to being more active!
Check out Biray’s other posts here at groupfitpower:
- Music Outside the Jukebox
- From Great to Extra-Ordinary!
- Motivating the Fitness Newbie
- Guerilla Group Ex: Taking Your Classes to the Streets