By Terry Trucco
What’s the first word that leaps to mind when you think of treadmills or elliptical machines?
Entertaining isn’t my first choice, either. But a new generation of screens being rolled out at top-flight hotels hints that Get Me Off Of This Thing doesn’t have to be the auto-pilot mantra when you climb onto a cardio machine.
The new touch screens from Matrix Fitness have more in common with an iPhone than an old-style fitness apparatus. Touch the screen – 17 inches on treadmills, 15 inches on elliptical machines – and you can access your Facebook page, Twitter account or on-demand videos or TV.
But what got my blood pumping when I saw a mock-up screen at a recent International Spa Association press event was the interactive workout. Some 200 trails around the world were filmed, from Yoho National Park’s Iceline Trail in British Columbia to the Coastal Trail in California’s Redwood State Park. Choose the one you want, program the machine, then start running. When you hit a hill, the device elevates. You see the sights – dirt trails, ocean views, grassy fields, cloudless blue skies. And while you won’t feel the breeze, you never have to run in the rain.
Launched four months ago, the screens will appear in hotels as old machines age out (fitness equipment at high end hotels has a four-year life cycle, says Doug Marquette, who heads Lifestyle Market Development at Matrix). In New York look for them at the much-discussed Four Seasons Downtown, set to open sometime between 2014 and 2016. Matrix also supplies equipment to Ritz Carlton and Marriott properties, among others.
The super-smart cardio machines track usage by the hour, allowing hotels to bring in the cleaning staff when the equipment is least likely to have someone pumping it. The software also records how frequently each machine is used. “The treadmill closest to the door is always the most used,” Marquette says.
Funny, that’s the one I never want to use.