Before I sit in the padded chair of the so-called “Smartrainer” at Koko FitClub in Fort Collins, the slick computer screen attached to an arm on the exercise machine wants some of my stats.
Gender: Male, Age: 25, Weight: 145
The computer has my vitals and then spits out some numbers of its own. Based on my gender, age and weight, the smart trainer suggests I do eight reps of 60 pounds on the chest press, the first exercise for my strength workout.
A green light flashes on the 60-pound marker, indicating where I should move the weight. A short video shows how to adjust my seat and arm levers, and demonstrates how to properly perform the exercise. Now it is time to lift.
Wendy Newman, owner of Koko FitClub at 2519 S. Shields St., swings the computer screen in front of my face. I begin lifting, and on the screen, a pace bar tracks my progress on the lift. The objective is to keep my bar at the same pace as the computer’s, indicating the optimal pace for the exercise. I score a 90 percent for the workout.
“People say it’s kind of like playing a video game,” said Newman, a Colorado State University graduate.
Welcome to Koko FitClub, a tiny “digital gym” Newman and her husband, Mike, opened in December.
The nationwide gym franchise prides itself on data-driven fitness, not much different than the hundreds of fitness apps that track people’s exercise. With Koko, the data is built right into the Smartrainer exercise machine, which not only records workouts, but also develops the workouts, catered to members’ goals and physical abilities. Workout results are sent to the cloud, for members to view.
Workouts are designed by Koko’s chief fitness officer, Michael Wood, a nationally recognized personal trainer, and mathematical algorithms based on a member’s fitness assessment.
The Smartrainer knows 106 different strength-training exercises, and depending on the day’s scheduled workout, runs a member through several exercises during a high-intensity 30-minute program. As a person gains strength, the Smartrainer adjusts the workouts; same if the person isn’t seeing immediate results.
Basically, the Smartrainer takes the place of a real-life personal trainer — without the $50- to $150-an-hour cost.
“People are busy. They want to go to the gym and do a quick, mindless workout,” said Newman, who became a member of Koko while living in Northern California. “We had been on-again, off-again gym members, but a light bulb went off when my husband and I got to Koko. It was an interesting way to rethink exercise. The exercises are the same, the delivery is just smarter.”
At Koko, a member’s every session, every rep and every set is guided by the Smartrainer and automatically tracked on MyKokoFitClub.com, a member’s own data-rich website. A member can review their exercise history, get a preview of their next workout and access their own personal nutritional plan on the web or on their smartphone. All members are given a 24-hour access key and a USB stick that contains their workout data.
Memberships at Koko Fitclub in Fort Collins start at $49.99. The small gym, located in the Raintree Village shopping center, has about 100 members, Newman said. The gym has five Smartrainers and four Koko Cardio 2.0 machines.
Wendy and Mike plan to open their second Koko Fitclub June 18 in south Fort Collins in the same building with Peloton Cycles, 3027 E. Harmony Road. That gym is expected to gain 450 to 500 members.
Fort Collins resident Alexandra Steeley has been a Koko member since April, after bouncing around several area gyms. Fairly new to fitness, Steeley, 41, has for years mainly stuck to the cardio machines for her workouts. She’d spend hours in the gym, but wasn’t seeing results in her fitness or physique.
“Looking back, I’d be in the gym for so long, but now I have no idea what I was doing in there,” said Steeley, who was diagnosed with diabetes 11 years ago. “People told me I needed to incorporate strength training into my workouts, but I always felt intimidated in the gym. I didn’t want to look stupid messing around the weights, or have to find someone to adjust a machine.”
Koko’s strength workouts take 30 minutes, and cardio workouts are 15 minutes of high-intensity interval training. The Koko Cardio 2.0 machines are synced with audio instructions and encouragement from Wood and offer aesthetically pleasing screens, like a beach or mountain trail setting. A person on a stair machine can replicate a workout like the Empire State Building stair climb.
On Friday morning, several women huffed and puffed on the cardio machines as Koko trainer Ainslie MacEachran offered enthusiastic words. The gym has several staffed trainers, so people can still get that one-on-one human interaction training, if they so please.
On my next exercise — seated bicep curls — I score a 93 percent. For the 10 minute-workout, I earn 160 “Koko points.”
Koko points are awarded for how well a member completes the prescribed Smartrainer workout. A data dashboard in the back of the gym displays members’ stats, like Koko points, total weight lifted and total miles ran. Perfect workouts (100 percent score for pace) are celebrated by the entire gym, and members earn different colored lanyards based on the number of Koko points and consecutive workouts.
The data display is all part of motivating gym members — to offer some good-natured competition — and to create a sense of community among the “Koko family.”
“You go in there and since it’s so small, you say hello to other people and it becomes more of a family environment. You see all different sizes and shapes of people and, really, they’re just like you, they’re just trying to figure it all out,” said Steeley, who works out with her friend, Kristi Esslinger. “It’s all about feeling more confident about yourself.”
Follow Xplore reporter Stephen Meyers on Twitter @stemeyer or Facebook.com/meyersreports.
What is it: A digital gym in Fort Collins, open since December. The gym uses Smartrainer technology to develop and track workouts for members. At Koko, a member’s every session, every rep and every set is guided by the Smartrainer and automatically tracked on MyKokoFitClub.com, a member’s own, data-rich website.
Where is it: In the Raintree Village shopping center, 2519 S. Shields St. A second location will open June 18 in south Fort Collins in the Peloton Cycling building, 3027 E. Harmony Road.
Cost: Memberships start at $49.99. Information: www.kokofitclubfc.com or (970) 658-9882
This post was written by Stephen Meyers of The Coloradoan.
For additional information on the Koko FitClub franchise visit their corporate website.