The natural way to work out?

A diverse fitness market has diverse needs in terms of equipment as well as training methods.

The terms fitness, wellness and health have become quite the trio thesedays, being used synonymously and interchangeably. And rightly so in many cases.

The maturation and evolution of the fitness industry have also led to diversification and fragmentation, meaning that there is no ‘one fitness fits all’. And in addition to having different concepts of what fitness, wellness and health are, we also all have different approaches to achieving our goals. With around 3,500 fitness facilities in Australia, it’s clear that there’s a club or studio to cater to all tastes, budgets and personal aims these days. Shiny metal and loud music do it for some, while others can find such ‘traditional’ resistance training environments a little intimidating. Sure, they can go to Pilates classes, but in 2015 that probably won’t cut it as the only resistance training alternative.

With terms like ‘balance’, ‘vitality’, ‘spirituality’, ‘energy’, ‘de-stress’ and ‘lifestyle’ increasingly featuring in mainstream media, as well as in our industry, the diverse aspirations of the modern marketplace are clear.

One example of this diversity is the widespread embracing of exercise rooted in other cultures. Devotees of yoga’s pure use of the body for resistance acclaim its ability to achieve intense and effective workouts via slow, low impact, fluid moves. But this purity is no longer practiced solely in Ashrams and incense-filled studios – the influence of yoga has permeated many aspects of the fitness industry, with PTs and group exercise instructors incorporating elements of the practice into warm ups, cool down and workouts.

If variety is key in today’s exercise and wellness world, then what variants are exercisers looking for? Put simply, many are seeking programs, methodologies and equipment that better reflect their own lifestyles, mindset and preferences.

With the continued growth of the mind body market, a heightened societal appreciation of natural materials and produce, and an increase in older clients and members (Boomers now make up the fastest growing member segment for many fitness facilities), more and more people are being drawn to working out in more ‘natural’ environments and with equipment based on natural materials and elements. This doesn’t mean bench pressing tree trunks though: by combining traditional exercise equipment with a more natural aesthetic, you can unite the best of both worlds.

The US-designed WaterRower rowing machine, for example, which features an ethically sourced wooden frame and unique water tank for true rowing-on-water simulation and resistance, has been gaining a steady fan base over the past 25 years. While customers can select from different types of wood to match home interiors, its most notable point of difference is its simple use of water as resistance. This natural element matches exerciser input by increasing resistance the harder the cable is pulled. Catering to all levels of fitness and experience, no settings are necessary beyond switching on the monitor and positioning your feet in the footstraps.

The German-based company Nohrd, meanwhile, has introduced a range of products that complement the WaterRower in their use of wood and water resistance. Stand-up units, such as the SlimBeam, offer functional training in a sleek wooden casing, with a number of accessory fixtures to enable a broad variety of exercises in the smallest of spaces, making it ideal for either small studio or home use. In the case of its stall bars, the company takes this classic piece of wooden equipment and makes it its own, with add-ons like a fold-out bar or leather bench. Its Grinder upper-body training machine features multiple workouts based on the grinding movement of hoisting sails, again utilising water as a natural form of resistance. Among other equipment, kettlebells also get made over in the form of hand-stitched leather pellet-filled Swing bells, which, as well as being aesthetically pleasing, are designed to provide extra movement within each exercise, resulting in stimuli for the connective tissue. Put it this way: if you know someone who invests in their fitness and wellbeing, but that you could never envisage ‘pumping iron’, this is the sort of equipment that may well appeal to them.

A diverse market has diverse needs. While many will continue to be drawn to traditional style equipment, there is also a demand in 2015 for fitness tools that are both effective and more natural in style.


Bonnie Kuprecht is head of marketing for WaterRower Germany. In her two decades with the company she has seen the growth of the brand from its beginnings to its current dominance as the number one rower in Europe. The Nohrd brand was introduced to complement the WaterRower range and to offer a more natural way of training. waterrower.com.au