Keeping fit the high tech way
Workout overcomes four obstacles
Alyson Griffin wasn't looking for a gym. She just planned to accompany her mom last summer to Koko FitClub, at her request, to give her advice.
"I did not intend to join," Griffin recalled. "I was just going to help her make sure she didn't make a foolish decision about joining a gym."
Griffin, 41, who is director of marketing at Hewlett-Packard, has used personal trainers through the years, was running regularly and working out with fitness tapes. Despite her fulltime job and two children, 9 and 11, she kept herself in good shape.
"I was thinking that anything that would appeal to mom wouldn't appeal to me," she said. "I was shocked it was so focused on strength training and cardio.
"I thought, 'Wow, this seems pretty great. I was so impressed that I called my husband."
They -- and her mother -- were among the first to join the new fitness club in Dublin.
The hi-tech approach provides the perfect workout for all abilities, ages and goals, said co-owners Paul Chopra and Aman Sandhu.
"We offer personal training using technology," explained Chopra. "It uses software technology to select a workout for each individual."
Koko was designed to deal with the four reasons most people don't exercise: a workout takes too much time; they're not sure what to do; a personal trainer is expensive; and they aren't motivated because their workouts become boring.
Members have their own keys that they plug into the Smartrainer, which offers negative and positive resistance, to access a personalized workout designed just for them for that day. It takes into account their basic data, condition and goals and what they did at their last workout. Every session is different.
Goals might include losing weight, getting fit and flexible, toning up for better definition, muscle building or sports conditioning. The program also can factor in specific health conditions, such as back problems or cancer survivors.
"The system knows your baseline goals and, using that, devices a 30-minute system," Chopra explained, "selecting exercises, pacing, to try to make it efficient and effective. It keeps the workout entertaining and interesting."
While a person works out, the program records the range of motion and strength level, interacting with the user, with a screen communicating if an exercise needs to be done differently for optimal effect. It also tracks the person's results.
The club also has treadmills and elliptical trainers for clients to add 15 minutes of cardio to their workouts. These machines also communicate with their users to make the exercise instructive and vary the workout every one to two minutes.
"It's a total schedule of 45 minutes," said Chopra. "Three times a week is the basic requirement for meeting goals."
At the end of each workout, people plug their keys into a computer that transfers their information to the Koko website. Then they can log onto their own computers to review their personal information. It also gives advice on health and nutrition.
"What I really love is that it's personalized for me and for my husband," Griffin said. "He's a strong muscley guy; I'm in good physical shape and play softball so I use the sports training."
The workout for her mother, in her late 60s, makes sure that all her muscles are being used.
"She's felt definitely peppier and happier now that she's doing something about her fitness later in life," Griffin said.
Griffin has had a 50% increase in her strength since joining last summer. Since she pushed herself harder than scheduled, the program adjusted and gave her a more challenging workout.
The club also offers fun incentives to exercise. Members wear their keys on lanyards that are colored according to the workout progress. The owners also publish weekly results, equating distances walked on the treadmills to real journeys: "So and so walked to Gilroy!" it might say.
If they have a "perfect" workout they are given a T-shirt saying so, plus the treadmills and elliptical trainers make a clapping sound.
"Last month the top eight people in cardio got free entry into the St. Patrick's Day race," Griffin said. "That pushed me to go more often and just a little longer in the cardio."
Sandhu was a product development scientist, and he had owned five Subway franchises. Chopra was vice president of finance for a startup company.
"I wanted more job satisfaction," said Sandhu. "Here I'm going to be changing someone's life, everyday."
He and Chopra plan to open another Koko FitClub in Dublin, plus others in Pleasanton, Livermore and Tracy by the end of 2013. Membership at each is limited, and the current club is at 80% capacity. The club is open 24/7 and staffed weekdays and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday.
"There's positive energy in a health club," Sandhu said.
For more information, go to www.Dublin.kokofitclub.com.