Experiencing Enlightenment – Part 1 – In the Gym!

In order to improve my fitness and maintain a healthy lifestyle, I have recently started training again at the gym and on my last visit it suddenly struck me how much cardiovascular equipment has changed over time. Several years ago, the cardio equipment in the gym didn’t have a screen or if it did, it didn’t really show very much, was very basic and used to enter settings rather than provide visuals.

Fast forward several years and I have just realised how significantly the cardio equipment has changed.  I was slogging away on the treadmill and took a look at the various pieces of kit around me. There was a screen on every piece of cardio equipment showing a wide range of virtual terrains, games or providing guidance, encouragement and suggesting training workouts. It dawned on me that equipment providers are really trying to make gym training more engaging and distract people from the often challenging task of getting fit and some of them are doing this really well!

The Psychology of Training.

Just like learning in the business world, I think there is definitely a psychological aspect to training in the gym.  I find that it is often the mind that wants to give up before the body does.  The internal dialogue seems to go along the lines of:

  • This is starting to get too hard
  • I need to stop!
  • I’m getting bored on this treadmill
  • I’ll put this off until tomorrow
  • I don’t want to do too much and overdo it

This list made me realise that helping people both start and maintain their gym training must be a very real challenge for equipment manufacturers and it is fascinating to see how they are rising to this challenge.

What can we learn?

There is a strong parallel to the way that equipment manufacturers are developing their equipment and thinking about how we can deliver effective learning tools in our organisation. On cardio equipment these days you will often see

  • Video used for running and cycling
  • Linking equipment for team challenges
  • The ability to choose from a variety of routes, whether running or cycling
  • Competition with leaderboards
  • Points and badges for achievements
  • Sporty characters encouraging and motivating you to keep going – both audio and video
  • Set workouts that break the training into shorter sections with different training levels for each section

This then started me thinking about what equipment manufacturers are trying to achieve with their screen content:

  • Distract the person training from the effort they are putting in
  • Provide encouragement so that people keep going
  • Use real video routes to make the training more interesting
  • Help people push themselves further
  • Encourage them to come back again and continue their training because of the positive experience they have had

Applying what we learn from all around us.

We can take a leaf out of the gym training book and consider how we can apply the methods developed by equipment manufacturers to the learning that we deliver across the organisation:

  • Make the learning engaging and interactive
  • Think about breaking learning into bite sized sections
  • Think about varying the intensity of sections, for example have some sections that are “lighter” as well as sections that are more challenging, i.e. don’t set every lesson at the same level
  • Think about using video as part of the learning
  • Use animated explainer style videos as well as shot video to provide variety
  • Consider using a character as a focal point to support the learner through their journey
  • Trial gamification – even if it is as simple as providing badges and points

I hope this has provided some food for thought and given you points to consider for your own learning development.  In the second part of this article in our next newsletter, I want to expand on looking at learning in other areas of our life outside of the business context.

Can we show you how we have put some of the ideas examined above into practice for other organisations? 

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About the Author

Terry Simmons

Terry Simmons

Terry Simmons is the founder of eLearning Plus, an organisation dedicated to helping organisations engage with their learners for a Smarter Business. eLearning Plus works across the UK and Internationally to help organisations with bespoke and generic course development. eLearning Plus also designs tools and training materials that support learning as well providing technology solutions to manage learners and course delivery. Terry's LinkedIn Profile