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Life Fitness uses advanced technology to make cardio fun again

Adaptive Flex Deck technology and other innovations in Life Fitness’ Symbio line of cardio equipment bring new levels of science and adaptability to treadmill, cycling and elliptical workouts

Life Fitness is taking the road less traveled, you might even say. While many fitness equipment manufacturers are focusing primarily on strength-based training equipment given the rise of this modality, Life Fitness is also keeping its foot on the innovative accelerator with regards to cardio, serving exercisers of both sizes at a high level.

The leader on that front is Life Fitness thought leader and running expert Derek Hansen. Hansen is well versed in running mechanics and cardio as a whole. He knows there is still a lot of untapped potential with the age-old training modality and knows that Life Fitness is where it will be unlocked.

“Let’s face it: cardio-based exercises can seem lengthy and boring, and few innovations in cardio equipment have been developed in recent years to energize potential users,” Hansen said. “However, Life Fitness innovations have created the opportunity to uniquely customize the user experience for a wide range of runners and exercisers, motivating individuals to reintegrate cardio-focused workouts into their exercise routines.”

“The combination of individualization, education and engagement will help us win fitness users back to the cardio space,” he added.

Personalize the cardio experience

Getting people back for cardio starts with meeting them where they’re at, and there’s no better tool to do that than Life Fitness’ Adaptive Flex Deck. The newly launched innovation allows treadmill users to select their desired surface hardness before getting moving. That flexibility makes it applicable for both a seasoned and new runner.

“Recognizing the individual needs of all types of cardio users is incredibly important to not only encourage them to exercise, but also to ensure they consistently put in work over longer periods of time and achieve their goals,” said Hansen. “New users want to feel good when they start an exercise program. Advanced users want to take their training to a new level and continue to make progress.”

Derek Hansen (credit: Life Fitness)

The deck can be adjusted to five different hardness levels, from very soft to very firm. This, along with Life Fitness’s other innovations, allows users to simulate real-world terrain and enjoy all kinds of walking or running adventures from the comfort of their home or gym.

“As a running coach and performance consultant, I always advise athletes and clients on the value of varying their running surfaces,” said Hansen. “Some days it is good to run on a grass or turf field to reduce impact stress, while on other days training on a stiffer and more responsive track surface may be more beneficial for running at higher speeds.”

“Life Fitness engineers identified this need very early and developed a solution that meets the needs of a broad population of runners and walkers,” he added.

In addition to the technology, accurate running data is also made available. This includes information on stride length, flight time, ground contact time and gait symmetry – all helping users identify areas that can be improved and ultimately make progress.

credit: Life Fitness

The best cardio machines in the world

To add extra vigor to the cardio game, Life Fitness introduced a full line of equipment called Symbio, which offers a new, innovative twist on each modality. This includes The Runner, the Incline Elliptical, Recumbent Cycle and SwitchCycle.

The Runner features the Adaptive Flex Deck, which provides a truly immersive experience as users can switch between very soft or very firm to create different running experiences. The Incline Elliptical allows the user to target different muscle groups by simply selecting them on a screen. The SwitchCycle combines a traditional upright bike and a group bike, allowing exercisers to have the comfort of the traditional bike while still being able to get in and out of the saddle for a more total-body workout.

Life Fitness has ensured that all requirements have been met during the development of Symbio. Everything from 500 virtual terrains to the accessibility of YouTube and Netflix was baked into the hardware and software.

“The development team took the time to perfect the Symbio line before introducing it to the public,” said Hansen. “No stone was left unturned during the process to make this concept come to life and actually work. Not only have they developed the technology to adjust the firmness of the treadmill deck, but it is really good. You notice the difference almost immediately.”

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While Hansen initially focused on The Runner, he quickly noticed the impressive capabilities of the entire line.

“Although I was originally brought on board to help with the Symbio Runner, I also realized that their other Symbio cardio products were developed with the same innovation and commitment to quality that I experienced with the treadmill,” said Hansen. “Both the Symbio SwitchCycle and the Recumbent Cycle offer a high level of comfort and high-quality ergonomics that make cycling more enjoyable.”

“For people who may not be able to handle the impact of running on a treadmill, but still want to experience the feel and action of running, the Symbio Incline Elliptical also offers an effective alternative to their cardio experience,” he added.

The plea for a cardio comeback

While Symbio and the Adaptive Flex Deck have already satisfied cardio enthusiasts, there is still room for growth. Hansen believes that the increased risk of injury that comes with an over-reliance on strength training could lead to a balancing effect that brings cardio back to the fore.

“My involvement with top athletes spills over into the work I carry out with fitness and rehabilitation projects in the general population. In both cases, I have found that there has been a shift away from cardiovascular conditioning and conditioning, in favor of strength or more specific training methods,” he said. “I believe this trend has resulted in an increase in injuries resulting from reduced cardiovascular endurance, reduced circulatory efficiency and reduced ability to recover from periods of exertion.”

With innovations like Symbio and the Adaptive Flex Deck, Life Fitness is ready to welcome users back to the cardio world. Hansen sees the Symbio Runner primarily as a piece of hardware with great potential due to its low barrier to entry and benefits in the injury recovery department.

“In the case of the Symbio Runner, I started looking at the differences in running economy and blood flow efficiency at different surface firmness settings,” he said. “This information can be extremely useful in evaluating different training protocols and surface settings for beginners, advanced athletes, or individuals undergoing rehabilitation after a muscle or joint injury.”