Company brings gyms to public

JOSH MARTIN
Last updated 05:00 15/12/2013
Gym Guru equipment is on trial in Auckland.
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IN ACTION: Gym Guru equipment is on trial in Auckland.

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Hawke's Bay gym junkie Brett Forsyth knows the festive season is a time when cause and effect theory manifests itself in millions of Christmas celebrants worldwide.

The cause being too many desserts on December 25 and the effect being a new gym membership as a New Year's resolution.

For many, the resolution and the gym membership tend to fizzle out before summer's end.

Forsyth and his company's GymGuru wants Kiwis to reimagine what a gym is, where it can be and who can use it.

His company's end goal is to do away with underused gym memberships and build active communities in local parks.

Forsyth was inspired by a trip to China where many parks had stations of targeted weight machines with a loyal, if freeloading, clientele.

"The machines relied on the user's own body weight for resistance and were run-down and tired looking. They would have never made it passed the first line of the New Zealand safety standard," he said.

But Forsyth was motivated by the loyal community following they generated and imported a few of the machines back to the Hawke's Bay, tinkering away on them for a year to get them up to standard.

The ‘Prototype One' pieces developed by GymGuru's parent company, Hotshot Sports equipment, are now based in the Kennedy Bay holiday park in Hawke's Bay.

But an obvious problem with the imported equipment remained.

"There were still huge limitations if you couldn't lift your own body weight. If you were elderly, injured or overweight you simply couldn't use them," Forsyth said.

The goal was to get something that acted the same as an indoor gym piece, but was durable and easy to use and needed no power.

It had to go beyond using the user's weight resistance but for safety reasons could not have a weight stack.

GymGuru, together with the government-owned Callaghan Institute, designed and manufactured what they claim is a world first - outdoor gym equipment controlled by adjustable electro-magnetic fields.

"You're not lifting a weight stack or your own body weight, but resistance is offered by a magnetic field which is adjustable by a disc," said Forsyth.

From the now-patented blueprints, came proposals to and grants from The Icehouse, New Zealand Trade & Enterprise (NZTE), Callaghan and Auckland Tourism Events & Economic Development (ATEED) for further seed funding and market knowledge.

Auckland Council came on board as a test customer, trialling the outdoor gym equipment in four parks across south-east Auckland. The equipment was provided to the council's parks supplier at cost for the trial.

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Forsyth said durability, design and ease of use for any fitness level is what the product needs to make its use widespread and help turn the tide on the country's obesity problems.

"These workout stations complement every user's exercise regime as well as adding to the atmosphere of community parks.

"Best of all, for the user, it's free. That's a huge bonus for those people who cannot afford the annual $1000 gym membership.

"You can integrate these machines easily into your jogging circuit or park bike ride at no extra cost," Forsyth said.

He's still tweaking the business model for the startup which is only in its second year.

Forsyth wants to remain focused on design and product upgrades, while keeping manufacturing based with his father's company. The plan is to partner with an established parks equipment distributor.

The project so far has cost GymGuru upwards of $300,000 although Forsyth said the company needed more funding to develop the second iteration of products. His research and development will investigate wireless technology as well as potential power generation from the equipment.

Forsyth eventually wants to target the "fitness mad" Australian and Californian markets.

For now, he's taken on a sales team of one to help approach other local councils and community boards to get revenue coming in the door.

There is still some "first mover hesitancy" from some councils, particularly when they can get cheaper Chinese manufactured products which do not have the innovative magnetic field resistance technology, he said. A basic package of GymGuru equipment starts at around $40,000 including installation, which Forsyth said is a small price to pay for a more active and engaged community.

"The feedback we are getting is all good. People love it that they have a new reason to go to their local park, that's easy on their wallet and they can exercise in the fresh air."

- Sunday Star Times

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