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Trade Shows & Events

Athletic Business ’11: Shopping heaven & play time at event’s expo, even without much debut news

Athletic Business Conference and Expo doesn’t usually come with a lot of hoopla and splashes about launches, but that doesn’t mean that a few exhibitors don’t decide it’s a good idea to show off something new. SNEWS found out what the event’s expo hall had to offer.

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December isn’t the time of year that many fitness brands are debuting new product, so the Athletic Business Conference and Expo doesn’t usually come with a lot of hoopla and splashes about launches.

But that doesn’t mean that a few exhibitors don’t decide it’s a good idea to show off something new. And that doesn’t mean that the government, military, non-profit facilities, clubs and others attending the Athletic Business Conference (ABC) aren’t there with a shopping list in hand.

As Mark Juliano, a U.S. Army athletic director based in Italy, who told SNEWS in a story that ran Dec. 7, 2011, about the event and its attendance, this may is one of few chances he has to get out and look, test, gather info and shop (click here to see that story). So he – and many others, we found – had his purse strings loosened and his eyes open wide.

That’s the kind of news that gets exhibitors such as first-timer Elliptigo ( excited.

“Reception has been great. We have never been at this show and no one here knows about us, but university recreation programs and resort communities are looking at adding the Elliptigo as another way for their fitness programs to get people outdoors having fun in addition to everything else they already offer,” said Bryce Whiting, “chief enthusiast” there.

Some companies chose to show off new tweaks or versions products geared toward the light commercial audience that makes up most of the crowd at ABC ( Here are a few highlights from SNEWS’ visit to the event, Dec. 1-3, 2011, in Orlando, Fla.

Cool & New … Agility, Cardio, Strength

>> Elliptigo – Already having shown at both the Health + Fitness Business Expo and the IHRSA show (click here to see that March 17, 2010, SNEWS story), Elliptigo came to ABC for the first time with its outdoor elliptical creation. It took years for founder Bryan Pate, who couldn’t run anymore because of hip and knee injuries, to come up with the right low-impact movement. The former cyclist and Ironman triathlete considered returning to cycling to stay fit but found the bicycle saddle and riding position to be uncomfortable and cycling workouts to require too much time, so he started using the indoor elliptical trainer. He liked the exercise but hated being locked in a gym so he created his own low-impact elliptical trainer on wheels he could ride on the street. We’ve ridden the Elliptigo on San Francisco streets and written about it in a June 22, 2011 story, “The search for The Next New Thing for fitness continues: Could one of these by The One?” (click here to read that story). Whiting of Elliptigo told us facilities and rec centers are catching onto the Elliptigo craze because “In 30 minutes, a person can take an Elliptigo outside and get in a great workout, something you can’t do on a bike.” (

>> Quick Board – Watching someone quick-step it back and forth over a series of five yellow dots arranged on a rectangular board stopped the SNEWS® team in its tracks. Man, the feet were flying as the person focused on a small screen in front of him. Designed to improve speed, reaction time and agility, the Quick Board (photo, right) system consists of a control panel and footboard and when used by coaches and trainers, it provides instant feedback and objective drill results that the company says helps motivate athletes to improve critical aspects of their game. The Quick Board Sensor Board contains five high-impact sensors that the company says are sensitive enough for young athletes to use and also durable for daily use by 350-pound athletes. Sensor boards range in price from $805 to $1,295 and the control panels range in price from $690 to $1,040. (

>> SportsArt Fitness Green System + EcoFit Network – Launching in select clubs and facilities in January, the EcoFit Network offers what is essentially an innovative marketing system designed to engage and motivate club and facility members. When working out one of the specially designed SportsArt pieces of Green System equipment, users will be able to track their energy production and exercise statistics over time (SportsArt launched the energy-saving system at the 2011 IHRSA show. Click here to see that April 8, 2011, SNEWS story. And click here to see more about the SportsArt system). As users exercise they are also earning EcoFit points which may be redeemed in a facility and with local businesses for goodies like discounts on massages or smoothies, thus increasing potential revenue and the attraction to the system. (

>> Fitness Tools / Thorotread – Fitness Tools chose ABC to debut the Thorotread, asserting it is a first-of-its-kind treadmill – one that features an integrated upper-body resistance system. “Debut” is a bit of a misnomer since it actually launched at the Health + Fitness Business Expo in 2008 (click here to see that July 2, 2008, SNEWS story, when executives told SNEWS the model was still a prototype). What makes this product different is that the console unit and its handles slide forward and back on tracks (photo, left) and can provide up to 45 pounds of integrated upper-body resistance. Combine that with up to 25 percent of incline (yes, really) and the treadmill becomes a complete training experience, developers said. Frank Muni, COO, told us the company thought about adding a video screen or other means for entertainment, but found that with the Thorotread, users became so focused on the workout that no outside distraction or entertainment was needed. A final model will officially launch at the 2012 IHRSA show, we were told. With a $16,000 list, this is for serious performance and training facilities. (

>> Technogym – Wait, is that a Precor AMT in the Technogym booth? No, it’s the Technogym Vario, manufactured under license and not ready to rock in North America. We were told it’s been out in Europe for three years. A few differences include bands that are used to run vertically between the arms and the base compared to Precor’s solid supports. Depending on the model, it has up to 21 programs and can come with the company’s bright, web-enabled Vizio screen – just think, you can update your Facebook page while you’re working out. (

>> XDrifft – They look like basic pushup handles but, wait, there’s more: Claudy Abranchess conceived the product while undergoing physical therapy, and just watching him demonstrate this seemingly simple product is amazing. This new training system allows the user to experience an intense cardio or strength workout by challenging core stability while relying on the user’s bodyweight. The product retails for $90 and includes two XDrifft Trainers (photo, right), a kneepad, two hardwood floor covers and an instructional DVD. The base of the XDrifft is designed to slide on every surface, including carpet, wood, tile and even a rubber gym floor. The built-in, so-called Joint Steering System works to keep joints safe and properly aligned while creating an unlimited range of motion and infinite exercise options. To get a better sense of what the XDrifft can do, click here to check out this YouTube Video. (

Cool & New … YUM

>> PowerIce – What is PowerIce? Think a plastic tube (like an Otter Pops for those old enough to know) filled with liquid that is frozen. Cut off one end and push it up to enjoy – while getting electrolytes and needed post-workout nutrients. No drip or mess. Manufactured by New York City-based company 21 Beverage, PowerIce differs from a sugar-filled popsicle because it is designed as a hydrating frozen ice product targeted to athletes. According to the company, it is intended to be consumed before, during and after athletic activities to provide hydration and replace electrolytes while gradually reducing body temperature. There are 30 calories per serving and each packet contains 25 mg of sodium, 17 mg of potassium, 8 grams of carbohydrates and 8 grams of sugar – but no high fructose corn syrup! In orange and lime flavor currently, we have to say … yummy! (

“This is our second day,” said Judy Chen, director of events, “and we are getting folks coming back and others coming over saying their friends told them they had to check us out.”

Selling Services? Go get ‘em!

>> Gulf Management Systems – Consultant Matthew Mussett and the company get huge props for working the show floor better than most exhibitors we’ve seen in years at about any show. Not content to rely on walk-by traffic for the 10-by-10 booth on a side wall, they created cards with a key attached that attendees were encouraged to bring by and try to open a “treasure chest.” The chest, enticingly clear, had a few gift envelopes in and if your key popped the lid, one was yours. But everyone who came by the booth received a bonus gift of positive energy from these two – think bounce-off-the-wall energy – and a parting gift too (think traditional trade show schwag). What is GMS? Whether your business is online or has a physical location, it will design and implement payment solutions tailored to suit individual needs. Since 1992, GMS has worked to provide electronic payment solutions to small- and medium-size companies to help them collect money, make payments, increase cash flow and add low-cost payment EFT options. (

Wanted: Manufacturer for indoor cycle … with a twist

>> Climb Cycle – While standing in the aisles, our eyes were drawn to a man riding what appeared to be a stationary mountain bike that tilted forward and backward plus side-to-side, while he was pedaling. But he didn’t seem to be sort of falling into it. So we had to take a look. Turns out John Ware is an inventor who has created a group cycle designed to be electronically sync’ed with the instructor’s bike (imagine an instructor increasing the downward tilt or upward tilt of a bike during a workout. Now THAT’S uphilll). He was at ABC holding court in the corner of another booth just pedaling away and waiting for people to stop and gawk. Not a manufacturer, he’s looking to sell or license his design to a manufacturer or distributor. (

To read more about the ABC and its 30th anniversary, click here for an Oct. 12, 2011 SNEWS story. To see other stories about the show, its concept, its education and expo, click here, then click on “trade show news,” and scroll to the ABC headlines.

Michael Hodgson and Therese Iknoian