As Covid-19 hit in March, Britain’s 7,000 or so gyms and leisure centres were forced to close their doors almost overnight. Direct debits were frozen, an estimated 15-23% of memberships were cancelled, and the 9.7m people who are members of gyms and fitness clubs stayed home. The global online/virtual fitness market size was valued at $6,046 million in 2019, and is projected to reach at $59,231 million by 2027. An increase in part due to covid.
“Virtual or online workout is the next generation fitness revolution. It is the convenience-based fitness/wellness service to the users to access a trainer or instructor online/virtually instead of visiting the fitness facility. ” (allied market research)
Home workouts and being able to provide classes and PT sessions via Zoom/FB live/Instagram/YouTube, have been a life line for instructors and clients, often adding a new string to our instructing bows and adding an additional service we can continue to offer to members when we go back to “normal”. It has given instructors the chance to thrive, push their boundaries and come out of their comfort zones with varying degrees of sucess.
A recent survey by Mindbody, which provides equipment for high-end gyms, found that 7% of users had streamed live classes prior to the pandemic. By April, it was 85%.
Pre-recorded sessions have meant people can join in when is convenient for them, meaning no issues with child care as kids can join in or having to rush from work, often rolling out of bed straight in your PJs and into a work out. It has also meant the most vulnerable members, like those who have had to shield or have been unable to join in with face-to-face classes due to looking after a loved one, haven’t had to miss out.
No expensive gym memberships have to be paid and costings have been kept competitive by instructors as our outgoings are reduced due to no rents having to be paid as halls and gyms are closed. As a result, some of those normal barriers to exercise have been eliminated, such as self-consciousness when entering a gym as a newbie where everyone already seems to know what they’re doing and look like Instagram models!
It has enabled instructors to be able to store and create a library of online workouts (which can be used no matter what tier or number lockdown we’re in) and members can continue to follow their favourite instructors from the comfort of their own home.
However, it has led to a hike in prices of fitness equipment, making it difficult to provide kit for our members and limiting the types of workouts we can provide, if we can find any equipment left to buy!
We’ve lost some of that personal touch that fitness professionals pride themselves on which has an impact on motivation for both instructors and participants, as well as effecting retention numbers. It’s always harder to make someone accountable for their lack of routine or effort when you can be ghosted or simply put on mute. In addition to that, there are very few online fitness programs that enable the instructor to see you, check your form, and offer modifications or corrections based on your performance, leading to exercises being performed incorrectly and unsafely resulting in injuries.
And to top it off, some instructors are losing their businesses, livelihood and struggling to support their families thanks to “free” celeb workouts (yes, I mean Joe Wicks), teamed with the lack of government support for newly self-employed instructors or those Ltd companies who don’t have their own premises. (BTW community fitness rules #teamgymandtonic #supportlocalbusiness #supportyourfitnessinstructors😉🤣)
And while not every fitness instructor has been able to weather the storm so successfully, those that have often tell similar stories. Across the industry, there has been a shift from working out communally in a public space, to working out virtually at home – and a change in emphasis from physical to mental health.
Whatever your stance on it is, it has its place and although it might not suit everyone, it’s here to stay. It has changed the industry and how people workout for good. But personally, for me, I don’t think you can beat that face-to-face interaction with people and the atmosphere you can great in real life.
What do you think? Has online/virtual fitness had its day? Or is the start of the future of the fitness industry?
Disclaimer: This ranty write up was brought to you by a sleep deprived mother querying where her career will be when she comes back from maternity leave 🤣🤣😴😴