How to Combine Virtual and On-Site Fitness Programming
By Andy Berg
Getting members into a gym on a regular basis has always been a challenge that requires a clean facility, the right equipment, talented instructors and engaging programming. The current pandemic has only complicated that equation, as clubs look to welcome back members that have for months been cobbling together ad-hoc at-home workouts, using everything from YouTube videos to on-demand content provided via their gym's dedicated mobile application.
"Running a cycle class outside, as opposed to running it inside, is going to give you the ability to spread out more and give people more peace of mind," Cofod explains. "But some of the rigging and things for TRX or a Slam Ball wall — those aren't going to be outside and might require some simple modifications. It's just really taking a look at what we're planning to do so we still have a solid structure."
While the outdoor option does have its appeal, Cofod says it's not a silver bullet for obvious reasons.
"We're getting to the end of July and August right now, and in much of the country outdoor fitness is really a challenge," she says. "In most cases, we're doing these things in a climate-controlled environment, where it's around 65 degrees, not 90 degrees and in direct sunlight. So there's a safety concern with something like high-intensity interval training in that kind of environment."
A massive shift
While Cofod is trying to help Matrix customers modify and reclaim their facilities as safe places for fitness programming, the equipment manufacturer is also trying to address the need for flexibility.
Andrew Kolman, senior director of technology and business development at Johnson Health Tech, Matrix Fitness' parent company, sees the COVID-19 crisis as an opportunity.
"If you're not limited to bricks and sticks, you could potentially recruit a larger percentage of the population to engage with a commercial facility, and the pandemic has accelerated that and really made the hybridization of commercial fitness relevant now, as opposed to where we were 100 days ago," Kolman says.
Matrix is now working on expanding the content available through its mobile app and making that accessible to all of its customers.
"Among other things, we've actually worked with our trainers to create 28 days' worth of bodyweight exercises — things that you could do at home without equipment — and made that available through our app. We actually turned that feature on for more than 400 facilities globally for free."
Kolman says the conversation has moved beyond the current situation, with partners and customers now looking at long-term solutions that can evolve the current model.
"Much like InstaCart has done to the grocery business, or Zoom has done to working, I don't necessarily need to be in my office with the door closed to have meetings," he says. "Technologies enable all of this, and it's just a massive shift in the way people consume whatever it is they're consuming, including exercise."
Whether the consumers are indoors or outdoors, at the gym or home, in front of a screen or following along with a living, breathing instructor (during a pandemic or in more "normal" times), exercise remains an important part of maintaining physical and mental wellbeing. If the pandemic has done one thing, it has hastened the emergence of new ways for everyone to get their workout in, regardless of where they're at.
As people come out of lockdown, they are going to be more health-conscious than ever, but they're also going to be looking to maintain the new, more flexible, schedules they've discovered over the past few months. Home workouts shouldn't replace fitness center visits, but rather work in tandem to reinforce a client's overarching fitness goals.
"I think people have gotten used to having a flexible schedule, and they've definitely started to understand how easy it can be to work out at home," St. Jules says. "I would think if you asked most people, their preference would be to work out at the gym, but these different ways of getting a workout in will continue to be important going forward."
This article originally appeared in the September 2020 issue of Athletic Business with the title "Pandemic spurs rise in hybrid fitness programming." Athletic Business is a free magazine for professionals in the athletic, fitness and recreation industry.
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