The massive growth the fitness industry saw in 2019 paved the way for what we thought would be an even bigger success in 2020. With the increased interest in fitness apps, social media and the rise of fitness influencers, and the allure that came with going to Soul Cycle or the chance of running into a celebrity at an Equinox gym (we've seen them too), more and more people wanted to exercise, because it was cool, fit now equalled fun, and it became more affordable. No longer a luxury, there were more options for everyone.
And then the pandemic hit, resulting in millions of gyms, studios, and personal trainers taking their classes and services online, something no one was ready for. Especially not the customers and clients who relied on their classes and workouts for both their health and for social interaction. Teachers and coaches scrambled to find solutions that would help the businesses they worked so hard to build stay afloat. As they turned to Zoom, IGTV, and Youtube, what many fitness professionals found was not that they couldn't connect with their clients or customers, but that there was actually an opportunity here to reach even more without relying on the face to face interaction.
Trainers who had moved were now able to welcome previous clients back to class. Gyms and studios who are based in areas with intense weather conditions now found a way to keep their doors virtually open when a bad snowstorm would have caused them to temporarily close, and as we juggle lockdowns and re-openings, having a solution already in place helped make the transition from one medium to another seamless, especially when you had software you could count on.
Though the fitness industry took a hard hit in 2020, businesses are growing and expanding in directions they hadn't previously imagined because the need wasn't there. The entire market has now been taken online and someone whose circumstances may have once prevented them from making it to the gym or taking a workout class, now has been brought to their home giving them every opportunity to prioritize their fitness routine.
With 2020 now behind us and 2021 still easing in slowly, there are several trends we are still expected to see over the coming months.
The rise in live-streaming
There is a common misconception that when gyms and studios go back to business as usual and re-open their doors that members won't return. However, several studies done by fitness instructors and sports associations have proven that that is in fact not true, and people cannot wait to return. And if they don't return immediately that doesn't mean that they will not at some point. Now that fitness businesses have experienced the power and capacity Zoom has for connecting teachers and trainers with their clients at any time from anywhere, they are getting smart to the fact that just because someone can't make it in person doesn't mean they can't make it. Giving clients the opportunity to tune in from home offers a more flexible solution for those clients and members who aren't 100% comfortable being around a lot of people or have barriers in which they can't physically attend a class. The ease in which a person can join class online and see the class as if they were there helps draw them back in without pushing someone out of their comfort zone.
Delivery and who will do it best
The race is on for who can deliver the best online classes and we're not talking about fitness instructors. Social media, Zoom, Vimeo, and as well as Apple Fitness and Peloton, and more are just a few of the platforms where fitness content can be viewed, sold, and stored, but will there be more? The big competition will be around who can effectively engage their customers to succeed in their goals. Peloton is probably the front-runner here right now but new platforms and ideas are developing on a daily basis. One advantage that smaller organisations have is that they can move fast, and they are closer to their customers.
These business owners are turning to management software and solutions to help them navigate the transition to online classes and the selling of on-demand content. They have entered a new arena that requires a skill set that everyone is learning as they go. There is no need to strive for perfection, but the businesses that are able to show up, give value, and provide the service they know their customers depend on will be the ones to not only survive but grow. And those businesses want solutions that will be pain-free, simple, and help them be profitable.
Re-discovering community in fitness
With isolation being a very present reality, people are looking for ways to connect and to feel like they are a part of a community even if it is still from home. Fitness professionals will do well when they are able to position not only their services but how a person can fit into their community. And fitness instructors and teachers will ask for the same type of commitment and loyalty back. It goes both ways and when both teacher and client are able to synchronize and have that bond, especially coming out of lockdown, they can both contribute to building a community.
The fitness industry has an opportunity right now to open new doors and collaborate to create solutions for everyone who is struggling for motivation, tired of feeling lonely and looking to achieve something. People need a way to feel purpose again and there is no better way to boost your self-esteem than through exercise.
Tim Green is head of marketing for TeamUp, a management system for gyms, boutique studios and class-based fitness. When the pandemic hit in 2020 they added online classes for their customers and ended up helping to deliver over a million hours of online classes.