The Future of Fitness Post Pandemic
The fitness industry has been turned on its head due to the recent pandemic. In the US alone it accounts for $10bln in GDP as of 2020, but that’s sure to take a significant hit. However, this is not the end of it. What was once a saturated market with big box gyms, boutique studios, online programs and apps propping up every corner, will now come down to those who act quickly in response to the pandemic to keep their business afloat. Let’s dive into each sector and how they will be positioned when fitness businesses are allowed to re-open:
At Home Training/Online Programs/Apps
There is no question that a significant portion of consumers will prefer this option as they will not feel comfortable now in big crowds and can train from the safety and comfort of their own home. But at home training is limited and not curated to any one fitness level or individual. If the individual does not have the expertise or experience, they will run into plateaus and higher risk of injury. Not to mention human beings in nature are social creatures where community and sense of belonging are a source of motivation.
Big Box Gyms
If a big box gym hasn’t supplied their members with an online training model, they need to do so quickly to reduce their member attrition rate. Members who didn’t attend often are now less likely to. The online model is the only way to try and keep them on board. In addition to giving members access to an exercise database, providing an option for virtual coaching is a must. But face to face interaction creates higher value to consumers that virtual training just lacks. The number of members in the gym at any given time will most likely need to be monitored and equipment will need to be rearranged to avoid close proximity to another.
Group Training Studios
Team training has gained popularity and I can attest to its appeal as a member of a studio myself. Since each class can have up to 20 or more people training at once, there isn’t much space. Couple that with vigorous equipment sharing you get an environment that’s not so appealing anymore. However, all studios would need to do is change the training model to less attendees and program exercises to reduce the amount of equipment sharing and allow ample time for cleaning in between sets or circuits. For studios that don’t use equipment, the number of participants is the only obstacle that can be easily fixed.
Private & Semi-Private Training
Private and Semi-Private Training like FitNit Coaching will be positioned best. Small time operators like myself don’t need to change our models much. The appeal of this format is your space to move freely, your own equipment and less people. Clients will feel more comfortable knowing only they are touching the equipment during the session. Granted the economic strain of the pandemic will make it much harder to afford private one on one training, the option of a semi-private training model for families, couples, siblings and friends to train together will save them money.
Fitness business owners are facing the financial disruption of the pandemic, but the community is facing the social disruption tied to it. The bond between a person and a place has been shown to create a healthy and thriving society. I am optimistic we won’t lose the social and psychological intimacy brought about by community hangouts like churches, bars, fitness clubs etc. But it will take time to acclimate ourselves to the times that are changing.