Without warning, COVID-19 sent the $94 billion fitness industry into a tailspin, forcing millions of gym owners and instructors into reimagining the way we train and foster a sense of community. Most studios shifted to virtual training or offering on-demand workout content for students to work out whenever they could. But now, as the stay-at-home orders lift and doors start to reopen, you may ask yourself, “should I continue to offer virtual training?” The answer is YES! And if the reasons escape you, read on and be reminded how virtual training can continue to benefit your business and you adjust to a new reality.
Restricted Class Sizes
With nation- and state-wide guidelines detailing that gathering should consist of 10 people or less (that number includes employees), it makes a challenge out of finding a way to keep your pre-COVID class sizes. If you previously offered virtual training, a great alternative is to offer a blended training experience that marries both your in-studio and online offerings. The beauty of this is that you can decide what that means for your gym.
You can stagger your class times, offering an in-studio session at one time, then switching to the virtual version of the same class right after that. This not only allows you to have multiple students train, but also gives your instructors time to clean the studio while you’re training virtually. And if your school can support it, try hosting a class where you have students simultaneously in-studio and tuning in via a streaming platform like Instagram, YouTube, or Zoom. Of course, hosting classes that are strictly virtual are an option, too, and can accommodate any students you’ve gained who live outside of your area.
It Will Give Them a Something to Do at Home
It isn’t just the martial arts industry that was hit heavily by the virus, according to reports from CNN, a whopping 30 million Americans are without work, even still as doors begin to reopen. And within that sea of unemployed Americans are a lot of them looking for ways to pass the time. And further still, there are others the luxury (or in some households the curse) of being quarantined with their families. Enter virtual training.
There’s community in numbers, even if you aren’t able to sweat together side-by-side. You may be unaware, but the training you offer and the ability to see the gym mates they train alongside can serve as a surrogate family for them in a time when they can’t visit friends and family or lift their spirits at a local restaurant. It can even be motivation to get up off the sofa and push themselves beyond their normal limits.
Equinox Fitness instructor Julie Verhage, has found that businesses, too, are searching for community, and some may find it in your virtual training. For Verhage, startups have been reaching out and looking for private sessions “so they can still have team bonding while everyone is working remotely,” she says.
Some Members Won’t Feel Comfortable Coming Back Immediately
Just because your gym is safe and you’re actively following the strict cleaning and distancing guidelines doesn’t mean your gym feels safe. For some, it will take time before training, and exercising in the gym will feel safe again, and every person’s comfort level will vary. There will be members who are eager to get back in the moment you open, whereas others may take a few weeks to months to rejoin you on the mats. So, it’s important to be flexible and receptive to the needs of those still making an effort to train with you, even if it’s digital.
When broadcasting, be sure to encourage your viewers and give extra thanks to those who tune in. It takes added discipline to stick with training from home and hearing those words of encouragement and praise will continue to grow their trust in you and may bring them one step closer to having the confidence to rejoin you in the gym.
Your Virtual Training is Part of Their Daily Routine
Doing virtual training may have started out as just a way to keep students engaged during the quarantine, but for your students, it’s now become a crucial part of their daily routine and their overall health. Don’t disturb that, embrace it. For some of your students, virtual training is the perfect alternative for them if they’re questioning whether or not they’re ready to rejoin you in the gym. The same can be said of new students who live in other parts of the country — or the world. In addition, it can even give those new to signing up an opportunity to avoid those new kid jitters.
It Can Help with Missing Revenue
It’s safe to assume that every gym and studio took a hit thanks to COVID-19, with most seeing significant drops in student count and the number of new students signing up. In the beginning, gyms began offering online training as a way to retain the students they had and entice new ones to join while they self-quarantined at home.
Now that the orders have been lifted, continue to use your virtual training efforts for the same reason, but add revenue into the mix. Don’t hesitate to promote and sell your virtual workouts as a class and offer it at a discounted rate. Create targeted campaigns to win back customers you’ve lost and bring in new students. Your students know how crucial your classes have been for their overall health and daily routine during their stay-at-home orders and they don’t want that to stop. It will surprise you how many students are willing to pay to continue to use a service so impactful in their day-to-day lives.
Just be sure to create rich content that will keep your students feeling like they’re getting the same quality of experience that they would if they were training face to face. An article by Forbes on the future of education advises that if students sense a gap in their expectations of virtual training versus face-to-face training, they may opt for waiting until they can physically come in to train, or abandon the idea of training altogether.
Steven Kane, a full-time yoga instructor in New York City shared that the key is not to give your students a “Jane Fonda VHS” experience where they just follow along. Make it an engaging experience, increase your verbal cues, and make sure to provide the same individual feedback they would receive if they were in the studio with you.
Although virtual training may have started off as a way to keep your business afloat and your students engaged during this ever uncertain and unique time, our suggestions prove that it’s still a relevant business model that continues to benefit your students and boost your business.