The future of the fitness industry in the post-COVID reality

Hybrid fitness if the future of fitness industry

The facility closures brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic have negatively impacted the fitness industry. Industry experts predict that it may not fully recover for the next two to three years. However, not all hope is lost as many facilities found ways to keep their head above the water, ways that can be incorporated into the post-COVID reality.  

To minimise the negative effect of the pandemic, the majority of the fitness industry moved online. Their doors had to close, but that doesn’t mean that they had to abandon their members. Producing online and on-demand content and streaming it through an online portal became the new reality for fitness facilities. So, it’s not a surprise that the number one fitness trend for 2021 as reported by the Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends is online training.

Gym members fitness routine disruption

Fitness facilities are not the only ones that faced disruption, many gym-goers schedules were impacted as well. They had to find new ways to connect with their clubs to maintain their fitness level. Mobile apps were among the most popular solutions. As of the second quarter of 2020, fitness apps have been downloaded 656 million times. That is a 47 per cent increase from the previous year. 

Now that the restrictions are beginning to ease, members are slowly starting to return to their beloved gyms. However, the reality is that it will take time for the fitness industry to see pre-COVID numbers return. The reasons vary greatly from recognising the freedom on-demand workouts give to not wanting to share open space with strangers or fitness facility having to operate at a limited capacity. Whatever the reason is, not all members are ready to come back and fitness facilities have to be ready to accommodate this change. 

Hybrid fitness is the solution for the foreseeable future

The best and easiest way to do this is by introducing a hybrid fitness business model. A hybrid model combines online classes with in-class fitness experience. With this model, members can live stream real-time classes from the comfort of their home, whilst also having the option to attend the class in person. For the time being this is the best model to adapt as not only does it accommodate members, but also in the eventuality of restrictions beginning to harden again you are ready to go back online.

Traditional Gyms 

However, the speed it takes for fitness facilities to rebound will differ depending on the segment they fall into. For example, traditional gyms that offer high-value, low-price are expected to bounce back relatively quickly. This is largely due to their competitive pricing and fully integrated ecosystem (member portal and mobile app). Traditional gyms have the flexibility to add on-demand or pre-recorded workout videos as an addition or an add-on to their membership. This allows them to upsell their memberships, increasing their revenue and subsequently recovering quicker.

Boutique Gyms

The next segment that is expected to make a quick recovery is boutique studios. Depending on their nature, boutique clubs like Orangetheory are expected to recover even faster than traditional gyms. Their ability to cultivate and maintain a community through digital platforms and integration of wearable technology has not only helped them stay afloat but prosper during the pandemic. 

Of course, not all boutique gyms will be able to bounce back as quickly. L.E.K. Consulting has found that equipment-light studios like barre will face competition from digital fitness platforms. However, studios that were able to cultivate strong community bonds are predicted to not be affected by the digital competition. To create such strong community bond a boutique studio needs management software that will automate and personalise customer communication. 

How to successfully introduce a hybrid fitness model?

The above predictions are hopeful for the fitness industry. They demonstrate that people care about their wellbeing and do want to come back to their beloved facility. However, this may not happen immediately as approximately 43 per cent of gym-goers are not planning on returning to their gym within the next three months and a further 11 per cent do not think they will return within the next year

This is why a hybrid fitness business model is the way forward for the time being. It helps fitness clubs proactively respond to the new realities and as a result, bounce back quicker from the pandemic. To successfully do this, clubs need to consider appropriate gym management software

A platform worth considering should offer a member portal and mobile app to help clubs keep in touch with their members. Automation through personalised communication is a must if you’re hoping to create a community. Most importantly, the platform should be all-encompassing. Members should be able to reserve in-person or online class spaces to display the number of current in-facility members.

Concluding thoughts

The fitness industry was severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic because of the in-person nature of exercising. However, when faced with adversity clubs were quick to adjust to the new reality and move online. As things begin to ease, fitness facilities are slowly reopening their doors, welcoming their members back. It will take some time, but the fitness industry will make a recovery.

Cover photo credit Danielle Cerullo.

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