As more people are vaccinated, the outlook on life will return to normal. But the number of new cases of Covid 19 and the spread of its variants is also growing.
Consequently, people remain prudent when it comes to wearing a mask, who they see and where they are going. Being outdoors is clearly much safer than meeting indoors. And that’s not good news for gyms. But the road to fitness doesn’t necessarily require a gym.
The fact is that the pandemic has changed the way Americans stay fit. Two industry veterans detail how modern industry and technology brought the gym / coach experience to the American salon.
The changing business
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, it shook the fitness industry. Like so many companies, the gyms were closed and even the outdoor exercise groups were frowned upon. The exercise, like everything else, returned home.
Home workouts are not new. Advertisements for products ranging from makeshift draw bars to multi-exercise gym machines to video lessons have been played for decades on night television. The era of the iPad, based on easy connectivity, transformed fitness. And then came the pandemic.
“Almost overnight, everyone was looking for a solution that had nothing to do with the gym,” said Vincent Miceli, owner of The body plan gym in Westchester, New York and a new AI-driven accountability platform Verb. “Everyone was fighting [to find ways] to retain members and add value. Six months of zero income [has] it has left us in almost every business. ”
The answer: bring physical training home.
The same video streaming technology that was used for office and school meetings could be used to stream live exercise classes in the living rooms. Nick Hounslow, personal trainer turned co-founder and owner of the online fitness community 1 DEVELOPMENT, appreciated how the pandemic would reduce its gym-based business, so it targeted its online classes. He realized that much of what coaches do in person, they could do through a video.
“Live coaches offer accountability and a call to action for receiving money,” Hounslow said. “It simply came to our notice then. Get motivation and investment ”.
But one thing they cannot reduce is the risk of injury by correcting a position or technique.
While Miceli isn’t a big fan of live video classes, she does see the benefits. For starters, the client does not have to come to the gym.
“It eliminates having to go out,” he said. “It eliminates having to worry about babysitters. It eliminates the feeling of fit around a group of people. Eliminate any ego you may or may not have. It allows people to work within their own safety, both in intensity, weight and comfort level. ”
Perhaps the easiest way to exercise at home is a recorded lesson. Whether printed on a book, a pre-recorded video tape, a digital disc, or an online stream, entire lessons and training routines can be brought to the user’s home, depending on their schedule.
If these options aren’t appealing, there are always YouTube playlists or an interactive app.
Pre-recorded videos allow gyms to offer different workouts and workout programs. Coaches do not need to be available to teach on demand and members can exercise whenever they want. Users can look for certain exercises and coaches can recommend workouts without worrying about schedules.
For Miceli, building a service is the key to making video work.
A new package
Verb AI, Miceli’s new platform, uses text messaging combined with digital video, artificial intelligence technology and authentic trainers. AI eliminates some of the guesswork by sending automated messages to gather information.
Once received, the program analyzes the submitted information again.
At this moment a human enters the scene. A coach studies the information and makes recommendations. To create a holistic view of a client’s well-being, coaches use responses from an AI-generated survey to assess factors such as sleep, stress, food, and hydration, as well as physical activity.
“Is it like that [Verb] it put us in a really interesting place, ”Miceli said.“ Most of the world in the home space is in the hardware game or the application game. We decided to launch with what would be considered this low-tech solution. “
Relying on text messages to communicate with customers and keep things complicated behind the scenes allows almost everyone to use Verb AI. Also, by expanding beyond the gym wall, the physical experience can be all day or even all week.
“The verb becomes part of the day, keeping people committed to the habit,” Miceli said. “Users will get used to thinking more about their decisions every day, even the traditional ‘free day’ at the gym.”
The verb was already in development when the pandemic came. After six months, the growth was explosive, going from 80 users and a single coach to 12,000 and 300 coaches. More than half of the users have stayed long term.
At the heart of the 21st century, concepts related to fitness at home are the human connection. Both men agree that the key to staying fit at home is to engage your clients and foster a sense of responsibility.
“[The program] it takes you, as a user, five seconds to answer one of our questions, “said Miceli. For the coach, redirecting the user’s attention can take a couple of minutes, as the coach has received quickly the “females.” Before, the coach would have taken an hour to two hours a day of interaction. “It was so simple, from the point of view of ease of use.”
With 1WRKOUT, the whole class shares a bond, just like they would in a gym or yoga studio.
“In-person and online groups create a sense of community,” Hounslow said. “It’s a very personal choice. Group training offers accountability but is affordable and allows you to be part of something bigger ”.
Being in a group doesn’t mean you don’t get personal attention. “You still get personalized attention during our classes,” Hounslow said.
The Internet also opens up a wider world: classes are not limited to people in the nearest area. “Talking to people in different parts of the world is cool, it helps the feeling of intense isolation,” Hounslow said.
Who is it for?
Hounslow and Miceli said their customers are all ages.
“Kids nine to 35 are really attracted to it,” Miceli said. But “some of my oldest clients are over 50. Both men and women.”
Hounslow agreed and noted that 1WRKOUT has classes full of people from several generations. Some “from the same family and even better, families who have not been able to be seen because of Covid can do training dates and join classes together.”
And while it’s designed for humans, furry friends have sometimes joined in as well. “It’s great! Pets come in all the time, too,” laughed Hounslow. “It’s a lot of fun!”
Ultimately, for Miceli, this is less about demographics and targets, which should be re-evaluated monthly. “Really, the user we are looking for and who talks the most about the platform is anyone who just wants to understand what works or not. And it could really be anyone. ”
A lasting change
The pandemic has not quite changed the fitness industry.
“People realize they can do a lot at home, so they can end up doing it at home some days and go to the gym for others,” Hounslow said. Get more rest, don’t deal with traffic. ”
Miceli agreed and discussed the future.
“There’s no scenario where what happens in technology doesn’t reshape the fitness industry,” he said. “What I think is going to happen is that advancing in the fitness industry will be a combination of both. I don’t think the video or the home ones will win completely.
“People will look for this hybrid combination where they know they can get the fitness they need at home through a video or through some interactive fitness version and then have the same social atmosphere, the friends they saw at the gym, continue a few days in the week “.
Sean Marsala is a Philadelphia-based health writer, Pa. Passionate about technology, he often finds himself reading, surfing the Internet and exploring virtual worlds.