The fitness industry – from membership gyms to equipment manufacturers to online content providers and residential fitness centers – has changed during the pandemic. Fundamentally changed. The closure of gyms and fitness centers forced people to workout at home. Forced them to find online communities for classes and the social aspect of fitness in group classes and just general “locker room chatter”.
They purchased everything from dumbbells and foam rollers to treadmills and rowers to compact rigs and squat racks and more. Much more. One major equipment manufacturer confided in Heartline managers that consumer, rather than commercial, equipment sales not only outperformed commercial sales for the first time in company history, but it is also now the primary driver of new product development. That is a major shift and presumes that the home fitness trend will continue to grow and perhaps dominate.
Plus, the new work from home environment has changed people’s routines. Many people choose a health club near their place of work because it is more convenient. Go in early to work out before heading into the office or go after work and wait out the homebound traffic. Now, they’re trying to maintain a separate space for working at home, and perhaps a separate space for exercise. Or they take it outside. But if they are in colder climates, they are limited now that cold weather is here for a while.
That doesn’t mean fitness facilities will just shut down and everyone will workout at home. Far from it. Many exercisers still miss their regular fitness space, the routine, the staff, instructors, personal trainers and the friends they’ve made there. But they now have raised expectations of gyms and fitness centers.
Here’s a quick look into the fitness industry’s take on these attitudinal changes from “7 Ways New Consumer Habits Will Impact the Fitness Industry,” Glofox.com. [You can read the full article here – LINK.]
Here are seven ways consumer habits have shifted and how they will influence the fitness industry. Right now, the industry is surviving on a combination of digital fitness products and online classes. (While Coronavirus has certainly meant a surge for both of these, their popularity has been apparent since 2010.)
- Greater Focus on Fitness Tech – Throughout lockdown, more started using fitness apps and wearables to support their at-home workouts. Once people are used to using wearables, they get into the habit of tracking their efforts and progress, and they like being able to see it.
- Hesitant to Return to Normality – Though many have missed being in the gym, this doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be jumping straight back in and picking up where they left off the moment the doors are open. The truth is that even as businesses open up and social distancing rules are lifted in the coming months, people will be cautious.
- A New Appreciation for Home Workouts -Throughout lockdown, online workouts have been providing people with structure, fitness, a sense of community, and socializing. Online workouts are here to stay because consumers will expect a hybrid offering from membership gyms [and perhaps community fitness facilities as well] in the future. While long-term, many will return to their usual in-gym routine, a gym that also offers online workouts will be even more accessible to members. The rise of the home gym has been substantial, putting even more pressure on membership gyms.
- Even Greater Emphasis on Value – Due to the sheer amount of fitness options online now and their competitive pricing, gym members will become more price-conscious. As gyms and studios prepare to diversify into both online and in-studio workouts in the future, the competition will be high.
- More Aware of the Health Benefits of Fitness
- Greater Appreciation for the Social Aspects of Fitness
- A Broader Definition of Fitness
- The Rise of Digital Fitness
And Now to Good, Great & Exceptional
Meeting the new demands – the new expectations – of your residents may be difficult post-pandemic. If you had a good fitness center in the past, what the pandemic has done to the fitness industry tells us that a “good” fitness center isn’t good enough anymore. And a “great” one probably is not great enough either. In the “new normal” you’ll have to have an exceptional fitness center.
This is due to the shutdowns in the commercial sector and all of the free or low-cost virtual exercise and wellness classes that have been made available to the public by commercial gyms and other companies to keep their customers engaged. Your residents are fully aware of these new and exciting offerings and it’s likely many have taken advantage of them. To bring them back to a “same-old, same-old” fitness center with no programming at all is a mistake, to say the least.
If your fitness center is to become the primary fitness space for them again, you need to offer some kind of on-demand virtual programming. But there’s no reason you can’t broadcast on a big screen the same content (free or minimal cost) that your residents have been using all this time. Just loop in your community and some will show up! And incorporate something new, something exciting into your fitness center. Let’s talk about Peloton for a moment. Peloton, who has come out with a treadmill recently, is the hottest thing fitness has seen, arguably, in decades. However, in 2019 Peloton barred anyone from selling their bikes to multi-family properties – and really their equipment is not designed for the heavy use of these properties anyway. [Peloton explains that they want users to have the individual experience of owning their own machine in their home.] But everyone wants them.
What makes Peloton so powerful is their content. They have built a robust community around their content, their trainers. Well, other manufacturers in the industry have caught up. They have commercial-grade machines and produce similar content. The only difference is they haven’t yet built up a following to rival Peloton. But they are working on it. These are established manufacturers, not start ups so they have a proven track record and aren’t going anywhere. Echelon, Expresso, Life Fitness, Star Trac and others. These are accessible to multi-family properties, affordable and will draw your residents in.
To take virtual a step further – virtual reality. Many commercial manufactures offer live and on-demand classes and the traditional virtual rides through the countryside or iconic cityscapes, but some have “gamified” their content to motivate users even more. You can compete against your neighbor or like-minded exercisers across the globe. Competition is a great motivator – and another way to track your progress toward your fitness goals. For example, Expresso Fitness offers a bike and a rower with wide screens that give you a HIIT (high-intensity interval training) work out through video games – including Treasure World and Dragon Play. [Demos machines may be available.] Other brands offer some of the same kinds of workouts in their packages. There are things you can do right now to move your amenities toward exceptional at any budget. We’re not talking about a complete reno of your facility. There’ll be time (and money) for that down the road. But an update, a few upgrades. And don’t forget that programming. You don’t need to bring in a live trainer, go virtual like everybody else! This can do wonders to attract your residents back to your fitness center for good, once it’s safe to do so. It will give an extra celebratory vibe to your property once the restrictions of the pandemic have been lifted.