Oregon Business – Online Courses Reshaping The Fitness Industry
The first time Ellen de Werd went to an exercise class, she never wanted to attend another.
“I couldn’t keep up and felt really embarrassed,” says de Werd, founder of Warrior’s Gymnasium at Eugene. “The instructor took the microphone and embarrassed me in front of the whole class. I left saying, “I’ll never do that again.” ”
But she loved to exercise, and after having a baby she wanted to make sure she had a way to do what she loved on a regular basis. She found a different instructor and fitness community that made her feel very welcome.
“The instructor made me feel like I could fit in and belong, even though I was bad. I’m pretty sure I was going through postpartum depression and her classes were the only time I found myself smiling, ”says de Werd.
Ellen de Werd is getting ready for the Warrior Rythm fitness class. Credit: Warrior Gym
The experience set her on a path that eventually led her to found her own fitness studio.
With three kids, two of whom are still at home, being a fitness instructor with online classes was – and still is – the best fit on her schedule.
Like most fitness professionals, de Werd’s business has suffered from COVID-19. But like other businesses with an online component, customers’ new desire to meet their needs on the web meant Warrior Gym’s revenue wasn’t as hit as most major fitness centers.
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Online classes and more personalized fitness classes have helped smaller studios compete more effectively for a larger pool of clients. This means that nurturing a sense of community and giving customers a reason to stay has never been more essential.
In addition to his fitness business, de Werd completed online fitness instructor certification testing as a side job. The experience facilitated the transition of his business to a fully online process. It also meant maintaining a stronger social media presence, learning about graphic marketing and videography.
“When I started I was doing everything on my own, recording videos on my cell phone and at the gym, but as we grew up I was able to hire a web designer and give him a professional look, ”she says.
According to a report by Axios Media, gym cancellation rates are higher now than at the start of the pandemic, likely due to changing workout habits among Americans, which includes much more online engagement. By May, industry employment had recovered 60% of its initial job losses, but remained 27% below pre-pandemic levels.
According to a report online sports equipment review website ExecuteRepeat, the number of people who reported home fitness as their preferred method of exercise rose 218.3% in the United States in 2021. In contrast, gym revenues fell 58% in 2020, according to a report by the World Health and Fitness Association.
According to Oregon State Economist Josh Lehner, the impact of the pandemic on the fitness industry has not been fully realized. While consumer spending on gym and sports club memberships has returned to pre-pandemic levels, industry employment is still 27% below what it was at the start of 2020.
A hybrid yoga class in person / online at Hard Core Yoga. Credit: Yoga Hard Core
“The population of Oregon is growing, the demand for fitness activities will continue to increase. Even though gyms are losing members permanently, there are new ones waiting behind the scenes to some extent, ”says Lehner. Lehner also cited increased sales of home fitness equipment and the pandemic’s long-term impact on commercial property prices as suggestions the industry is still adjusting.
Jim Zupancic, President of the Oregon Health and Fitness Alliance, says membership numbers don’t tell the whole story of the fitness centre’s struggles. Although they received loans from the Paycheck Protection Program, gyms did not receive the same type of industry-specific support given to other industries deemed essential.
His organization calls on Oregon lawmakers to support the Gymnasium Act, that would provide federal relief to fitness organizations.
Zupancic also says that while the past year and a half has been a tough one for gyms, he expects the fitness industry to recover by the end of the summer.
Customers have become comfortable with the flexibility and convenience offered by remote exercise, he says. Going forward, gyms will need to maintain a strong online presence to remain competitive.
But he also doesn’t expect online fitness to go away.
Chelsea Duke leads an all-in-person yoga session at Yoga of the hard core. Credit: Hard core yoga
“You can’t replace that camaraderie on the computer. People are more motivated to exercise in person, ”Zupancic explains. “But with the new mobility of our society and the ability of people to work from home, there is an adaptation that our industry has had to undergo. I think we will continue to see strong demand for online offerings. ”
Cultivating the online community means having a strong mission statement. Part of maintaining the community vibe is showing people of all shapes and sizes in videos and marketing materials. De Werd says making clients feel welcome means they’re more likely to engage with each other in class and on social media.
Chelsea Duke owner, of Hard core yoga, was preparing to expand his company’s limited online offerings before the pandemic began, but COVID-19 has kicked off.
“It was really at the bottom of my to-do list. But the pandemic started a fire under my buttocks. We closed Friday and reopened Wednesday with a new schedule. We adapted very quickly and we didn’t see as big a drop in revenue as in other places, ”says Duke.
Duke’s business had to become flexible to meet members’ needs. Most of Duke’s core members are now on a hybrid schedule, taking some lessons live and others when streamed and up to 24 hours after. Not only does this ensure that loyal customers never miss classes, it also makes fitness classes more accessible to people who otherwise wouldn’t have time for them.
Duke says in-person classes will always be part of his business. The ability for an instructor to view and correct a client’s form, for example, is an experience that cannot be recreated online. With so much competition across the country and even overseas, maintaining a welcoming atmosphere and personal relationships with a core client group is always the key to the success of any small fitness studio.
“It’s really cool when everyone is in the studio, but the online model is a great system that works for a lot of people,” says Duke. “I predict some of these numbers online will go down as more places come back in person, but it has definitely reshaped our industry.”
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