How to Make Your Virtual Fitness Classes Better

Virtual fitness class with instructor leading group workout in a bright studio with exercise equipment and mats. Participants are engaged and smiling while following along with the routine.
In a hybrid world, it’s critical that fitness professionals and gym/studio owners alike recognize the importance of building a virtual arm for their business.

The Future is Hybrid

The $94 billion fitness industry is currently undergoing a defining digital transformation. As a result of pandemic-related restrictions throughout the world, digital fitness has grown exponentially.

In fact, the digital fitness industry alone is forecasted to reach $27.4 billion in 2022, and brands are capitalizing on the opportunity.

Apple’s recent introduction of Fitness+, Lululemon’s acquisition of Mirror, and the rise of smart home gyms such as Tempo and Tonal all demonstrate data-powered fitness is here to stay.

Consumer expectations are changing fast

Likewise, consumers have also begun adjusting their preferences to the digital realm with exploding interest in live-streamed workouts, new fitness apps, and wearable technology.

Since March of 2020, 85% of Mindbody consumers are now attending livestreaming classes weekly versus 7% in 2019. Without the hassle of a daily commute, people all over the world are able to workout more frequently, from the comfort of their homes. With 46% of participants intending to make virtual classes a part of their weekly routine even after studio reopenings, it’s clear that having a virtual arm for gyms and studios will become essential to thriving in this new normal. 

Build a virtual business arm

In a hybrid world, it’s critical that fitness professionals and gym/studio owners alike recognize the importance of building a virtual arm for their business that complements their in-person experience.

This will help retain current members, but it’s also how growth will happen: a recent Mindbody survey revealed that 40% of consumers are booking virtual workouts with studios they had never physically visited before, allowing those businesses to reach “digital-first” clients.

Taking virtual seriously will give fitness businesses a concrete advantage: reaching consumers where they make their buying decisions.

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How to level up

To truly succeed in this new paradigm, coaches need to craft digital fitness experiences that deliver the same value that in-person classes gave consumers in the past.

This is possible now by leveraging the right toolset; one that includes best-of-breed streaming platforms and artificial intelligence-powered engagement enhancements. 

There are three key success drivers:

  1. Effectively delivering a virtual coaching experience that meets the consumer expectations that formed in person. The coach has the responsibility to bring energy and draw out motivation from athletes, and to monitor their athlete’s progress over time. Coaches are a critical source of accountability for their community. To do so, a coach will need to become fluent in live-streaming and on-demand platforms and use data-powered tools to help enhance the online fitness experience. 
  1. Evolving into a creative streaming professional, and honing that craft to stay ahead of the competition. Coaches need to pay attention to all the small details that go into streaming a pro-style workout… choosing ideal locations and backgrounds, optimized lighting, music selection and audio broadcast levels. Adding real time timer visuals that delineate segment lengths and what exercises are coming next. Did you know you can broadcast live workouts to multiple social platforms at once? Are you using breakout rooms, spotlighting athletes, or running group competitions during your sessions? Creativity and novelty matters a lot. 
  1. Leveraging AI-powered tools that help simulate the in-person studio experience and enhance your ability to connect with your community on a personal level. Artificial Intelligence tools can now enhance virtual workouts by providing coaches with real time metrics that let you personalize the experience for every athlete. Use these metrics to deliver accountability, feedback, and real time engagement to your community. Everyone can walk away feeling like they accomplished their goals, and by monitoring these metrics over time you can work with your athletes on their progress over time. AI will give you a second pair of eyes on every athlete in your group sessions, and can even augment their experience with automatic rep counting and real-time form correction. 

Ultimately, the coaches who will thrive in tomorrow’s increasingly hybridized world will be the ones who leverage the tools at their disposal. These platforms, tools and innovations will engage and strengthen their communities and enhance the experience they can deliver virtually - all of which will lead to a strong, growing business. 

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