The Future Of Fitness
I took a CorePower Yoga Sculpt class on Tuesday, March 10. As sweat puddled onto my mat mid squat series and I synced my breath to the beat of the bass, I remained blissfully unaware of the fact that these would be the last moments I spent in a fitness studio for a very, very long time. Within less than one week, pretty much every gym and fitness studio across the country was closed. The coming weeks became the equivalent of what is usually years – even decades – in the making: a complete industry about-face.
In light of gyms shutting down across the country due to COVID-19, the industry went digital in a matter of weeks. CorePower Yoga began hosting live classes on its YouTube channel three times a day, Pure Barre studios around the nation invited their local communities to tuck it out together via livestream. Mindbody launched a virtual wellness platform, allowing its app users the ability to sweat it out from their homes with trainers from around the globe.
In fact, Mindbody’s research arm released a study showing a 230 percent increase in the number of attended virtual classes on March 23 as compared to the previous Monday. This is an unprecedented behavioral shift. And the percentage increase has only continued to soar in the weeks since “stay-at-home” and “safer-at-home” orders have been in place. With the mass adoption of virtual fitness, the question becomes: what does the future hold?
In-Studio: The New Normal
The immediate future holds the anticipated reopening of thousands of brick-and-mortar gyms across the country. Included in Phase 1 of President Trump’s three-phase reopening plan, independent and chain studios are now weighing ever-changing state and local guidelines to determine when they will welcome clients again. That milestone will bring with it a plethora of newly implemented safety measures.
The new normal in boutique fitness will include health waivers, modified studio hours and class capacities to enforce social distancing, sanitization between classes and contactless payments and check-ins, just to name a few. Since every business must adhere to local mandates, many studios will also need to abide by PPE and temperature check enforcement, depending on geography and company policy. Not only will these new measures be required by law, but consumers will expect them. Client safety, comfort and peace of mind within a studio setting will remain to be first and foremost.
Fitness Future: A Happy Hybrid
Like every industry right now, the future of fitness will be markedly different from its pre-COVID counterpart. While Mindbody’s study revealed that 93 percent of consumers plan to go back to their previous fitness routines – promising intel, indeed – 43 percent of them indicated that they plan to include a virtual component moving forward. The brands who thrive will need to ensure their offerings include a hybrid of in-person and virtual experiences so that their members can maintain their preferred workouts in whichever way feels the safest and most effective.
While the brick-and-mortar fitness landscape is about to catapult into its post-COVID era, my eye is on the brands emerging from and innovating within the virtual world. Brands will need to be nimble and adaptable, catching hold of a format that has become the norm for people around the globe in just a short couple of months. Like other industries, fitness will spend the next year adjusting, experimenting with new blends and offerings that bring wellness practices to a changing — and growing — audience. The future of fitness isn’t crystal clear, but it’s still bright.