How The Studio Fitness Experience Is Changing In 2020
This past spring, TURNER’s Kelsey Comstock took a hard look at the radically changing world of studio fitness in a post-COVID landscape. In the weeks and months following the outbreak and subsequent lockdown, studio fitness brands had to rapidly shift gears in an unprecedented way. Consumers still had a hunger for a wide array of studio fitness options — perhaps even more so than before the pandemic. But the “studio” part of the equation was suddenly missing, with most brands having to temporarily close their brick-and-mortar locations.
The New Wave
Some brands began to find their footing in this new online environment. CorePower Yoga began hosting classes on its CorePower Yoga On Demand and CorePower Live platforms. Pure Barre studios invited their local communities to come together for live classes and events. Mindbody launched a virtual wellness platform, which allowed app users to experience wellness services from all around the world, no matter where they were based.
Soon, we could see a hybrid model emerging, with virtual and in-person offerings blending. Pandora’s Box has been opened. This hybrid model is likely to be a permanent fixture on the fitness scene even once the pandemic has ended. People definitely love having access to their favorite classes and instructors from the comfort of their own homes. However, in-person experiences are not going away. In fact, a huge number of consumers miss and long for the human connections that can’t be made through a screen.
The current numbers, drawn from a recent Mindbody study, are revealing:
- 93 percent of consumers say they will go back to their previous routine once gyms/fitness studios reopen;
- 58 percent of consumers feel comfortable or very comfortable returning to boutique fitness studios (e.g. yoga, Pilates, spin, HIIT).
Fitness brands are already dipping their toes back into in-person experiences. We’re watching to see what’s happening now — and what’s coming in the future.
Working Out In The Open
Pure Barre was founded on the principle of community, so the brand isn’t letting the in-person experience fall to the wayside. In order to stay connected IRL, its extensive network of 550+ studios has been getting innovative. Many locations have partnered with local businesses — hotels, stores, wineries — to host beautiful open-air pop-up classes nationwide. With these socially distanced (but still social) classes, consumers have been able to safely elevate their fitness routine, reconnect with friends and meet new people. Weather permitting, the open-air model is an ideal way for consumers to get back in the swing of in-person studio fitness — without actually going into a studio. They’re also great for studios who want to make long-lasting connections within their communities. By getting out in the open (literally), they’re promoting the Pure Barre brand in new (and sometimes unusual) settings.
But make no mistake: studios are definitely on their way back. They just won’t be exactly the same as they were pre-COVID. They’ll be cleaner, safer and more streamlined. Currently for in-studio classes, Pure Barre requires a health waiver to acknowledge that client participation in the studio is welcomed as long as the client is healthy and observing the new studio policies and social distancing protocols. Additionally, class sizes have been reduced to guarantee a minimum of six feet of personal distance between members during class. Finally, a new mobile app check-in feature allows for check-in for a booked class utilizing a personal device instead of the front desk kiosk. Meanwhile, other studios and gyms have put into place clear partitions that separate clients during workouts.
These sometimes-extreme safety measures are necessary in order to regain consumer confidence in the studio experience. And implementing these new measures won’t be enough; studios will have to be clear and upfront in all communications with clients about the measures, earning their trust back one session at a time.
What’s Next For Studio Fitness?
- Filtration systems in studios will be big – and consumers will want to know that these systems are in place. In particular, MERV-13 filters help filter out small air particles, as well as to deactivate viruses, bacteria, tobacco smoke, and any microscopic allergens.
- In order to draw people out of their houses and back into brick-and-mortar locations, studios will have to offer them more bang for their bucks. That means an increased sense of community, added in-person perks and gamified options that will elevate the overall in-person experience.
- Personalized attention from trainers will be key. The studio experience is superior to the virtual in that it offers camaraderie, energy and a social atmosphere. You simply don’t get that at home, working out in front of a screen. Especially as the pandemic wanes, clients will crave the human connection they get from the in-studio experience, even if they continue to blend that experience with virtual offerings.
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