Coronavirus: Online fitness training more relevant than ever, says expert

SINGAPORE – Anticipating what their clients need and catering to those demands will be key if gyms and fitness studios hope to recover well in the post-Covid era, said experts at ExPro, a virtual fitness conference, on Friday (May 29).

These demands could include more thorough hygiene protocols, safer ways to train, as well as a simple request for more information.

And business owners must be prepared to not only tackle these but also communicate that they are doing so.

The sports and fitness industry has been badly affected by the coronavirus pandemic, which has forced many facilities to shut for several months under the circuit breaker measures to stem the spread of the disease.

Many have offered their services online to keep their businesses afloat.

But Daniel Henderson, director of Functional Training Institute, which provides educational courses for fitness professionals, noted: “Covid-19 has given people the opportunity to step back and really examine their business… to see where the opportunities are and where there can be improvements made.”

The Australian co-founder of fitness centre Momentum 360 also predicted that online training would be “more relevant than ever” in the future and encouraged gyms to continue offering virtual options.

In his talk called Building A Great Business Beyond Covid-19, he explained that this is both for the flexibility it offers clients, as well as the creation of an “additional profit layer” for businesses.

Referring to the second phase of Australia’s three-step plan to ease its coronavirus restrictions, where indoor exercise with limitations is allowed, Henderson said: “The reality is that just because some of the restrictions will be lifted doesn’t mean there won’t be limitations.

“We won’t be able to go back to the way it was… how are you going to navigate (smaller class sizes) with class times?

“You’d also have to change the way you train and think about your space, and minimise the sharing of equipment.”

Paul Brown, who created the Face2Face Retention Systems, urged business owners to be ready for “an avalanche of inquiries about membership cancellation, or refunds or suspensions”.

In his session titled The 7 Cs Of Business Recovery, he said: “Be prepared to process a variety of different inquiries, have a designated desk of trained staff, and empower them to handle all types of membership alterations.

“Don’t take it personally… your game is how many people can you encourage to turn around and want to stay by educating them that we are going to coach them back on track, or get them with a personal trainer or get them into a small group class, or do whatever it is that they’re currently missing out on.”

Other topics addressed on the second day of the two-day conference, organised by non-profit body FitnessSG, included business recovery advice for the fitness industry, optimal nutrition for mental health and optimising sleep and stress in challenging times.

Participants whom The Straits Times spoke to felt the speakers offered valuable insight and advice.

One thing that resonated with Samantha Woodward, owner of two Anytime Fitness franchises, and Tribody Fitness co-founder and managing director Carol Cabal, was the emphasis on showing care for staff and clients.

Woodward, who plans to review the material from the talks with her 14 staff next week, said: “We really have to show we care – if you care for everybody, it always has a knock-on effect and I think we really need to validate everyone’s concerns when they come back to the gym.”

Cabal added: “What I took from the two speakers is you have to go beyond what you were doing when your gym was physically open, and your clients would now need a bit more reassurance that we are here for them and we are adapting the delivery of their exercise.

“If they don’t want to do it online, it’s fine, we will wait till they are ready to come back when the gym is open.”

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