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By :
James Leslie-Smith

Remember all those lockdown Zoom fitness classes? PE with Joe Wicks? 

The pandemic kicked the previously steady growth of online fitness into overdrive, with a flood of new content and platforms hitting the market. Bold revenue generation claims accompanied many of them, and fitness content began to swamp social media as more and more PTs jumped on board.

Some PTs started to realise the financial benefits of an online business model, others struggled to gain a foothold, despite putting in hours of dedicated time and developing quality content.

So, just why did some fly and some falter? And, what does the future hold for online fitness platforms as restrictions ease?

What changed?

During lockdown, anyone with a membership was forced to swap the gym for their front room.  ‘PE with Joe’, and all the media coverage around it, opened up a whole new gym-shy audience. Many people turned to exercise as a lockdown coping mechanism, and the appetite for online content was huge. Sales of exercise equipment and clothing rocketed.

Social media platforms, such as You Tube and Instagram, were flooded with fitness content, of varying quality, covering almost every type of workout possible.

Monetisation

The challenge for personal trainers was, how do I pivot to an online business model, and how do I compete with the fitness influencers who already have a strong online brand? Well-established and with thousands of existing followers, they can offer online classes for an attractive price point. Already used to operating online and producing slick content, high-profile fitness influencers and celebrities, understandably, lead the market.

Competing in this landscape, and with so much free content available, is undoubtedly a challenge. 

A raft of new online platforms are being launched to fill that gap and help fitness professionals by providing other skills and support needed to run a successful business.

WELD enables PTs with good quality content who want to start-up online to reach a wider audience in exchange for a small percentage of their revenue generated on the app.

Lenus supports PTs with an app, tailored to their brand and product offer, from start-up to scale-up. The platform provides business functions, such as analytics, lead tracking and marketing, whilst offering users personalised meal plans, workouts and metrics to monitor progress.   

Trainify.me is a simple booking platform that allows users to browse classes according to type and location, and book using ‘trainify points’.

Many of these platforms recruit Account Managers who assist with anything from building a website to optimising social media. All with the aim of helping entrepreneurial PTs reach this new, growing audience.

Despite this, for every success story, there are many accomplished, highly qualified trainers who just haven’t been able to translate their in-person brand into a viable online business, and have quit the industry.

Online vs In-Person

So, what about the user experience? How have we adapted to working out at home?

The benefits of using good quality online exercise platforms are clear: they’re cheaper, you can exercise at any time, anywhere, there’s no embarrassment factor, and it saves time. 

But there are some downsides.

There is no access to the latest specialist equipment. A PT isn’t monitoring your form and making corrections. There is no interaction, no one motivating you to push yourself, no one stopping you from leaving a class halfway through.

What about the social side of a traditional class environment? Will people miss the banter, support and encouragement of a live class? 

Let’s face it. Without a trainer staring you in the eyes and telling you to go for it, would you put in the same amount of effort?

A hybrid future

Sport and technology undoubtedly go hand in hand. There are some amazing innovations in online fitness that are helping the next generation of fitness enthusiasts reach a new audience and turn their passion into a viable career.

My view is that we’ll see a hybrid model emerge, with customers cherry picking the best of new technology and traditional gyms in a way that suits them. 

Gyms will have to adapt with flexible commercial models to fit hybrid home/office working patterns. Many already have an online offer to support their network of physical locations.

New, innovative tech platforms will continue to grow, and become more immersive, in an effort to create a similar environment to the gym.

Inevitably, for PTs, there will be winners and losers. Those that survive will be those who can adapt, embrace new skills and continue to create new, innovative quality content.

 

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