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Before the pandemic, one in every seven people in the U.K. was a member of a gym or group exercise facility, but how many of these people will return to their normal fitness regimes whilst COVID-19 still remains a genuine risk?
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With gyms and fitness facilities closed worldwide and social distancing rules firmly in place for the coming months or at least until a vaccination has been developed, many are asking what the future holds for gyms and group exercise facilities once lockdown laws are eased.
Before the COVID pandemic struck, one in every seven people in the U.K. was a member of a gym or group exercise facility, but how many of these people will return to their normal fitness regimes whilst COVID-19 still remains a genuine risk?
For many people, the gym is the communal space they miss the most, however, with social distancing rules in place, some may feel anxious to return, and as such the normal group exercise and gym offering will need to be transformed considerably. The head office team at F45 Training, the global industry leader in group exercise training, shares their insights on the future of group exercise after lockdown, and how gyms and studios will need to pivot their pre-COVID business models and adapt to this ‘new norm’.
Gyms will continue operating online
Prior to lockdown, gyms were sought-after anchor tenants by landlords in commercial complexes, because over the last three to five years people have increasingly been paying for health and fitness as it is being seen as a necessity rather than a luxury. Lockdown has compounded this view as people are recalibrating their views on what is important.
“We are seeing more gyms turn to online classes via Instagram and Zoom in a bid to help their members stay fit and healthy, as well as maintain a revenue stream. F45 studios across the world have digitally developed new methods for people to enjoy their infamous 45-minute HIIT workouts, which follow the exact same format that members already know and love,” says Cassie Georgouras, co-owner of F45 Shepherds Bush. “People are embracing online training out of necessity. Our members are still as committed to their fitness, however, they are moderating their expectations of what they can achieve and regularly express immense gratitude for our online program, as it is something distinctly and clearly positive in a world of uncertainty.”
In addition to studio-specific daily Instagram Live workouts, F45 has evolved its F45 Challenge app to include at-home, on-demand workouts, with or without equipment, as well as nutrition advice and recipe suggestions, which is available for non-members as well as those signed up to a specific studio worldwide. It has also developed a range of home fitness equipment kits: The LIIT Kit and LIIT Pro for people to use alongside their favorite F45 workouts to help vary their workouts and enhance results.
Now that businesses are learning to operate from home and will be worried that nervous gym-goers may not return as soon as lockdown is lifted, gyms are more than likely to keep the online element for good or at least for the foreseeable future, which they can run alongside their studio offering. “Many businesses will also be tempted to forego expensive rent on office space, meaning landlords will be under a huge amount of pressure to secure key tenants such as gyms in their schemes,” adds Cassie.
Fitness communities will remain united
Fitness facilities that have heavily invested in fostering their communities over the years are benefiting right now, and many businesses will find that their members do not want to freeze or cancel their memberships, despite the financial stresses they are experiencing.
“Prior to lockdown, people were seeking more than just physical outcomes in the way that they chose their mode of fitness. They looked for a community where people knew them by their name, where they shared similar goals and values and where they could build their choice of fitness into their lifestyle through participating in social and fitness activities with their fellow members. Lockdown has made us aware of how much we need each other, and how much fulfillment being part of a tribe gives us.
“We have learned that our members thrive on community, both inside and outside the confines of our studio space, and they still want to be a part of our community. Gym goers are going to choose somewhere they know and trust; where they see their gym as more than just a business, and gyms will be more responsive and communicative with the needs of their members, both in terms of service delivery and in terms of what makes them feel safe,” explains Cassie.
We will see a rise in outdoor bootcamps
In some parts of the world such as Australia and Hong Kong, outdoor activities such as bootcamps and non-contact sports where social distancing can be maintained are now permissible. Some F45 studios in Hong Kong and Australia that are not able to open their studios yet are currently running outdoor bootcamps, which have a maximum of 20 people per session. To help keep in line with government guidelines and ensure that optimal social distancing measures are in place, the bootcamps will see each person have a 2m x 2m workout area marked out by 4 cones, and a station marker placed in front of each person’s area. There will also be a 50cm gap in between each person’s workout area. Members will not move from their workout area for the entire workout, and any equipment used will be their own to avoid contamination.
Increased hygiene measures
Before lockdown, gyms all over the world increased the frequency and intensity of cleaning. F45 studios sent numerous emails out to their members, reassuring them that they were taking the threat of the virus very seriously and outlining the actions that they would be taking. Many studios cleaned their equipment with the appropriate alcohol wipes so that members could see that they were practicing what they preached.
In Hong Kong, using hand sanitizer and taking members temperatures was required upon entry, and members were encouraged to use the sanitizer in between sets and in the rest breaks. In addition, anyone who was coming back from overseas went on a seven-day mandatory suspension. But as the number of cases of the virus across the world increased, they often made the call to suspend people for 14 days.
For the U.K., it is difficult to predict what ‘open’ will look like, whenever that will be, however, we imagine we will follow in the same footsteps as Hong Kong by increasing hygiene measures dramatically, but this will depend greatly on government guidelines. We will also start to introduce a new F45 workout solution for members, to ensure no equipment is shared for in-studio workouts and to comply with the strict reopening guidelines. This programing will use the majority of equipment packs, but members will be assigned to a fixed station for the entire workout to help maintain social distancing guidelines and eliminate person-to-person contact and sharing of equipment.
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