Coronavirus came, saw, and conquered. One of its biggest victims was the exercise and fitness industry. With physical distancing being the best way to prevent the spread of the virus, fitness clubs and gyms across the company shut down. Most have partially reopened, but some are still dark. Meanwhile, people are taking virtual exercise classes at home. The question is this: will virtual classes continue after coronavirus?
It seems only a matter of time before we are talking about coronavirus like we talk about the Spanish flu. It will always be in our minds, but we will have learned to live with it. But could it be that systemic changes the crisis has forced on the fitness industry will be permanent? Anything is possible.
A Run on Home Exercise Equipment
According to the E-Commerce Times’ Vivian Wagner, there was a big run on home exercise equipment in the weeks after coronavirus lockdowns began. People were buying everything from stationary bikes to treadmills to outfit their home gyms. Many were following up with virtual gym memberships and online classes.
Salt Lake City’s Mcycle studio was among untold numbers of local businesses willing to get on board by offering virtual classes. Their customers signed up for indoor cycling classes just as they would have had the studio remained open. Some of their customers are still taking classes online.
As for the run on home exercise equipment, things seem to have died down. People have purchased what they are going to purchase. Now they are settling into their home exercise routines. This is good in the sense that people are still exercising even though they do not feel comfortable going to the gym. But it is not necessarily good for business owners who have come to rely on the live class model to sustain their businesses.
Getting Customers to Come Back
Fitness center and studio owners now face the task of getting customers to come back for live sessions. It is likely that at least a portion of their customers will never visit their premises again. They have gotten so comfortable with exercising at home that they have no plans to go back. Others are on the fence.
A cycling studio could try a variety of strategies to get customers back, including:
- discounted classes
- new class offerings
- new equipment
- enhanced safety protocols.
The possibilities here are endless. Getting riders back into studio cycling classes is a matter of finding out what they want and then giving it to them. The challenge is more the first part than the second. Do customers even know what they want at this point? And if they do know, are their expectations reasonable?
Comfortable in the Virtual World
It looks like an uphill battle for fitness studios and gyms as coronavirus restrictions gradually ease. Their biggest challenge will be overcoming the fact that we have gotten strangely comfortable with the virtual world. Many of us seem to have acquiesced to the idea that life will never go back to normal. We have forced ourselves to become content with the consequences of coronavirus restrictions.
Herd immunity will at some point be achieved. And when it is, the combination of lower case rates and therapeutics will give people the confidence they need to return to normal life. But will that mean virtual exercise classes will cease just as quickly as they started? Probably not. The popularity of virtual classes may begin to wane in the coming months, but it will take some time for them to completely fade away – if they ever do.