Here’s Everything That Happened At FitNation 2020

By Neesha Kanaga

Published 16 October 2020

After months of meticulous planning and a whirlwind of a day, Virtuagym’s second installment of FitNation 2020 set off without a hitch on Friday, the 9th of October. The event, which is meant to give a microphone to some of the most formidable voices in the fitness community, was live-streamed from our Amsterdam HQ to hundreds of viewers worldwide.

This year’s lineup featured a host of high-profile professionals who conducted workshops on their areas of expertise and shared their insights on the future of the fitness industry.

Here’s a quick recap on FitNation 2020 and the sessions that took place.

Mark Tuitert on How to Deal With Setbacks in a High-Pressure Environment

Olympic gold medallist Mark Tuitert talked about his journey in professional sports as a speed skater (and the resultant burnout and stress). He helped fitness entrepreneurs assess the stressors they are undergoing and learn to better combat them.

Mark Tuitert on How to Deal With Setbacks

Tuitert shared these great insights with us:

  • “I didn’t count on one thing, competition is everywhere. We compete in a market as fitness entrepreneurs, but you also compete in a market as an employee as everybody. In professional sports this is exaggerated, even more, the difference between winning and losing is so small.”
  • Within one month of winning, an American guy raised the bar even higher. “He broke my world record and a year later the world record was broken and became even higher.”

EuropeActive’s Herman Rutger and Deloitte’s Fitness Industry Report on COVID-19

The co-founder of Europe Active Herman Rutger, and Virtuagym CEO Hugo Braam, joined forces to outline the effects of the coronavirus on the fitness industry.

Virtuagym's Industry Report on COVID-19

Due to facility closures caused by the coronavirus, many businesses were forced to shut their doors and were left without revenue for weeks on end. Classes received little to no bookings, and members froze their memberships.

In April, the revenue of fitness businesses in the Virtuagym system dropped to 58% compared to February. This drop in revenue impacted most clubs, with between 41-82% of clubs seeing a significant reduction in revenue throughout the peak of COVID-19.

The two speakers discussed the past year and the implications for the industry, plus what we can expect from the future of fitness.

Somi Arian on How to Innovate and Disrupt the Fitness Industry

Somi Arian has worn many hats in her personal life and career. From being a fitness model to singing in a metal band, and finding her foothold as a tech philosopher, Arian’s kaleidoscopic approach to life is focused on innovation and disruption. With COVID-19 uprooting what we thought we knew about the health and fitness market, her take is that digital transformation is imperative.

Arian explained that many companies fail at adapting to digital transformation because they fail to see it as an ongoing process, but rather as an end-goal. There is no end to going digital, as the tech world is constantly evolving.

Somi Arian on How to Innovate and Disrupt the Fitness Industry

Her main points were:

  • Give your fitness business room to grow. Have an open mindset, and do not resist change. This will allow you to survive in whatever environment you’re operating in. And while you’re at that, do not get attached to the new way of doing things either!
  • Digital transformation is in the best interest of giant tech corporations, so if you don’t embrace new technology and software, you’re going to fall behind.

Natalia Karbasova on the Importance of Community Building

Natalia Karbasova, the founder of FitTech Summit, spoke about the importance of community building in an age of uncertainty. According to her, creating human connections in the fitness industry by leveraging tech is the way forward during this pandemic.

Natalia Karbasova on Community Building

Key takeaways from Karbasova’s workshop:

  • Build relationships; business will follow.
  • Use existing platforms like events, organizations, and LinkedIn, to better understand the key players in the industry and establish new connections.
  • Provide a service before you ask for one – create value-laden transactions that go beyond money and business.

Dr. Ludidi on Why the ‘Same Old Same Old’ Doesn’t Work and Moving Towards A New Food Model

Dr. Ludidi puts his money where his mouth is by wanting to make a real impact on the way we eat and think about food. And before you ask if he’s a real doctor, Dr. Ludidi has a doctorate in philosophy and is a nutritional scientist. He’s worked with some of the world’s top athletes to help them meet their health and fitness goals.

He connects the dots between history, human development, and industrialization to acknowledge our 21st century way of eating, which is often riddled with cardiovascular diseases and ‘food illiteracy’. This holistic approach helps us better understand what kind of nutrients we need for the types of lifestyles we lead.

Moving Towards A New Food Model with Dr. Ludidi

Highlights from Dr. Ludidi’s talk:

  • We need to think about food as nutrients, as a social binder, and as something we need for taste and deliciousness. It can be all these things and not just sustenance.
  • From an evolutionary perspective, we can all go without food for some time. But, never rush into the extremes of intermittent fasting. Always build it up slowly by eating less and less, and cultivate a well-rounded eating plan that’s based on research.

Marjolijn Meijer – Founder & CEO Urban Gym Group (TrainMore, Clubsportive & High Studios)

Marjolijn Meijer specializes in building a great fitness business. As the co-founder and CEO of some of the Netherlands’ top gyms and studios, she knows a thing or two about executing innovative fitness concepts.

She stressed the importance of doing market research, knowing your competitors, and creating a niche offering that stands out while providing all the creature comforts we’re used to seeing at gyms. For her, it’s not only an exercise in business-building but also about creating a culture surrounding your gym or brand.

Marjolijn Meijer – Founder & CEO Urban Gym Group

Some key insights from Meijer:

  • Go big or go home. Meijer’s gyms have pretty much taken over the Netherlands, and her main motivation is the notion that she’s creating something that does not exist in the market.
  • Collaborate with experts. She attributes the success of her businesses to her ability to surround herself with like-minded experts who helped her mobilize her ambitions.
  • Create a culture around your gym or studio so people know what to expect when they walk through the doors, anywhere in the world it may be.

Mark Jenkins Conducted An Exclusive Celebrity Workout!

To help us put a break to all the talking (and break a sweat), Mark Jenkins – who just happens to be a personal trainer to Beyonce, P. Diddy, Mary J. Blige –  did an exclusive live workout at FitNation.

Jenkins is a master of transformation, having gone from being a severely overweight youth to sporting washboard abs and helping other stars achieve enviable bodies. His turning point was when he joined the military and learned how to be fit – while being in the Gulf War. His goal is to inspire people on the best ways to burn fat and build muscle quickly, stay motivated, sample meal plans, and create workouts that can be used at home.

Celebrity trainer Mark Jenkins

If you bought tickets to FitNation 2020, you can access Jenkins’ workout special here. Just use the password in the after-email we sent out!

Sandy Macaskill on Why Corporate Social Responsibility Creates Success

You may not know the name Sandy Macaskill, but you’ve surely heard of Barry’s or Barry’s Bootcamp. Macaskill’s talk was centered around the idea of dispelling fitness norms and looking harder at the ‘health’ part of health and fitness.

Moving away from the traditional fitness model that’s built upon getting sculpted abs and burgeoning biceps, Barry’s more recent initiatives also cater to mental health support, kids’ classes, meal planning, and fundraising for the NHS.

Sandy Macaskill on Corporate Social Responsibility

Highlights from Macaskill’s session:

  • It’s important for gyms to start talking about mental health and wellbeing rather than just getting beach bodies. This is a central part of CSR when you’re a gym. While people may come for a physical reason, they stay because they end up feeling better about themselves.
  • Tell your instructors and trainers that they’re not just there to help people get a workout in, but to educate members about healthy behaviors.
  • You’re responsible for the wellbeing of your clients. If you’re closed due to the coronavirus, make sure to reach out to your community and keep them engaged.

Bryan O’Rourke talks about Apple’s Impact on the Fitness Industry

O’Rourke is a thought leader in the tech fitness industry, which is a different animal altogether. It’s concerned with the connectivity, simplicity, and instantaneous access to a myriad of workouts. He spoke about upcoming technology that’s set to disrupt the way we think about health and fitness, with wearables being at the forefront of this change.

Apple is among the most trusted brands in the world, and it’s been working hard to become your certified fitness partner in and out of the gym. And it doesn’t end there, O’Rourke pointed out that Apple is even in healthcare, payment, scheduling, biometrics, and entertainment.

Apple's Impact on the Fitness Industry

Highlights from O’Rourke’s talk:

  • Even though behemoth tech companies like Google, Amazon, and Apple dominate the scene, it’s still possible for small companies to use tech companies to compete in more niche ways. But they must be open to hybridization. 
  • As Apple dominates the healthcare and fitness industry, it’s important to remember that they’re still concerned with monetary gain. While he doesn’t foresee lockouts, he does think that all aspects where tech meets fitness will be monetized. He cautions against placing too much faith in these companies to know when to stop.

That’s a wrap – until next year!

We’re still buzzing from everything that happened at FitNation 2020. Whether you sponsored or participated, we want to thank you for being a part of our vision and for making this event a success!

Keep the motivation alive by checking out highlights from the event and look back on everything that happened through recordings of all the speakers.

FitNation will return with a bang in 2021. Get ready for another round of thought leadership, inspiration, and educational workshops from key figures in the fitness industry. Grab your tickets here.

Neesha Kanaga


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