What fitness businesses should do during the coronavirus outbreak

By Parisa Hashempour

Published 18 March 2020

The health of your members is your number one priority. However with new measures and restrictions in place due to the coronavirus outbreak, the health of your fitness business might be causing you concern too. Studios, gyms and trainers are going to find the next few months particularly challenging.

You may have to prepare yourself for requests for cancellations, a drop in sales, and a drop in package repurchases. In this article we’ll outline the best ways to stay engaged with your members when they are unable to visit your facility and how to avoid losses in this tricky time.

How to engage members outside your gym or studio

Around the world, gyms, studios and health clubs have been ordered to close their doors. This means that many people will have to work out at home in order to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. For you, that means getting creative with the way that you connect with and engage members outside your gym or studio to ensure you don’t lose their business. Luckily, the internet, social media and digital platforms make this easier to do than ever.

Embrace the virtual workout trend

Virtual workouts are the future of the fitness industry – and we’ve come a long way from those old Jane Fonda exercise videos. These days, you have a number of options for helping your clients workout virtually. Peter Van de Velde, owner of health and lifestyle center Fun Move, has been doing personal training sessions over webcam and stresses that “it’s important to give members access to more content so it’s easier for them to work out from home.”

It can be as simple as downloading an app like Zoom or Skype and delivering live workouts. But you could also record your workouts ahead of time. If you ever had plans to start your YouTube career, now might just be that moment.

But if getting on camera isn’t your thing, there are a whole host of video resources online that you can direct your clients and members towards. YouTube channels such as Fitness Blender, Blogilates, Popsugar and Yoga with Adriene have a huge backlog of workout videos that can be done at home. You could also use an in-app service like Virtuagym’s Video On Demand feature – with this members can stream hundreds of workout videos from the comfort of their own homes.

Online exercise video YouTube dancing

Create challenges

Keep holding your members accountable by creating challenges for them to participate in outside of the gym. Instigate challenges that are easily done at home – this adds a sense of competition for your clients and members, which may act as a useful motivator for keeping them on track. Apps like Virtuagym have features that enable this as well as an online community feature that will help them stay in touch with another, adding the much needed sociability factor that members look for when exercising as part of a club, gym or studio. But you could also foster a community via online groups on Facebook or even Whatsapp groups.

Keep tracking their progress

Social media should also be used to help encourage members and clients to track their progress. Encourage progress pictures or even create a challenge that is easily visually monitored. Could all of your members share their attempts at the most home pull-ups? At a headstand? Think innovatively about how to get them to share their journey.

Use an online coaching feature

Personalized home workout programs with digital check-ins are a great way to continue to provide the personalized touch your brand is known for during this time of social distancing. If you don’t have a system in place, you can send workouts via email and have check-ins using some of the video conferencing tools mentioned above for checking-in.

Apps like Virtuagym have a 3D workout library built with more than 5,000 exercises. You can use this to mass assign daily tailored home workouts, which can all be done from the comfort of their living room. Alternatively you could go old-school on this one and create PDF workout sheets. Figure out what works best for your clients and how you can get it to them.

Exercising indoors

How to avoid loss and churn

It’s important to defer or spread out your loss to minimise the damage it causes to your business. You could do this by making agreements with members.

Reduce costs

This time away from work may also be difficult for your members too. Try reducing membership by a quarter for the next few months or for one third of the price over the next three months. Consider offering a session or two of small group training for free in exchange for them paying during the outbreak period.

Offer incentives

Alternatively you could promise customers additional classes, training sessions and workshops when your gym is ready to reopen. Show your members that you care about them and their health and they are bound to stick around until your business is back on its feet.

How else can I mitigate the risks of coronavirus?

Now that you know how to keep your members connected, it’s important to consider what you can do to mitigate the risks of the virus spreading in your gym.

#1 Stay informed 

Get your information from trusted sources such as news sites and don’t pay too much attention to stories that are circulated on social media as they are a hotbed for misinformation.

#2 Comply with recommendations 

For most, this will mean closing the doors to your facility in line with new government measures and patiently waiting to reopen when it is safe to do so.

#3 Keep your members up-to-date with the measures you are taking

Communication is key, so use email campaigns or social media to keep your members up to date on what you are doing with regard to the Corona outbreak and assure your members that their health is your top priority. Communicate the measures you are taking to help keep your members safe.

#4 Stay informed about government support initiatives for businesses

Many governments are introducing measures to relieve financial pressure as a result of the outbreak, including things like being able to have staff stay at home against paid sick leave, tax exemptions or delay in tax payments, reduced support loan interest rates, etc. Make sure you know what’s being offered so you can make use of it in case of value for your business.

Situations such as the current virus outbreak are unpredictable and show the vulnerability of our businesses when we don’t diversify our revenue streams. Spend time investing in and planning your technology strategy to ensure that your business can withstand difficult times like this. Supplementing your business by providing members with easy access to content and workouts in any place at any time can be hugely beneficial at all times of year. Take care, keep your members happy and healthy, and use this time to think outside the box when it comes to your fitness business.

Parisa Hashempour

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