Here’s Everything That Happened At FitNation 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.

6 Tips How to Make People Say Yes

Many fitness professionals will agree with me when I say that there is nothing more frustrating than getting no for an answer. You’ve got a solid concept, great equipment, and the best trainers in the business.

You have invested your time in a trial period or a club tour and people still walk away. Why? Why do people say no? Why do they say “I have to think about it”? What are the reasons behind this? In this blog I will give tips on how to avoid objections and the 6 steps to handle them.

Why Do We Get Objections?

Before I joined Virtuagym I used to be a sales representative in a four-person team at a high-end health club in the Netherlands. Selling 50 to a 100 memberships per person per month, I’ve had my share of objections on why not to join our club. Objections like “you’re too expensive” or “your competitor is less expensive”.

Why do you get these kinds of objections? Are they really that hung up on the price? The answer is no. You never get objections purely because of price. You get objections because there is no match between the sense of value that potential members associate with your services and the price that you ask for it.

I say “sense” of value because everyone can interpret the value of your services differently. A simple example is art: for one person a painting is worth millions, for the other it is worth nothing.

How to Prevent Objections

So, based on this theory you have two options to attract more new members to your fitness business. Option one is to lower your price. In this case the price will eventually match the sense of value and more members will join.

Of course for a lot of business owners this means that they will earn less and therefore this is not always an ideal solution. Option number two is to find ways to increase the sense of value that potential customers link to your services. But how do we go about doing this?

The only way to build a sense of value is by discovering what is actually valuable to them. It sounds obvious, but in reality I’ve noticed that almost nobody takes this crucial first step. Almost no one really takes the time to find out what’s actually important for their potential new clients.

Ask the right questions

The way to do this is by doing an extensive needs analysis for each new potential member. In my previous blog, “4 Tips to Sell More Memberships”, I gave some powerful example questions that you could ask every new member that joins your business. But remember that finding out their hidden motives is the most important thing. The following questions could help you to find them.

  1. What is your goal?
  2. Why do you want to reach this goal?
  3. Why is this so important for you?

As soon as you’ve discovered their hidden motives (the things that are valuable to them) you can easily link the benefits of your service to the right motive. This will increase the sense of value that potential members have with your business which will result in more members. An example:

  1. What is your goal? → To lose weight
  2. Why do you want to reach this goal? → To look good
  3. Why is this so important for you? → It makes me happy

Imagine you sell memberships for your gym, studio or personal training business for 100,- per month. Would a potential customer pay 100,- per month to lose weight? Probably not. To look good? Maybe. Would they pay 100,- per month to feel happy again? Yes, of course!
It’s not about the price but about the sense of value that a potential customer associates with your service.

How to Handle Objections

But what if you still get objections? What do you do? First of all, don’t freak out! Objections are not an excuse not to join your business, but in most cases are purely a request for more information.

So embrace them, expect them, and handle them. Here are the 6 steps to handle objections.

The objection: “I need to think about it.”

1. Empathise

The first thing you want to do when you get an objection like this is to empathize with the objection of the potential new member. Say things like: “I understand, I know what you mean” or “I could see why you would say that’’.

Just remember that empathizing is not the same as agreeing with someone. So avoid things like “I agree, you shouldn’t join right now”. In most cases that won’t help you to win over this person.

2. Probe

Probing is to find out everything you need to know about this specific objection. Ask questions like “Tell me more about this specific concern. What do you need to think about, specifically?”

In a lot of cases, they will tell you the doubts that they still have about becoming a member. They might tell you that your competitor is cheaper, for example.

3. Isolate

Before you provide them with a solution, you’ll want to make sure that there aren’t any other objections. Imagine that you’ve handled the objection like a pro and then, as soon as you reached the point of asking them to join again, they tell you they have more concerns.

This way you can start all over. So, as soon as you’ve empathised and have learnt everything about this concern that you need to know, ask questions such as: “is this the only thing stopping you from joining today?” or “is this your only concern?”.

4. Summarise

Make sure to summarise what they’ve told you. First of all, this gives them the feeling that you actually listened. Second, it will make sure that what you heard is what they meant.

So say something along the lines of “OK, so if I understand you correctly, you want to think about it because our competitor is 10,- per month cheaper than we are”.

5. Give a solution or recap the value

When handling an objection it’s best if you can provide your potential customer with a solution for their objection. Since an objection is in most cases purely a request for more information about what you offer, this could very well do the trick.

If you can’t solve the objection, the next best thing is to recap the value of your service. What makes you better than the rest? For example: “Yes, they are 10,- cheaper than us. Now tell me, if they would charge the same fee, who would you choose then and why? […] So, that’s why we charge 10,- more per month”.

6. Ask again

Of course after providing them with a great solution or a recap of your value, don’t forget to ask them to join again.


Price is never the primary reason for objections. You get often a ‘No’ when there is no match between the sense of value that potential members associate with your services and the pricing of your offering. Since lowering your price is not an option in most cases, it is up to you to deal with objections.

As a successful fitness professional, your main focus should be how to avoid them, but if you do encounter objections you should know how to handle them. The best way to avoid objections is by finding out what’s important to your potential new member and show them the benefits of your business by showing how your services address their needs.

COVID-19 phases in the fitness industry: where we are, and where we are heading

When COVID-19 started impacting our daily routines and challenged the fitness industry, we knew we had to select a long-term view to think strategically about how best to equip ourselves for the future.

Even Forbes wrote about the management challenge that coronavirus represents for the industry and the uncertainties that it brings with it.

As we prepare for a second-wave we know that eventually, the crisis will end. But the fact of the matter is that the waves felt by the virus and subsequent on-and-off closures is definitely going to affect the fitness sector and our industry for years to come.

So, here’s the question: how can you prepare when thinking 3, 6, 9 months down the line? How will people behave after 2-3 months staying at home when they go back to normality?

The four business stages of coronavirus

We have highlighted four phases of how the coronavirus outbreak has affected the industry and what we can expect in the near future. How is this actually going to be impacting the industry?

To try to answer this question, Virtuagym launched a series of webinar to keep the fitness community connected, share the best practice and good strategies aiming to help the industry accelerate out of the pandemic.

Phases of coronavirus crisis in fitness industry

1. Confusion

Stage one was confusion. This was the earliest stage when people were still looking for direction and guidance. The situation was suddenly occupying everybody’s mind and everyone was eager for information and news.

At this time, emotions ranged from panic to complete and utter indifference. Members needed to be reassured, encouraged and motivated to stay with you during this crisis. This is also relevant for those operating during the second-wave. Once again, members are confused and unsure when this crisis will end.

Next, we are going to discuss some tips from the fitness community on how to keep your gym members on board. Don’t be afraid to ask your community for help, even if you feel like lots of memberships are dropping out or freezing contracts.

2. Accept and Adapt

We named phase two “accept and adapt” since this is the phase in which people are  starting to accept the pandemic as the new reality, instead of a temporary situation that has been changing everyone’s habits.

Everything feels kind of normal again, although it’s not and there is still a lot of uncertainty during this time. The feeling in this phase is solidarity: that we are all going to get through this together.

In these two phases you have to keep in mind that your brand may not be the thing that’s top of mind for members. And because of that, it is important to make sure that you are being conscious of the personal and professional implications that people are experiencing. As we navigate the accepting process of the second-wave, don’t push topics that are beyond your members comfort at this time.

3. Preparing

The preparing stage is the point at which we have a decent sense of where the economy is heading. It is important to be critical: are we getting to a point where the economy is going to resurrect itself? Or are we potentially heading in the direction of a further financial crisis? Here is where companies will start strategizing the post corona era.

In this phase it’s important to make sure that you are thinking ahead and not hanging on to the COVID-19 story for too long. Many fitness businesses might feel like going back to 2019 habits as well, but be aware that it’s your opportunity to move your business forward and not look back.

4. Ramping Up

And then finally the last stage is going to be “Ramping up”. Organizations at this point are going to have a clear sense of goals and directions, they will look beyond just short-term situations and start looking towards implementing long-term solutions as well.

One of the things to be careful about is waiting too long to enter the game again. You have to be aware of the new standards in the industry and foresee where people’s minds will be.

Will there be sanitary standards within facilities? What are members going to expect in terms of how a facility should be cleaned and maintained? How many people can workout at the same time in a facility? These things are likely to change as time goes on.

Imagine the fitness club of the future

What are some of the topics that you need to think about right now in order to prepare for that eventual day?

Consider your set-up

You need to be ready to host your gym members in whatever way you can. You have probably already moved around your gym floor in order to cater to new guidelines but as government recommendations shift, try continuing to adapt. That could mean taking work outs outside again if your facility is forced to close during the second-wave.

It’s very important to really think about a new kind of gym, completely different from how it was before the COVID-19 crisis. Try to have enough space for square meters for each person.

Maybe you can put all machines like a circuit so you only go in a machine once and you are sure that is clean, there is enough space between one equipment and the other and people can move without getting too close to one another.

Cleaning measures

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic we have been witnessing lower numbers than average in terms of attendance because people are still increasingly worried about germs and spreading the virus.

As an owner-operator you need to make sure that you’re thinking of that strategy and make it more obvious about the cleanliness that you’re providing within your clubs.

Don’t forget to communicate that you are following exactly what has been recommended by the experts in terms of cleaning and making sure it’s a safe environment for them to work out. Make it more visible: invest in making sure this is this nice aromas around the club, things smell nice, things look nice and you can see people cleaning more.

Keep encouraging the new habits

Be a trigger for your members to keep being healthy and keep up with their workouts routines. Some of them might be new members who started working out thanks to your digital offering and now need to be motivated and encourage them to not give up on their progress.

Be that trigger to go out and do that run your member has long been preparing for. Have your 7 p.m. class for your members who are now used to workout with you on a Zoom live stream.

If you’re providing the platform for them to share their progress, that they’ve been on a run, that they have managed to workout despite not feeling like, and receive the reward of other people, you are boosting their motivation.

With Virtuagym you can easily personalize your community page and create the space for your gym members to interact and support each other and say “well done”, “keep up with the good work”.

If all those people are from the community that used to be in your gym and in your virtual classes, then they’ll be associating your community with their exercise habits and patterns.

Active Clients make Happy Trainers (and Reduce Churn)

When you’re first getting started in the fitness industry, building a solid client base is one of the most important first steps. Your friends and family may become your first clients as you start to gain a loyal following. Once you have steady clients, you need to keep them active and happy in order to prevent churn. This could mean innovative workout and nutrition plans, an easy to use mobile app, or even advanced sports and exercise nutrition support. Simply add your new clients, activate their profiles, and get started on a training or nutrition plan, because active clients = happy trainers.

How can you build a client base? 

Fiona Zebedee is a UK-based Certified and accredited Nutritional Therapist, Clinical Weight Loss Specialist and Sports & Exercise Nutrition Advisor, who is opening two businesses with her son Ben in the coming weeks: Wellthfit and Nutrislim. Wellthfit is the UK’s first platform focused on helping sports & exercise enthusiasts enhance peak performance results in any sport or fitness arena through personalized sports nutrition. While Nutrislim is an evidence-based personalized clinical body transformation program to help people lose weight and get healthy.

While Fiona was working on getting her two businesses up and running over the past few months, she started beta testing with a few clients within her Virtuagym portals. She’s familiarized herself with the process so once her businesses are up-and-running and her clients start pouring in, the activation process will be second nature. See how it works in a few simple steps!

Let’s invite some clients and get them activated!

Within Fiona’s portals, she clicked on the Clients and Staff Module, located in the upper right-hand side of the navigation bar and selected “Add new client”. Next, she added all of the necessary client data, like First & Last Name, Email Address, Phone Number, Address and Bank Details. Once all her client’s information was added, she invited her client!

Add new clients to your portal

The next step was the most important – activating the new client’s account. This could be done manually (in person) or through an activation email. No membership or coach could be assigned before a client’s account was activated. This was a very important step in increasing memberships and thus revenue for her business

Reasons for a manual activation could include:

  • Activating a client’s profile together with the client
  • Setting up the client’s profile before they have access to it
  • Client doesn’t want to use the profile, but you want to create a workout plan for them 

When on the client’s page, Fiona selected the grey “Activate manually” button at the top of the screen or next to “User profile”. She then would need to set up a password, which should be done in person with the client. Another option was to send an activation email to her client (this is particularly useful for gyms with a large client base). On the client’s page, she selected the blue “Send invitation” button at the top of the screen. This customizable email was then sent directly to the client with an activation link to finish setting up his/her profile herself.

Activate your clients

If Fiona ever has too many clients to manually invite, it’s possible to send them all an invitation at the same time. This can be done in the Clients & Staff Module under the Dashboard tab. Then at the bottom of the page, there is “General Statistics” and she can select the envelope icon to send an email to all “Non-invited members”.

At the same place, it’s also possible to resend invitations to clients who have not activated their accounts in over 7 days. Also, in the Client Overview, she can filter by “Inactive” clients and choose one by one to resend invitations to those who are still in the “Invited” stage and are not yet “Activated”. 

According to Fiona, it was simple to add new clients. To understand how the software works, she just played around with it – “It’s a comprehensive tool, but it’s not hard to learn how to use it.” 

Activate your clients as soon as possible

Getting your clients activated as soon as possible means you can add a coach, create workout and nutrition plans, assign memberships, see their credit history, engage them with community updates and more.

It’s a super simple activation process, and after, you will no longer have to worry about your clients missing in action. Without activated clients, you’re missing out on revenue from memberships, credits and other products. When your clients are active and using the tools that you provide, they are happier and thus less likely to churn. 

Virtuagym’s all-in-one software suite boasts a ton of features that can help you add new clients and run your studio as smoothly as possible. Try it out in your own Virtuagym portal.

4 Lessons From Fitness Businesses That Have Grown During the Pandemic

What’s in this guide?

The coronavirus has had a huge impact on fitness business owners, as it has done for professionals from all walks of life. 

We’re also left asking what the future holds for our industry.

This e-book outlines some lessons that fitness businesses have learned from the recent pandemic and shows you how to grow your business in a few steps.

Virtuagym’s Data on How Our Top Clients Are Rebuilding the Fitness Industry

Closures, timeslots, and more hand sanitizer than your calloused hands can bear – 2020 has been a challenging year for the fitness market. It’s among the hardest-hit industries, and with the coronavirus showing no signs of letting up, the future for many gym owners, studios, and trainers remains shrouded in uncertainty.

We recently partnered with some top institutions to gain insight into how the European health and fitness market is faring. By using the data from Virtuagym’s database, we found out how our most successful clients are weathering the storm while maintaining revenue.

Four Things Exemplary Businesses in Our Database Are Doing

Some of our most successful clients are developing and growing in innovative ways to outmaneuver the pitfalls of a post-pandemic world. They’ve taken almost seamlessly to digital transformation and are hybridizing their operations and offerings.

From virtual workouts and payment to scheduling systems, every element of a company can be accessed via the click of a button or touch of a screen. On top of that, they’re making sure that their clients have a safe and intuitive experience both online and offline.

Here’s what stood out to us as key lessons that fitness businesses have learned from COVID-19 that will help you grow your business.

  • Rethink Your Business Model

Our study shows that 41-82% of clubs saw a significant reduction in revenue throughout the peak of COVID-19. While some businesses attempted to combat revenue hits by focusing on attracting new clients, they ended up neglecting their current members.

Our top-performing customers pivoted towards a hybrid business model that combined real-life training options with online and digital services. This enabled them to engage with current members by offering tailor-made offerings, while also attracting new members.

Sure, this meant going digital – a daunting challenge for those who are reeling from the effects of COVID-19. But, a hybrid and flexible digital model is worth setting up to save you time, energy, and increase revenue streams in the long run. For in-depth insight on moving your business model from bricks to clicks, check out this article.

  • Engage With Your Members (Online and Offline)

Virtuagym’s data shows that in April, club memberships were at an all-time low. Only 17% of clubs continued growing, and 26% of European clubs shrank by at least -2%. Most people canceled their memberships, and many gyms opted for a mass pause.  Despite this, some gyms in our system managed to keep their head above the water and retained most of their members.

The pandemic has highlighted how important it is for fitness businesses to forge connections with their members, even from a distance. Clearly – as seen from the uptick of downloads of virtual apps and online fitness tracking – staying healthy is at the forefront of many people’s minds.

The most successful businesses in our database built a strong online presence to keep their members engaged from a distance. This translates into loyalty, in which members supported their gyms via community posts and partaking in online classes, fitness challenges, and more. Having specialized online offerings for your members ensures that you stay in their consciousness despite your doors being closed.

  • Make Your Gym Safe During the Corona Crisis

While many members wish to return to the gym, they’re not insusceptible to coronavirus (despite how much they lift or squat). Even now, with more fitness centers being open with strict guidelines in place, our data shows that attendance is still only sluggishly rising. Ensuring you have exceptional safety and hygiene measures in place could make the difference between low and high attendance rates.

At the peak of the pandemic, bookings were reduced to as low as 86% – and a reluctance to return to the gym is attributed to a lack of trust in the facility. Utilizing gym management software and communicating with your members about the safety regulations and social distancing in your gym is crucial for getting attendance rates back up.

Go a step further and ensure that ground staff is enforcing the regulations. And, while you’re at it, take full advantage of your platform’s digital channels and online communities to feature how your current attendees feel about being back.

  • Automate and Go Digital!

Many businesses, fitness or otherwise, were going digital even before the start of the pandemic. When the lockdowns went into full effect in Europe around March, numerous businesses scrambled to put their offerings online.

Some were smarter than others in doing so, by using their pre-existing digital tools and channels to monetize on services like online classes and personal training. Others went for the free-for-all approach and missed out on potential revenue streams.

We noticed that successful businesses in our network used their fitness apps to transform on-site classes and workouts into digital offerings that can be accessed anytime, anywhere.

Livestream classes were held within their own app, and members were informed via an easy push notification. Intuitive integrations with Calendar, Zoom, YouTube, and other live streaming options, coupled with automatic invoicing and workout templates made the app easy to use even the most technologically challenged.

Takeaways From This Study

It’s been a whirlwind of a year, but our data shows that your fitness business can survive by playing the long game. By investing in software that can take gyms from being a single, physical place to a dynamic space that can be accessed offline and online, most of our top clients have redefined what it means to be a key player in the post-pandemic fitness industry.

On top of that, adopting a hybrid business model empowers you to be flexible and efficient – allowing for more time to engage with members and build up your fitness community.

Recently, we had the second installment of our FitNation event. Taking a page from our own book (re: embrace the digital transformation), we took FitNation 2020 online. It featured renowned figures in the industry like Mark Jenkins, Sandy Macaskill, Marjolijn Meijer, and many more. FitNation is a place to discuss trends, learn from experts, and get insider tips on industry best practices.

To learn more about FitNation and look back on what happened during FitNation 2020, click here.


Universal Athletic’s Sheldon McBee on Inspiring Clients While Building Your Brand

With 19 years of experience under his belt, Sheldon McBee shares his inspirational personal training story to help you work what you could achieve.

His humble beginnings as a guy around campus who picked up personal training to help him get through his Master’s reached new heights when his career at Les Mills kicked off.

Taking a cue from our previous webinar on tips to grow and keep a successful fitness business, we decided to dive deeper into bridging the gap between the business and personal side of things.

We sat down with master trainer Sheldon McBee to unpack the intricacies of being a personal trainer while growing your client base.

Sheldon’s career is an exciting one, from having worked as an International Master Trainer at Les Mills for 10 years, to being the Personal Training Director for Universal Athletic Club and Director of Education for WOD U-Jam. If you’re looking to pave a path in the industry, you’ll want to pick his brain, trust us.

10 Traits a Personal Trainer Should Have

A good personal trainer is empathetic, educated, professional, and patient. But if you asked Sheldon McBee, he would step it up a notch and say, “You need a brain for business.”

You need to market your expertise and skills as a brand that will inspire people to be the best versions of themselves – and of course, there are no shortcuts.

As an industry veteran, Sheldon shares what he thinks are the 10 tips to grow your personal trainer business.

1. Just getting started? Arm yourself with knowledge and certs

Be a smart trainer by arming yourself with certifications to give merit to your program. In fact, take it a step further by learning complementary knowledge such as biomechanics and physiotherapy to add more value to your program.

This can help you have the all-important ‘hybrid approach’ that most people seek in personal training these days.

On top of that, whether you’re a complete novice or you’ve just gained a foothold in the fitness industry, make it a point to attend webinars and seek out relevant conferences.

Gaining knowledge is not only key in supporting your passion to help people reach their fitness goals, but it will also give you insight into management and operations that will help you grow your clientele.

2. … but certification isn’t the be all end all

Having a trove of certifications is cool and all, but carve out a business plan that’s relevant to your goals.

Discern your short, medium, and long-term goals; do you plan on taking things online, are you more of a studio or a big-box person? And what’s your customer retention plan?

On top of all of this, what are the consequences of the directions you plan on taking your career in? Sheldon encourages you to read up on your industry and address the parts you need to grow.

Really sweat the small stuff like business-building, operations startup, and retention to set yourself up for success. He highly recommends The One Thing and Known as reading material. Not a reader? He recommends Audible.

3. The avatar client

The avatar client is your ideal client. Identifying them will make your life as a personal trainer that much easier.

As it’s important not to pigeonhole everyone’s fitness journey, attributing more than just one or two characteristics will make for a more pragmatic client avatar.

Are they male or female? Starting from zero or athletes? New mothers looking to get back into shape will have vastly different goals than business professionals, and all your marketing, programming, and promotion should be catered to the goals of your avatar client.

Not addressing these needs risks your offering becoming diluted and missing the mark.

  • Bonus tip: The opportunity avatar

How can you identify who needs what and when? By using that introspective industry-insider noggin of his, Sheldon has identified the Opportunity Avatar.

This is the Gen X population (aged 40-55) who are approaching the cusp of older age but want to remain mobile and pain-free.

They have disposable income and are nutrition-focused. When carving out programming for any avatar, the key is to make sure that your promises are deliverable and that in a sea of automated, faceless mobile apps with watered-down knowledge, you remain accountable to your avatar.

4. Embrace the tech tide

One of the glaring changes in fitness is obvious: the inclusion of technology. Technology has really moved to the forefront of everything. Fitness apps and wearable tech has skyrocketed to the top of worldwide trends and isn’t going anywhere.

Even before the pandemic, online training and streaming were gaining momentum. From a director’s standpoint, there are two evolutions to training:

  • Training is becoming more intelligent

This is the burgeoning notion that training should be safe, corrective, and prescriptive. Trainers must disregard the generalist approach and assume a niche and specialized approach based on the avatar client.

By using tech, you can break new ground in training intelligently. Unlike 20 years ago, there are more opportunities than ever today to adopt a hybridized training program that allows you to, for example, host a live group event while simultaneously streaming for a virtual audience.

  • Social media is changing ideas of what fitness is

Whether you hate them or love them, those wide-eyed influencers on your feed are rewriting the narrative of health and fitness. They may or may not be experts, but their presence is nonetheless impacting you as a personal trainer.

You best believe that your clients and potential leads are following them, so don’t sleep on having a social media presence.

5. Be specialized, not generalist (yet maintain a stable repertoire of clients)

You won’t get far in the fitness industry of today if you’re still utilizing a generalist mindset – unless you’re an established facility where clients simply fall into your lap. Generalists have no space in the future.

There’s simply too much competition out there right now; over the last 6 years, health clubs, studios, and online fitness channels have grown and are starting to level off.

To stay afloat amid the wildly customized and hyped-up competition, you have to make a specialized framework. Look at industry trends to find your niche. It’s fine to build on programs or training that have been proven to work, but there’s no reward in emulating them directly.

Try to quiet the noise and find the thing people are not talking about to stumble upon a futuristic thought that’ll make you stand out from the crowd.

Take time to decide on your avatar clients and build your business with fewer, but high quality leads that will stick. This way, you also won’t waste time and resources casting a wide net only to lose out to that post-pregnancy disco spinning studio next door.

6. Create opportunity through learning

Sheldon’s career at Les Mills kicked off when he learned how to give a class he took. Soon after, he responded to Les Mills’ call for top talent to teach their format to instructors.

He transitioned into a fitness video star, and the rest was history. He traveled for years under Les Mills to teach and met trainers from all corners of the globe, from South America to Europe and the South Pacific.

This is a period he looks back on fondly as he got to see first-hand how fitness trends pan out worldwide and learn what’s important to people around the world.

Taking that first step in learning something new opened up the door to one of the most exciting times in his career. Don’t brush aside something you’re not used to – it could lead to the greatest opportunity you never saw coming!

7. Create your personal brand

Be your own marketeer. This is a numbers game and networking is key in building up your clientele. So, don’t be afraid to practice your conversational skills in front of the mirror and toot your own horn every once in a while.

This will help create leads while also allowing you to brush up on your entrepreneurial skills. Approach your training with the mindset of building your own business inside your business – this will serve as your own personal brand that lasts a lifetime.

8. Put in the legwork to learn the industry side of things

At this point, it’s safe to say that if you want to be a successful personal trainer, you’ve got to be more than just a personal trainer. Sheldon has a Masters in Human Nutrition, is ACE certified, and had decades of experience.

But he’s also a business consultant, lecturer, global presenter, and content developer. His advice on how to outmaneuver the competition: be an industry expert.

Don’t just place an emphasis on having soft skills, being a terrific trainer, and having a wall full of certifications. The real development happens when you build your emotional intelligence and delve into the nitty-gritty of how the business operates.

On top of that, make sure to forge a rapport with your clients and really personalize your communication with them. By using platforms like Virtuagym, Sheldon has managed to find easy ways to streamline his responsibilities so he can focus on the aforementioned tasks.

9. Keep your organization relevant (despite he pandemic)

Sheldon noticed that after the lockdown, his client base began dwindling. He brainstormed and was inspired by a friend to run a FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) campaign.

His goal was to remind people about the feeling of being face-to-face with a personal trainer or in a group class, and the energy and engagement that they missed.

The campaign was driven heavily by technology and used software like Virtuagym’s virtual training solutions. He invited members to talk about being back at the gym and handed the mic over to them to discern whether or not they felt safe.

Almost immediately, he saw an uptick of members returning to the gym, plus an increase in people who want to subscribe to virtual memberships and training.

The best part is that it was all done internally and on a shoestring budget via simple tools to create a campaign that was highly personable, authentic, and effective.

10. Keep your staff and colleagues motivated

Things like the FOMO campaign were propelled purely by internal effort. But, in order to get everyone on board, you have to get them involved in the decision-making process as early as possible.

Make them understand what’s needed for the business as a whole by showing them the facts and figures. Invite them to meetings and let them peep behind the veil of operations.

This aids their motivation to act and stay committed. As things play out, update them and let them give feedback. Make them part of the process instead of burdening them with top-down decisions in order to give them more control over situations.

If you’re interested in learning more about being a successful trainer, or if you’re looking to take your career in fitness to the next level, tune in to our FitNation event.

It features industry leaders, motivational speakers, and key figures in the fitness industry. And did we mention, Beyoncé’s personal trainer will be there too! Grab your tickets here.

How to Adapt to Ever Changing Competitive Landscapes

Any business that is ready to turn a challenge into an opportunity will find a higher level of success in the current climate. Now is a tricky time to run a fitness business and the industry (and those operating within it) face insurmountable challenges.

It’s more important than ever to be ready to adapt and change, ready to innovate your business and the model you use to run it. As any successful entrepreneur will tell you, adapting to change in a business environment is the key to triumphing.

In this article, we will look at the importance of adapting to change in business and exactly how you and your company or brand can do it. Most crucially, we learn how adaptability is the new competitive advantage in the rapidly changing fitness space. We outline the best business model options that you can pivot to or add-on to your existing model.

It’s time to rethink your business model.

What is the best business model strategy?

A business model strategy can be simply defined as: “The addition, subtraction, or adjustment of business models within a business to achieve a goal.”

Businesses exist to exchange value for money. The strategic and practical elements of that exchange can be described with nine different elements, mapped on a business model canvas.

These are made up of factors such as customer value proposition, customer segments, channels, customer relationships, revenue streams, key resources, key partners, key activities, and cost structure. You probably already have a business model in place that is helping you to achieve the specific and unique goals of your organization.

When creating and filling out your own canvas, it’s important to brainstorm and conduct research on each of the nine factors. The research and information that you find should be placed in each of the relevant sections if the canvas. So be sure to have a model canvas ready to fill out when approaching your new business strategy (these can be easily found online via a quick Google search).

Many predefined Business Models exist (Retail, Manufacturing, Franchise, SaaS, etc.) Plus many businesses have multiple business models. So, why is it important to adapt to change?

Why is it important to adapt to change in business?

When it comes down to it, change is always an opportunity to grow. In a climate where laws, movement, and restrictions change day-by-day, this is more crucial than ever. In the same way that animals evolve and adapt to their environment, so too should your business. Keep your finger on the pulse of the industry and the way that consumer behavior changes to make sure that you don’t get left behind.

How? The best way to do this is to reassess your business model from time to time to see if it is still working or to check where it could be improved. Here we’ll outline the best business model adaptations for you as you embrace the ever-changing competitive landscape of the fitness industry.

What is the best business model?

Depending on your goal you can decide which model suits you best. But the most significant ways you can adapt your business model are as follows:

  • Improve efficiency

In this case, you would refine and improve elements of your business model that are already in place. For example, what changes can you make today to increase the efficiency of your customer value proposition or your revenue streams?

  • Intensity

To alter the intensity, you would remove a business model currently in place in order to better allocate or conserve your resources – this might be an especially useful strategy for you right now if you are struggling with finances in the aftermath of closures and lockdown.

  • Diversification

To diversify your business model you would expand your existing model into new territory, tackling a niche otherwise new to the business. This model is all about innovation. Not currently offering online or digital classes for members? Now is the moment to diversify your offering.

  • Adjacency

This is all about developing a brand new business model that leverages much of the same elements of an existing business model.

  • Innovation

With even more potential to transform your business than diversifying, this model means developing a radically different approach to your business and the way you run it.

How can Virtuagym support you in adding, subtracting, or adjusting a business model?

By working with a software provider such as Virtuagym, you have the potential to embrace a hybrid digital model that will enable you to pivot your business model and implement new strategies of innovation, diversification, and adjacency and support continuous strategies of intensity and efficiency.

By adding digital elements to your business you are able to increase the value of your memberships and adapt the way your business operates. By introducing new revenue streams via digitization or additional services you have a competitive advantage in the changing space of fitness, which is going increasingly digital.

Combining online and offline training is a catch-all way to innovate your company, diversify your offering, and enhance your current model.

A leaky garden hose: the strategy to improve retention

It’s one of the most persistent challenges in the fitness industry: retention. The member turnover in the fitness sector fluctuates between 20% and 50%. To make that more concrete: an average club with 1500 members, memberships of €40 per month and 30% outflow misses more than two tons in turnover every year!

Let’s face it, if that would happen in another industry, a crisis meeting would be scheduled immediately. But in the fitness industry, we seem to find these kinds of numbers normal.

Nonsense, of course. While 100% retention is impossible – members will always stop – it shouldn’t be normal to let hundreds of thousands of euros slip away without a fight. 

It starts with the right focus

Retention is often analyzed in comparison to the inflow of new members. If you can compensate outflow with new members, you company will remain successful, right?

You can’t solve the problem with that mindset. Suppose you are gardening. You want to water your garden, but you have a garden hose full of holes which means that your plants don’t get enough water. You can open the tap all the way, but this way the holes in your garden hose will eventually get bigger.

That’s also how it works if you compensate outflow with sales. If you focus very hard on sales, you put your organization under pressure. Your staff cannot offer everyone the same introduction, and your facilities can’t handle the capacity. The result: at many clubs you’ll see that months with a lot of inflow are followed by months with high outflow.

So, you don’t improve your retention by opening the tap. The question is: where are the holes?

Visits and touchpoints

Let’s start with the most important factor: the amount of touch points. There is a correlation between visitor behavior in the first months and the prospects for renewals: 61% of members who actively come to the club in the first 4 months, renew their subscription after 12 months. But when someone does not come, the seed is quickly planted: “should I keep doing this?”. If you are not on top of it, you are guaranteed to lose him or her.

However, physical visits are not essential. For example, online coaches have no physical contact at all, but can nevertheless build up a good retention. In your online service you can easily control digital ‘visits’, such as their activity in their calendar and your community, if they log their training and nutrition, and so on.

Mind over matter

Fitness professionals are incredibly good at creating training and nutrition plans, but they don’t always take the mental aspect into account. And that is also necessary.

When you ask members why they are quitting, you will often hear that they don’t have time. But that’s nonsense. Everyone can make time for things they see the added value of. What happened is that they’ve had some experiences that led to their decision to cancel. When an ex-member tells you they don’t have time anymore, they are basically saying that your gym is no longer worth their time.

In short: don’t just aim your arrows at a member’s body, but also their mindset. Not the physical results, but the mentality and behavioral change are crucial to increase retention.

In order to influence that mentality, the social aspect is essential for a gym. Why do you keep going back to your favorite bar? That is not only due to the beer they serve. It depends on the people you meet there. Boutiques, for example, respond very well to this: they create a real fitness community around their club that their members want to keep coming back to.

The panacea to increase your retention

… unfortunately does not exist. It’s not like you can turn that one button and everything will be fine. After all, something different is important for each member.

How clean your clubs are, what music you play, how loud the sound is, the friendliness of your staff, whether your training schedules are organized, your online services … Everything influences. The same goes for your members: don’t just focus on one aspect (such as physical results), but also on the mental and social aspect. In other words, the entire customer journey!

That’s why you should keep experimenting with improvements. Each procedure is followed by an analysis: will my members stay longer thanks to this change? If so, on to the next improvement. If not, try something else. With this method you gradually achieve a higher retention.

Do you want more insights?

Peter Wolfhagen from Blackbox Research shared these insights during our weekly FitNation Lunch & Learn webinar. But he had a lot more to say. Don’t want to miss tips anymore? Sign up for one or more sessions!

Turn my lunch time into learning time!

How can you increase your business revenue stream?

As we move into the last quarter of the year, we can look back on 2020 and reflect. It’s been a year filled with previously unimaginable difficulties, and while many facilities have now reopened, we are all still adjusting to what’s eye-rollingly (but pretty accurately) being referred to as ‘the new normal.’

For you, that could mean new hygiene rules and social distancing measures in place. It could mean encouraging members to join your classes via video call, or it could have meant taking your classes outside over the summer months.

What has become increasingly clear is that the wounds left by lockdown and facility closures are taking longer than expected to heal. Frozen or canceled memberships have taken longer than expected to pick back up, and if you’re like most managers within the fitness space, you might be wondering how you can drive that revenue back up.

In this article, we’ll unpack just that. We’ll look at how to increase revenue growth and even help you understand which pricing strategy is best right now.

So, how do you generate revenue (and extra revenues) in times like those we’re currently faced with?

Increase the price per member

It might seem an unlikely time to start charging for extra services. Especially if your gym is operating at a lower capacity and unable to give your usual range of classes in the facility. But by increasing the value of your memberships, you can increase your price per member too.

This is one of the most effective ways to increase your revenue growth, by encouraging each of your existing members to contribute more.

How do you increase the value of memberships?

With a program like Stronger Together you can give your members a service worth charging for. Stronger Together is a digital subscription program that you can run alongside your regular memberships.

The program is a complete health, fitness and wellness program for your members and includes workout plans, fitness and wellness challenges, food and exercise tracking, exercises with a 3D personal trainer to ensure correct form AND wellness guidance including meditations and relaxing audio tracks.

A program like this is easy to use at home alongside your in-facility training and guarantees you a safety net if lockdown restrictions are reinstated and your facility is forced to close. You can upsell this as a PRO feature and charge your members for use of the services.

They’ll be happy to when they learn that they can access heaps of ready-to-go content and also bespoke content from their favorite gym, club or studio (that’s you) as well!

Invest in digital options

You don’t need us to tell you that taking businesses online has saved many companies throughout the course of this pandemic. There’s more and more uncertainty about what the future holds for the fitness industry, which is why it’s ever-more crucial that you ensure your business can keep operating online if it needs to.

In the fitness industry, a huge switch to a more hybrid way of working out is taking place. By operating your business in-person, but also alongside an all-in-one digital app that offers home workouts and a total solution for online health and wellness, you’ll have a business model that is flexible enough to withstand the future.

No matter what situation transpires with the coronavirus pandemic or other unforeseen reasons for closure, you will be able to service your members. Caps on capacity and regulations on safety don’t have to be show-stoppers when it comes to running your fitness business.

Improve your pricing strategy

Finally, making sure that you know exactly how to improve your pricing strategy will give you simple ways to generate growth in revenue for your business.

If you’re not already upselling – now is the time. Capitalize on the switch to digital and ensure that your website or app is complete with a webshop where members can make purchases that will enhance their experience with you.

You could upsell bespoke training sessions live-streamed via your personalized app (like the one made possible by Virtugym) or you could add value to your memberships and sell them as PRO memberships.

Memberships and the industry as a whole is a state of flux right now, that’s why it’s the perfect time to address your pricing strategy and negotiate what works for you and your business as we work towards the new normal.

Ultimately, if you want to drive growth and an increase in revenue for your business – a hybrid digital model will be the transformation you need.