Will Covid change the fitness industry as we’ve known it?
I’ve been procrastinating writing because things have changed so rapidly. I haven’t been taking classes in person so there hasn’t been a lot to write about.
When Covid shut my home studio, Pilates Bodies, we had to pivot to online classes and that occupied most of my time. I was teaching as many as 5 virtual mat classes a week. Not all of my clients were sold on the idea of virtual – some things worked and some did not. My classes were performed without the use of equipment and, unfortunately, it was hard to recreate that community feel one gets from being in the studio. The one on one experience and feedback like corrections and cues that involve touch were missing. The online platform was not always reliable. Sometimes it was hard to connect,. there were various visual and sound glitches where students couldn’t see or hear me. With virtual, however, an instructor can be more flexible with their schedule and offer more times throughout the day – there’s also no limit to class sizes. I was as creative I could be and came up with themed classes like Pilates & PJ’s and Pilates & Prosecco.
Now that we are back to teaching live classes at the studio, there are many changes we’re having to adjust to as well. Group classes are small. We try to have 6 people or less in the studio at one time, including instructors, as opposed to our max of about 14. We are wearing masks for the entire hour long class. And while I’m not exercising while wearing a mask, I am talking through one and that alone is a challenge. We’ve needed to allow more time between classes to provide more time cleaning before the next class. A lot of my regular clientele have not returned, maybe from fear, or possibly summer commitments, or both. All of the changes make me question whether our studio, let alone any studio, can sustain and operate a viable business in this new environment.
Fitness studios that only operate group classes rely on numbers of clients being able to walk in their door. With restrictions on social distancing and space, a lot of studios are not able to operate at capacity which will definitely impact their bottom line. What if things go into lockdown again? This recently happened in California where fitness studios were just allowed to open and then told they needed to close their doors again. This leaves studios scrambling to come up with the next solution. But, what if studios can’t change quickly enough to meet the demand? Classes that are based solely on a piece of equipment struggle if students can’t be present at the studio. Also, working out in a mask, especially when the workout is cardio based, makes the feat nearly impossible.
Will clients gravitate toward already established online fitness, like Peloton? Peloton keeps diversifying and offering more classes and mode of fitness. Will clients prefer working out from home when it’s easy to access, can do it any time and maybe more affordable than a gym membership? They don’t have to deal with things like health screenings, mask wearing and the fear of venturing out. All of the uncertainty has studio owners reeling, just like the rest of the world. But when the pandemic is over, it will be interesting to see what changes will last.