As lockdown rules are gradually relaxed, gyms in some markets are being given a green light to re-open; other countries hope to shortly follow suit.
Yet these re-openings are only being signed off on the back of strict protocols, put in place to guarantee the safety of members and staff as they return to the gym environment. From reduced capacity to sanitisation stations around the gym, round-the-clock cleaning to automated temperature checks, hi-tech ventilation systems to the wearing of masks, gyms have had to rethink their entire operation.
One casualty in many gyms has been group exercise, with studios either used as socially distanced overflow gym floor – equipment temporarily relocated to allow for a 2m radius around every piece of kit – or else simply mothballed until further notice. Concerns raised range from air recycling to the challenges of social distancing, instructor availability to the cost-effectiveness of reduced capacity live classes.
However, group exercise remains a hugely popular activity – something that can quickly make members feel part of their club community again, which everyone is craving after months stuck at home.
It has also been on-demand classes, following the lead of an on-screen instructor, that have got many people through lockdown with their sanity and at least some of their fitness intact.
All of which makes (limited capacity) virtual group exercise a perfect solution as gyms re-open their doors to the public.
Let’s look at five reasons why clubs should incorporate Wexer Virtual into their relaunch strategy.
- New behaviours
After months of lockdown, with online the only option for fitness content and guidance, consumer behaviours have changed. People are now used to doing virtual classes at home, which means members will be familiar and comfortable with a virtual class format when it’s offered to them in the gym environment.
Certainly, Wexer customers who have already re-opened and offered Virtual classes to their members are seeing a significantly increased demand, up from typically three or four participants per class before lockdown to, now, an average of eight to 10 participants – this new headcount in many cases the maximum allowed due to social distancing.
- Commercial viability
If your studio can only cater for six or eight people at a time once social distancing is factored in, you may not feel able to justify the cost of a live instructor-led session just yet.
Of course, you may be restructuring your membership tiers to allow for more of a VIP approach to in-club provision; you may have identified a way to make live group exercise pay as a value-add for your higher tiers or your more loyal members, for example.
But even then, you will still want to keep all your members happy – not just a select few – and Wexer Virtual is an invaluable tool in achieving this. It enables gyms to cost-effectively deliver round-the-clock classes, which in turn means maxing out the number of group exercise fans who get to enjoy a class, in the much-craved company of others, even when each class can only cater for a handful of people.
- Social distancing
With 1,000+ different classes available on the Wexer Virtual platform, gyms have plenty of scope to cherry-pick and create a special re-opening timetable – one that focuses on classes that can be conducted safely and in line with social distancing guidelines.
Our advice is to select classes that require minimal contact with equipment and where members remain in one place rather than moving around – think pilates, yoga, stretching, bodyweight strength. Individual, socially distanced workout spaces can then be marked out on the floor.
It would also make sense, at least for the short term, to schedule your full studio timetable – no on-demand for now – to ensure nothing slips through the net to compromise member safety while we continue to operate in a world with no COVID-19 vaccine.
- New expertise
As we all ease ourselves out of lockdown, you might consider focusing on different styles of class from the ones usually offered. Your new focus: helping members mentally and physically recover from the after-effects of the last few months. In class terms, that might mean less HIIT – immune systems may not be ready for this – and more mental wellbeing, muscle loss recovery and weight loss.
Once again, the variety of classes on offer through Wexer Virtual – all led by top instructors from around the world – means you can create exactly this sort of timetable, even if you don’t have the relevant expertise in-house.
- Member & prospect confidence
Confidence-building is another big plus for virtual classes. Research has already shown these to be an important stepping stone for many new members, giving them a chance to familiarise themselves with a new discipline before taking the plunge and attending a live class.
It follows that, as your members return to the gym – potentially feeling like their fitness has taken a hit over the last few months – they might actually prefer to quietly do a few virtual classes first, just to get themselves back in the groove.
And now things have gone a step further, with the confidence-building impact of virtual having reached potential new members too. Because the likelihood is, your lockdown audience included people who aren’t even your members yet. They used your free-to-access online content and their confidence-building phase took place at home, during lockdown.
Now, buoyed by a new-found understanding of the importance of being active, they might just consider coming to your gym – especially if they can continue to try out classes at home first.
This is where Wexer’s ecosystem comes into play, because it allows your community to enjoy the same world-class workouts wherever they choose to be active: all classes on our ‘any time, anywhere’ Web Player – the perfect platform for home fitness – are also available on our in-club Wexer Virtual player.
This seamless experience is just one more reason why Wexer is the perfect digital partner as you re-open your clubs and embrace the New Normal – or as we like to call it, the New Better – of fitness.
To find out more about Wexer Virtual, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org