Far from the rainbow-coloured spandex 80’s workouts, digital home fitness classes are here to stay.
Like everything else that has had to adapt to the socially distanced new normal, gyms have moved more fully onto digital platforms. Even though it’s not too surprising considering that home workouts have been a thing since the 1800s, a guidebook for the rich was popular in 1861 Victorian England.
Although workout videos and instructional classes have come a long way from the early housewife centric aerobics classes of the 80s that everyone remembers. Today classes are vibrant but in different ways, designer gyms have paved the way with specialised lighting or pumped up tunes, crafting classes to suit different people.
Spinning classes were extremely popular before the virus shut things down, as were hot yoga classes and HIIT training as well.
In the span of just a few months and amidst lockdown restrictions, the landscape of online fitness has expanded exponentially. It’s hard to find a coach, dance teacher, fitness studio or sports club today that doesn’t offer those at home the chance to work up a sweat at a distance
However, what appeared to be a constraint during the first lockdowns might be here to stay. After all, these classes that we can take whenever we want, without having to run to the gym, are responding to a profound change in our lifestyles.
It would seem like from now on, there will be no more opening and closing hours, no more dress codes, no more collective rhythms, but instead a 24/7 product with activities on-demand. Which as much as it seems like a good thing for availability, also would push gyms, fitness coaches and instructors to tougher levels to keep up with demand.
Setting Up At Home
On the website of France’s ministry of sports, one can even find a top-30 list of applications and websites to help people “exercise at home remotely.” In Malaysia, so many of the popular gyms and fitness centres like The Flow Studio and Ministry of Burn allowed for live-streaming of their classes.
However, until very recently, in France, very few professionals in the sector were seriously investing in digital fitness, says Mickael Pinto, executive director of Neoness Live: “Before the health crisis, we talked a bit about online fitness but we never received any signals that would have made us invest heavily in this area.”
This blasé attitude would be shattered with the first lockdown: “We immediately set up free online courses on Facebook and Instagram to maintain a connection with our members, and the response blew us away. We didn’t expect such a massive success.”
When the initial moment of panic, followed by “quick, find a solution on social media,” had passed, the group began working on creating a more professional, paid and long-term model. “The free model was not viable for us, all our coaches are on long-term contracts.”
It’s not just those in France, Malaysia too had their own surprise at the way that going digital has affected the uptake in classes being taken by people. Numbers for the Breakfree Movement’s increased greatly after they began putting more creative effort into their digital classes. They told the Edge that they had people joining in on classes from halfway around the world and that there were so many more participants than before the MCO.
Many places in Malaysia have pushed their classes online. Flyproject who specialise in HIIT training even rented out equipment to those who paid for their classes so they could do it from their homes. The Flow Studio made sure to stay relevant and keep people interested with occasional guests on Instagram, they have a variety of yoga or pilates classes available for live stream on their website.
Stabilising The Digital
Going digital has become a point of no return for professionals and practitioners, as well as a new opportunity for the sector to attract clients other than those already accustomed to going to the venues.
Now people are looking beyond borders, they might be learning how to burn fat from a couple in Dubai, or they might want to learn how to stretch from a yoga instructor all the way in the US from Asia. People are also taking dance classes that they might never have had the chance to before if it hadn’t been for the lockdowns. In all of this fluster and bluster, there has been a nice silver lining, that where some doors are shut other may just open new opportunities.