Every industry has been impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic, not least the fitness industry. This year saw many small fitness businesses struggling to survive with the traditional gym model, but many businesses have adapted in surprising and successful ways.

The gyms may have shut down, but the need for fitness did not. Many gyms and wellness companies adapted to the need for at-home solutions and managed to stay afloat in these challenging financial times. Discover how these fitness companies changed their model to help the world stay fit while stuck indoors.

Online Classes

Many gym instructors who taught in-person classes were able to move their classes to a virtual platform swiftly enough that they retained many of their customers. Some of these classes were so successful that companies are going to retain their online business models well into the foreseeable future.

The companies that were able to do this the best were gyms that already had online options and a functioning website beforehand. They couldn’t have had the foresight for a pandemic, of course, but they were proactive and up-to-date in a technology-driven era.

Fitness companies migrated to a wide variety of platforms to teach and train: YouTube, Twitch, and Zoom being among the most popular. While some companies went completely under, some personal trainers saw their income skyrocket with the increased demand for personalized, virtual training. Some of these trainers increased their profits by such a wild margin that they have no intention of going back to in-person training at all!

On-Demand Workout Videos

On-demand workout material has likewise skyrocketed in popularity this year — but it takes something special for a small gym to stand out above the free material available on YouTube.

Established gyms with a trusted customer base and personal relationships with their customers saw the most success in offering on-demand videos this year. The more niche fitness subsects like Krav Maga, Muay Thai, kickboxing, and self-defense found success in continuing their curriculum online via on-demand videos.

The on-demand model has clear pros and cons compared to live instruction. With videos, a live instructor can’t correct your form, answer your questions, or give you personalized tips. But with on-demand video, you can start and stop the video whenever your schedule allows. The on-demand option was more viable for people whose lives were uprooted by kids or loved ones having to stay at home with them, or drastic changes in work schedules.

Many fitness studios chose to offer both live and on-demand options so their clients could get the best of both worlds. The Academy of Self Defense, based in Northern California, found significant success in offering a range of both online classes and an extensive video library. They were especially proactive in the wealth of material they offered online, allowing them to shift focus entirely and multiply their profits. Offering flexible plans to accommodate unpredictable lifestyles was a wise choice for many fitness companies.

Private Fitness Spaces – “Workout Pods”

Silofit, a fitness company based in Montreal, created a fascinating new option for socially-distanced gyms. They transformed unused urban office space into 100% private, individual gyms, available on demand for $20 – $40 per hour. They also offer personal trainers, small group bookings, and a wide variety of equipment to choose from, and they clean their studio several times a day.

This model was wildly successful — their spaces were booked out for at least a month in advance, and still are, as of late 2020.

There are obvious drawbacks to this system. In a full-sized gym, you have a wide range of weights and equipment that simply isn’t viable on an individual scale. But something is better than nothing, and many people were (and are) more than willing to work out in private than not workout at all.

Whether these “workout pods” will remain a thing after the pandemic abates remains to be seen, but it’s an incredibly creative concept nonetheless.

woman using dumbbells

Private Gym Rentals

Similar to the above, many gyms adapted to the pandemic by simply renting out their existing space to groups that met social distancing mandates.

The obvious issue with private gym rentals is certainly the expense: not many avid gymgoers could continue this habit in a rough economy, and renting the whole gym for a small group does not come cheap. Still, this saw unused gym space repopulated again and helped fitness companies survive through 2020.

At Home Challenges

Because a lot of us will be stuck at home during the pandemic, mental health and self-discipline are extremely important. Brenton Simmons, Owner and Founder of LFTD. Lifestyle. and Co-founder of EndoCoast had the following advice to give: “Stop staring at the scale begging those numbers to drop. Pay more attention to the mirror and to how you feel post-workout.  Be honest and accountable with yourself about your consistency with your workouts and diets. Above all, be kind to yourself! Self-discipline = self-love.”

Many personal trainers and fitness companies have been working to keep people motivated and healthy as well, by set up creative fitness and wellness challenges across social media. For many people who lost their jobs, fell ill, or struggled financially, these challenges were designed to give essential encouragement.

One of the most notable was the Under Armour 30-day Healthy at Home fitness challenge, run in conjunction with their apps MyFitnessPal and MapMyRun. The World Health Organization (WHO) launched a challenge by the same name, the #HealthyAtHome challenge. WHO encouraged people around the world to post to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat, and TikTok with ideas on how they were taking care of their physical and mental health.

New, Unique Fitness Technology

Virtual fitness companies that existed before the pandemic experienced a lucky surge in business when the industry turned upside down.

Fitness video games like Ring Fit Adventure, a modern recreation of Wii Fit for the Nintendo Switch, gamified fitness by including experience points, a fun story, and virtual enemies on your fitness “adventure.” The game came out in October 2019, near-perfect timing for people to look to it as an option during the pandemic. Forbes reported that the Ring Fit Adventure game became wildly scarce and expensive during the onset of coronavirus, and for a while, it was almost completely out of stock in major stores.

Other new works of at-home fitness technology, like Mirror, likewise saw a huge boost in sales this year. Mirror is a remarkable piece of fitness equipment that’s comprised of a screen within a mirror, which allows you to take classes while watching your form in the mirror at the same time. It looks like a simple full-length mirror until you turn it on, and works as a high-tech, modern addition to a home gym. It’s not exactly cheap, but neither is most home gym equipment.

When hard times hit the fitness industry, many companies were forced to adapt. There are a wealth of innovative at-home fitness solutions out there nowadays that only came about because of the pandemic. Only time will tell if these solutions are here to stay, but until we no longer need to socially distance ourselves, one of these ideas could work for you.

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