Get Ready for Omnichannel Fitness to Change the Way You Work Out Forever

In the time BC—before COVID—digital and IRL workouts were like the David and Alexis Rose of the fitness world—constantly at odds with each other. Most people were either living room workout warriors or swore that they would never give up their gym memberships or studio passes. There were plenty of online-only offerings out there (Mirror, ObĂ©, and Aaptiv, for example) but many major brands stayed true to their brick and mortar roots (Barry’s, for one). 
But as stay-at-home orders forced us all to embrace the practice of working out at home, it has paved the way for a future “omnichannel fitness”—in which brands have begun to offer fitness classes via both their online platforms and in brick and mortar locations—proving that it is possible for digital and IRL fitness to get along.

In the early days of quarantine, studios across the country rushed to bring their offerings online. Cult-favorites like Barry’s Bootcamp, Solidcore, Orangetheory Fitness, SLT, and AARMY all managed to go digital within the first month of the pandemic, keeping their communities engaged when going into a studio wasn’t an option. But now that gyms across the country have started to re-open (for better or worse), the digital way of working out doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. According to a June survey conducted by FitGrid, 95 percent of the 2,000 studios polled will continue to offer both digital and in-studio classes once they are fully re-opened.

“Hybrid memberships—where you can do both—is going to be an important trend,” says Mindbody CEO Rick Stollmeyer [Editor’s note: Stollmeyer announced he was stepping down from his position as CEO shortly after our interview, effective August 1.] “We think virtual wellness is here to stay, and that will broaden and deepen the market by introducing people to practices they haven’t tried before. But we also think that face-to-face experiences will continue to be valuable to people, and maybe even be more valuable after we’ve experienced this period of being shut in.” With full-time remote work on the horizon for many companies, he expects people to turn to their fitness and wellness practices as a way to connect with others.

As COVID-19 has driven gyms across the country to close—both Gold’s Gym and 24 Hour Fitness have filed for bankruptcy and shuttered multiple locations—Stollmeyer believes that “brick and mortar business must have a digital extension” in order to survive. “We’re going through a period where consumers will be uncomfortable getting back into small studios, and studios themselves may have to go through up-and-down periods of lockdown,” says FitGrid founder and CEO Ntiedo Etuk, adding that thanks to social distancing measures, even studios that are open will have to operate at a limited capacity. “These studios were built on business models that required a 70 percent occupancy rate for their classes in order to be profitable, so that means their online components are going to have to make up for that,” he says.

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