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March 19, 2020

Chances are that your physical gym is closed right now. But your members need their fitness outlet just as much (if not more) than they did before the world turned upside down. Posting suggested “at home” workouts is a start, but what holds your members accountable to actually do them? If people were disciplined enough to workout on their own, group fitness gyms would have never grown in the first place.

While you can’t be with your members in person right now, you can leverage virtual meeting platforms to create online classes that bring your community together and keep your users engaged. Our goal as gym owners during this difficult time is to help people stay healthy and keep them on-track with their fitness/wellness goals. And believe it or not, leading a virtual class is easier than you may think.

By the end of this post, you’ll have everything you need to launch your first virtual class in under 60 minutes.

During this time of turmoil and unknown, keeping to a routine is paramount. Our days may look different than they did last month, but that’s no excuse to not create a routine that includes fitness as part of our day. Creating virtual classes now will help your members find a new normal during these unusual times.

Technology

All you really need to lead a virtual class is a webcam and a virtual meeting platform to bring everyone together. We’re suggesting two solutions below: the first which is totally free and the second which will cost you under $100.

Posting the workout

You probably already pay for an app to post your workout of the day to your members. If you use something like SugarWod or any other app, keep using it. Since you’re spending less time at the gym with your members, use your e-platforms to connect with your members. Spend the time to comment on people’s posts and give them “fist bumps” when they complete a workout.

Cameras

If you have a newer iPhone or Android phone, you can get away with just using that. Or, you can use your laptop camera. The audio on these newer devices works pretty well in quiet rooms and the cameras all shoot in good resolution.

If you’re willing to spend a little bit of money, you can buy a very good webcam for around $50. These separate webcams give you a wider field of vision and higher resolution video and audio. When we looked at reviews for webcams, we went straight to the experts, PC gamers. Here’s a list of some of the top cameras recently rated by pcgamer.com.

Virtual Meeting Platforms

As mentioned above, we’re going to look at how to start leading virtual classes for free and what the benefits are of spending a bit more money on your new program. Along with the webcam, the virtual meeting platform is where most gyms will have to decide whether or not to spend money.

Free options
Most all of the virtual meeting software platforms offer a free version of their product. For some of you, this may indeed be all you need for your classes. Both EZtalks and Zoom offer free versions that allow up to 100 participants in a meeting. The restriction is that you only get 40 minutes for your session with Zoom you can’t record the session. Recording the workout isn’t necessarily required, but it will allow you to post it to your Facebook group or email it directly to your members to view on their own time if they can’t make one of your live classes.
Pay Option
For just $12-$15/mo, you can upgrade to a paid version of Zoom which removes those restrictions above. Your sessions can be 24hrs long and you can record up to 1GB of video (approx. 1.25hrs length) to repost on your browser. For most gyms, this is the best option because you can use the extra features to increase engagement and promote your classes to your audience.

 2020 Gym Owner's Toolkit

Programming

Most of you have likely programmed travel workouts before. Focus on bodyweight movements and workout lengths between 10-20 mins max. It is better (and more interesting) to program multiple short workouts rather than just one long 45-minute chipper. Again, remember our goal with these workouts is to get your members sweaty and their endorphins pumping. Keep things simple and approachable. If you need inspiration for good travel workouts, you can checkout sites like Fitatmidlife.com.

Organization

As the late chef and author, Anthony Bourdain used to say, “prior preparation prevents piss poor performance.” Creating a mise en placeor a set list to follow for every virtual workout you lead will ensure the best results.

You should expect to lead every virtual class from the same space, whether it’s your living room or your garage. You should test and mark off exactly where to place your camera, how to set the lighting and how far to stand to make it feel as professional as possible.

Create a quick connection

If your members are logging into a live class, make sure they’re noticed. Start your sessions with something like a "question of the day" to get people talking and interacting together. This is a great way to make people feel more comfortable in this new setting.

Double team if possible

In the best-case scenario, you as the head coach can focus on coaching and motivating your members during the workout. But your members still want to see someone doing the workout to follow for pacing and movement standards. If possible, have one of your coaches or members (preferably someone you live with to prevent exposure) do the workout live on camera while you lead the class.

Displaying the workout

Even if you have someone to perform the workout on video while you coach, it is helpful to include a written version of the workout for your members to see. If you’re using a good webcam, you can put a whiteboard (borrow it from your gym!) behind you with the workout written on it. If you don’t have access to that, you can just post the workout at the top of the chat box of your virtual meeting platform. But make sure you still encourage your members to post their results on your usual app so everyone can see how people are doing.

wellness products

Presentation

Just like when you’re leading group classes in person, the energy you bring will transmit to your audience. The words you use, your body language and your attitude are all a part of your class presentation. Although you're presenting to a camera instead of a room full of people, that's no reason to lose your personal style. Your humor and knowledge can still come through to your audience. Here are some helpful tips to nailing your presentation via video:

Be their escape

Your members are joining you to escape from the ‘real’ world. From the moment they join your session, they are no longer dealing with the issues of the day, so don’t bring them up. Talk about the workout coming up, why it’s great, how happy you are to see everyone etc.

Mic check one, two

take 15 minutes to do a trial run, adjusting the volume and lighting so that people can easily see and hear what you’re doing. You probably stand in the same place when you first start a class in your gym, make sure you create the same routine for your virtual classes.

Act like you’ve done this before

Okay, maybe you haven’t, but your members don’t have to know that. They’re not expecting perfection, but act as though you’ve done this before. Practice your timing, your physical and oral transitions and where you want to stand when you’re discussing the workout and when you’re doing (or demonstrating) the workout.

This is not forever 

But at this point, we don't know exactly how long it will last. Use this time as an opportunity to try new ways to move your business forward. If you don't already offer a nutrition program (including supplements!), build one. Improve your email and social media strategies. Develop your private training (real or virtual!) program. Whatever you do, don't sit still. The tough times will pass. Those gyms that take advantage of the present to find new ways to connect with their communities will come out the other side stronger and better equipped for the future. 

Is there something you're doing at your gym to connect with your members that's working well during this time? Share it with us!


Radz Zalewski
Founder of Affiliate Supplements. Long-time CrossFitter (L1) and fitness nut. New-time dad. 

 

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