For a moment there, many of us thought we were pioneers. Taking fitness classes online. Yoga training. Dance lessons. We were so cool. Until we realised we were part of a global trend, and merely making the best of a crisis situation.
As Covid-19 began demanding social distancing from the beginning of March 2020, the entire fitness industry had to reinvent itself overnight.
In the US, yoga teachers found themselves facing classes of thousands. In Dubai, a gym owner instantly rented out his fitness equipment. Across the world, thousands of live-streams and pre-recorded classes are available for viewing or downloading.
In SA, a popular high-energy fitness event, That Fit Fun Fest, hosted its first online event with the help of a start-up called Flock Eventing Platform. Its last live event, in February, had attracted 220 people. The online event, available from anywhere in the world, saw more than 2,800 people join in.
That Fit Fun Fest had previously hosted events in a wide range of venues, from basements to sports fields. Now, they called on Flock to help them to transfer the experience to the living room, via an app.
“The way of hosting events has changed overnight, and the market is adapting to it,” says Mike Lysko, CEO of Flock Eventing Platform.
“Online events have been steadily gaining in popularity over the past couple of years, but the COVID-19 outbreak has been the push they needed to take them mainstream. Event hosts and planners are realising that it’s not only still possible to bring people together, but they’re able to create virtual events with an almost similar – and in some cases, better – experience.”
The app allows That Fun Fit Fest to provide event information, live streaming feeds for fitness sessions, feedback forms and surveys, a live social feed, instructor profiles, photos and other forms of interactivity.
Says Lysko: “It’s a worrying time for the fitness industry, with gyms forced to close their doors indefinitely. But we’re seeing a groundswell of businesses and brands shifting to online classes for their members to not only maintain their fitness levels and practices at home, but to keep that sense of community and connection with the brand.”
The app is as adaptable as the industry. It is set to be used for a conference for more than 100 veterinarians; a live stream of a music concert; an online wine and gin festival; and a career expo for students.
“A few years ago, the idea of staging an event or conference online might have seemed absurd. But technology has improved, and our view on traditional events has changed as we realise the benefits of going virtual: super cost-effective, extending the reach of your audience, reducing carbon footprint, and including people who may not necessarily want to travel.”
Flock’s overnight success shows that the crisis represents new opportunities – or at least, options – to start-ups and established brands alike. For example, adidas has transformed its Runners community into a virtual experience, offering free weekly sessions on Facebook Live, as well as sessions on Instagram (via @adidasrunners and @adidasZA).
“The sessions are led by adidas Runners captains and coaches, and include meditation, yoga, HIIT, nutrition and a Q&A afterwards,” says Lauren Haakman, corporate communications and public relations manager at adidas South Africa.
“The fitness community has done a great job in terms of making high quality workouts available for free on Instagram and Facebook Live, and using two-way interactive digital platforms such as Zoom. There are so many options to choose from – most can be done in small spaces and don’t require any gym equipment.”
Cutting edge fitness apparel brand Under Armour has launched a Through This Together Challenge, inviting any user of the MapMyRun app to join of a virtual community of runners all over the world to log 30 miles each by Global Running Day on 3 June.
Meanwhile, major gym chains like Virgin Active and Planet Fitness stand empty, but their websites have never been busier.
VirginActive.coach is offering hundreds of on-demand workouts from its leading instructors from around the world, free for member, while Planet Fitness began an online campaign mid-April that has attracted more than 18,500 participants to online classes produced for lockdown.