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Virtual group exercise has become a reality

Photo courtesy of Wexer VirtualFor those who participate in a group exercise classes most likely these scenarios have presented themselves to you:

  • you go to the gym specifically for a class but it is full
  • there are no classes available at the times you can get to the gym
  • you get in a class but the instructor is caught in traffic, is sick, or just doesn’t show up. 

Wouldn’t it be a huge relief if these issues never came up when it comes to a spinning, yoga, TRX, or any class with an instructor? 

Over the past few years many clubs have started to offer classes in a new way where none of those, and other, issues, can arise. 

Virtual exercise classes is a new phenomena that allows a club to either offer a class on a schedule so interested parties can participate with other members, or, allow members to click play on the pre-recorded instruction video on their own, making the offering available whenever the club is open. All of this can be offered without a staff member present. 

Fred Hoffman, a 30-year industry veteran who has held numerous titles and is currently owner of Fitness Resources Consulting Services, sees lots of positives for virtual group exercise.

“From the member standpoint, this is very good. They don’t have to wait until a class Is being offered,” said Hoffman. “They can come in anytime and don’t have to wait on an instructor. 

“If a club has a loyal (group exercise) customer they most likely will try it out because other offerings (at the club) are good quality. What I really think works is the flexibility of when members can go in.” 

The advantages are not solely on the side of the members. 

Typically, a club has a room specifically for classes. But how often is the room occupied? According to industry numbers, it can be as little as 20% to 30% of the time. A club, for example, that is open 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. will see the room not used for more than 10 hours. 

But if a club can schedule a couple classes a day that attracts up to 10 members, and then offer the room for when members want to work out alone or with a friend, how is that not a win-win situation for the club and the member? The dormant room is being used and making money for the club and members are happy and satiated.  Everyone knows satisfied members can result in higher retention rates, positive word-of-mouth and a great marketing tool for prospective members. 

Photo courtesy of Wexer Virtual“Neither you nor your members are getting value out of a room that isn’t being used,” said Rasmus Ingerslev, CEO of Wexer Virtual, an international virtual class company based in Delaware. “We are an industry that must evolve and adapt to consumers’ demands.” 

One of the great things about virtual exercise classes – whether it is Wexer, Fitness on Demand, Fitness on Request or MyRide, to name a few – is that setting it up in a club is relatively inexpensive an easy. For the most part, a large screen, a projector, speakers and the computer from the company are the main requirements. 

And the cost to the club can be less than a bottle of water. Of course, different programs and offerings from each company will vary, but we can be talking as low as $1 per month per member use. 

David Kraai, founder of Fitness on Request in Minnesota, said that five years ago he walked around the trade show floor during the IHRSA Convention & Trade Show, and wondered if gym owners and managers would believe in the concept. Now, he doesn’t see how the majority of clubs cannot. 

His company, like Wexer and the others, explain that their products are supplements and are not here to replace instructors. That is important because most members like a live instructor and “high touch” – face-to-face interaction. 

In addition to being the instructor, when one is not available or it is not cost-effective, or a complement, virtual exercise programs can offer the following: instant feedback for clubs through programs offered by companies like MyZone; get vital statistics like calories burned and heart rates; when used as a supplement it allows the instructor to work with members’ form; metrics on who is taking part in the class. 

“I definitely think this is the wave of the future,” said Kraai. “This is going to help clubs … It will get those people who are sitting on the couch to work out with video.” 

“We in the industry are all looking for ways to engage the customer and get new clients into a club. This is a way to get them in and keep them coming back,” said Hoffman. “This is not a replacement. I think the more people who experience it and more sophisticated it becomes, it could take off.” 

Soon, in Ingerslev’s opinion, clubs won’t be able to afford not to have this option. 

“I do believe virtual exercise classes will be the new treadmill – the piece of equipment you need to have,” said Ingerslev. “If another club nearby has it, you will need to get it, too. From having asked more than 2,000 members across various clubs and countries, we know this is how powerful virtual classes are”.


Reader Comments (2)

I agree that it should be the next option for health clubs that are dealing with this issues mentioned here to look at. It will definitely alleviate costs for the health club owner and will provide more flexibility for your membership base.
April 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLawrence
This is a great thing. However, I think if you are a member of a club, then that club should allow you to use these services at home as a perk also!!! Why not!!! At the end of the day you have to have your membership paid up and then the member benefits. If done right this is minor additional cost to the club!!
April 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGary W. Anderson

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