11 Best Practices on Virtual Offerings at Health & Fitness Clubs

In the wake of the pandemic, consumers may be expecting you to offer a virtual product. Learn how to create a high-quality virtual offering to support your physical space and grow your business.

Chris Alexander, general manager, standards & development of AUSactive, and Sean Turner, CEO of Les Mills U.S., contributed to this article.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, group exercise—offered both in-person and virtually—is expected from many consumers looking to join a studio or health club. Clubs that have stopped providing virtual fitness options, or haven’t yet begun offering a digital product, risk losing members.

The in-person experience and ability to interact with fitness professionals in a friendly and supportive environment help differentiate fitness clubs from online-only exercise options like Peloton, Apple Fitness+, and YouTube. But virtual group fitness or personal training can be a great add-on to your physical offerings, add more value to your membership, and help you reach new customers.

Group exercise in a hybrid model can help improve your group exercise product and engage your members and customers in a new way.

Producing virtual fitness options might sound easy, but just like with any other fitness offering, you need to take the necessary steps to create a high-quality product that will engage members and customers and enable you to grow your business.

This article is one in the series: 28 Best Practice Guidelines for Operating a Fitness Facility.

Make sure your virtual fitness program meets these best practice guidelines. We’ve grouped them into four categories to help you plan your product:

  1. Use Virtual Products to Increase Your Customer Base

  2. Expand Your Group Fitness Options

  3. Offer a High-quality Product

  4. Pay Attention to Safety & Liability

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Use Virtual Products to Increase Your Customer Base

1. Consider making your services available to customers virtually, as a standalone option and a complement/add-on to physical access.

2. Leverage your virtual offerings to drive traffic into your facility. Use it as an entry-level product for those who may be new to exercise.

Expand Your Group Fitness Options

3. Consider archiving virtual classes so they are also available on-demand and ensure that customers can access the archive through your website.

4. Complement your live offerings with on-site virtual classes and on-demand workouts at home.

5. Incorporate virtual workouts into your class schedule to expand your timetable and maximize your facility usage.

Offer a High-quality Product

6. Ensure your virtual experience matches the standards set when customers visit your facility. Technology, lighting, sound, coaching, and quality programming are key.

7. Keep virtual workouts fun, motivating, and results-driven for customers to remain engaged.

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Pay Attention to Safety & Liability

8. Procure additional insurance coverage, if required, for online/virtual delivery.

9. Ensure the training environment of your customers is safe and free from hazards. Have customers complete a risk assessment and document accordingly. Consider the type of flooring, obstacles, children, and pets.

10. Remain aware of intellectual property issues related to music used on various platforms and digital delivery methods. Check any licenses for the scope of coverage—the delivery mode and geographic location.

11. Add language to your waiver/informed consent agreement regarding remote, digital, and virtual programming.

This article is part of the 28 Best Practice Guidelines for Operating a Fitness Facility series, where we cover topics like Group Fitness, Fitness Inclusion, Personal Training, and more in upcoming articles.

Additional Virtual Fitness Resources

The Omnichannel Experience (Finally!) Takes Hold - This CBI article reviews recent consumer research on virtual/online workouts. It discusses how you can integrate your digital offerings with your physical facility to meet the needs of your members and grow your customer base.

Digital Services Are Now an Imperative - This article includes expert advice on why you need to offer a digital product and details how one club uses its online offerings to grow membership, improve instructor performance, and expand its product offerings.

Managing the Hybrid Experience - Virtual classes combined with in-person group fitness keep your members engaged. This CBI article discusses various options for managing your virtual offerings and what you should—and shouldn’t—do to ensure a high-quality product.

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This article was a team effort by several IHRSA experts.