You will need to think through which classes and exercises are suitable for a virtual experience, and which aren’t. Review your group exercise schedule and identify which classes can be easily converted for streaming, which types need adapting, and which sessions will require suspension until the gym reopens.
Also, do what you can to make sure members have what they need to take group exercise classes and participate in personal training at home. Some smaller gyms and studios are renting out equipment to members to use during closure. Others are renting equipment on the agreement that membership would continue through a specific date, or pausing membership while renting out items for a small weekly or monthly fee. Although, according to Aaron Moore, director of operations at VIDA Fitness, renting equipment could potentially lead to legal or insurance trouble. If the equipment is not cleaned properly before returning and the virus is living on the surface, it could infect others. On the other hand, if someone sustains an injury while using the equipment, that could lead to insurance problems.
Renting equipment may not be an effective strategy for larger fitness facilities with thousands of members. When equipment rental is not an option, trainers and instructors can create recommendations for household items that can substitute—for example, detergent bottles, water bottles, or cans for dumbbells.
Once you’ve decided what classes and other services you can offer online, identify which of your instructors and trainers will lead virtual workouts, as well as any additional staff to support virtual offerings. These can include video/audio, IT, marketing, etc.
You will also need to decide on a teaching location for classes, which will depend on country, state, or city regulations. For example, in areas where closures of nonessential businesses are taking place, instructors likely need to teach from their homes. In contrast, other areas may allow instructors to go into the club alone or with minimal support staff to teach the class. Find an updated list of regulations on IHRSA’s coronavirus resource page.
If staff are compelled to teach from home, ensure they are equipped with the right fitness tools and equipment to teach their classes at home. This may require instructors to borrow benches or dumbbells, for example.
Music is another important consideration. Due to music copyright laws, it can be expensive and time-consuming to secure the synchronization rights to the songs used in group exercise classes. If copyrighted songs play during sessions published online, service providers like Instagram, Facebook, or YouTube (among others), will typically remove the videos. Consider prioritizing classes that can be offered without background music or finding music that does not violate copyright laws. Clients can, of course, play their music as they attend online classes.
Dietitian and health coaching services can also be an online offer. Providing these services remotely, especially when combined with virtual fitness offerings, can help members stay on track with their goals—and engaged with another feature of your club. These are doable by video chat, phone call, or even email check-ins. Just make sure email, call, and video communications are on secure services to protect patient privacy. More resources on protecting patient privacy during telehealth consulting are available on HHS.gov. During the extent of the COVID-19 public health emergency, dietitians can accept Medicare for telehealth services.
Technology Support for Virtual Offerings
In determining how to stream classes, the first question you will need to answer is whether this content will be available only for existing members, or free for anyone to access.
Clubs have approached this from two directions: prioritizing existing members and using this opportunity to focus on community outreach. The strategy a club chooses depends on a number of factors related to each business’ economic situation, target audience, community, and brand.