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How Clubs are Serving Members Virtually During Shutdowns


Many gyms across the U.S. are being impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether it’s through mandated shutdowns, losing members or having to let employees go, clubs are trying to navigate these uncertain waters.

After much consideration, Genesis Health Clubs followed the federal guidelines and temporarily closed in all of its markets, which was mandated by the governments of some states, counties, and/or cities, but not others. “Enforcement also seems inconsistently applied,” said Rodney Steven II, the owner of Genesis Health Clubs. “But most of all, it’s incredibly painful to send our employees home. We want them back in the clubs and working again.”

Although times are tough, Genesis, like many other health clubs, is transitioning to virtual platforms to give members avenues to continue their workouts.

Genesis launched GenesisGo, which is a series of recorded YouTube videos. Additionally, they post Facebook and Instagram Live videos, as well as blogs that cover various personal training topics. “We also did something really cool,” said Steven. “We loaned out over 300 bikes to our members, and launched online cycling classes to follow while they’re at home. When this is all over, they can bring the bikes back and use them in the club.”

Another club that is trying to keep its community connected virtually is In-Shape Health Clubs.

In-Shape has teamed up with its group fitness partners to provide on-demand group fitness classes for free during this uncertain time. In-Shape is partnered with TRX, Les Mills, Matrix Fitness and Life Fitness, for example, to offer a variety of online workouts. In addition, In-Shape has a weekly schedule of Facebook Live workouts where their members can workout with trainers in real-time. The club is also offering specific workouts for seniors and children.

“While we are all missing the ability to physically visit our clubs and connect with one another, our members are loving the content,” said Jacqueline Buchanan, the senior manager of PR, communications and social for In-Shape. “In fact, they are craving more so our team is fastidiously working to deliver fresh, fun and uniquely In-Shape content to our community.”  

Workout Anytime is also going virtual, taking steps to ensure its members can still workout and remain active while they’re at home and social distancing through their mobile app and YouTube playlist. Their mobile app features 17 at-home workouts that can be done with no equipment, in addition to hundreds of other exercises and routines, with more added every day. Workout Anytime is also streaming a “Workout of the Day” online from one of its trainers each day.

“We’ve been able to work with Virtuagym to accelerate the rollout of access to at-home workouts,” said Mark de Gorter, the COO of Workout Anytime. “We’ve seen our users almost double in just one week. We’re combining that with Workouts of the Day. Those have been well received. We’re trying to create a virtual club — we don’t just want one solution; we want as many as you’d have if you walked into one of our live classes.”

Workout Anytime is also working with Calm, a popular mindfulness app. “It’s a really cool app that has a collection of meditation, calming and breathing exercises,” said de Gorter. “We’ve also set up a resource page. We’re working really hard to build the value of our membership, considering how important it is for everyone to stay well.”

According to de Gorter, the feedback has been great from their members. “Our clubs are operated by local owners who are heavily invested in their communities,” explained de Gorter. “A lot of them are telling us their members are calling up saying, ‘Look, don’t worry about freezing my membership. I’m in it with you guys for the long haul. You guys are providing us tremendous value to me and my fitness journey. I know it’s tough so I’m going to allow you to continue to bill me just so I know you can pay your employees as well.’ It’s been a tremendous rallying around these local communities that we operate in because our franchise partners are so plugged into the community.” 

Although times are tough and it is uncertain when gyms will be able to operate under normal circumstances again, clubs are finding ways to keep their communities connected and active. Below, Buchanan, Steven and de Gorter share advice for other health clubs during the COVID-19 pandemic:

Buchanan: “Ask, and then listen to them. We’ve had a lot of great early success by using the full functionality of things like polling in Instagram Stories and including requests for feedback in our Daily Buzz email. We’ve pivoted the type of content we are offering almost daily to bring our members exactly what they want. We’re all in this together and the sooner we can flatten the curve, the sooner we can all reopen. We are also steadfastly working to urge the government to include the entire fitness industry in any relief package plans. So, the more we can do today to keep our members healthy in the comfort of their own homes, the more likely we are to reopen sooner rather than later.”

De Gorter: “We’ve got three things we can do. First of all, stay connected with your members at all times. And do that with things like telephone calls — don’t just send them an email. Put a personal call in and chances are you may get their voice machine, but they’re going to hear a human voice making sure you care, you’re checking in on them and you want them to understand they’ve got other resources they can use to workout while they can’t come to the gym. Number two is go do the things inside your club you never have time to do during the daily whirlwind. The third is let’s use the tech tools to go on and maintain class structures and personal training services so you can maintain that revenue. Right now, our focus is on preservation of revenue and reducing costs.”

Steven: Talk to others. We need to band together as an industry and make ILC a powerhouse, so our voice is always heard. We need to make sure we’re heard in Washington, and also make sure we never lose sight of why we do this. We have to get opened up again so people can get back to fitness and a healthy lifestyle. This is challenging not just for our industry, but for the whole world. Things may seem pretty bleak right now, but I firmly believe that persistence prevails when all else fails. We’ll get through this and emerge a better industry for it.”

Taylor Brown

Taylor Brown is the assistant editor for Club Solutions Magazine. She can be reached at taylor@peakemedia.com

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