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Featured Personal Training Programming

Recap: Virtual Trends in Group Fitness & Personal Training


On October 7, IHRSA, REX Roundtables and Club Solutions Magazine presented the 27th installment of a weekly virtual roundtable series, on the subject of virtual programming, aimed at helping clubs navigate through the COVID-19 crisis.

Panelists included Sara Kooperman, JD, the CEO of SCW Fitness Education; Sheldon McBee, the personal training director at Universal Athletic Club; Bill McBride, the co-founder, president and CEO of Active Wellness; and Blair McHaney, the CEO of MXM and owner of WORX health clubs. The discussion was led and moderated by Brent Darden, the interim president and CEO of IHRSA, and chair of REX Roundtables.

The following is a summary of top takeaways from the discussion, centered on how to maximize the opportunity of virtual programming and where your instructors fit into the picture:


  • When the pandemic first struck, Group X instructors became the heroes for health clubs, engaging with members on social media and keeping them involved.
  • Personal and group trainers have pivoted to earning revenue by leveraging their own talents in a virtual format and in homes while clubs were closed.
  • Actively getting trainers plugged into your virtual strategy and club’s growth overall can help mitigate the risk of them leaving to do training on their own at the expense of the club.
    • Clubs in larger markets might be more susceptible to this than clubs in smaller markets.
  • The pandemic has shown the most valuable product clubs offer is fitness professionals — this now at the forefront of every operator’s mind as they’re trying to keep members engaged.
  • Take care of your front-line staff members — trainers and front desk staff, for example — since they’re ones members think of and come back for. Members don’t think about the executives in the back office.
  • Many trainers want to be independent contractors and get the money straight in their pockets. Providing benefits as an employer is a good way to keep trainers loyal to your club.
  • Turn your instructors into rock stars — put them front and center in marketing content and club signage.
  • Be intentional about getting buy-in from employees about your club’s vision, and reinforce it often.
  • Organizations like Apple, Peloton and SoulCycle create a perception for consumers in the marketplace for the price of virtual services.
  • Be methodical about your strategy for delivering virtual services — carefully consider the price, platforms and marketing.
  • Work from the inside out when forming your virtual strategy, and focus on creating a great member experience. Don’t focus on competing with the big players in the marketplace.
    • You want your trainers to evolve beyond just a voice on a screen — trainers need to be lifestyle consultants, and inject themselves into the lifestyles of their clients.
  • One pay structure to consider is paying trainers a flat percentage based on their performance.
  • Pre-pandemic, functional training and nutrition were the top trending programs in the industry.
  • During the pandemic, strength training and active aging programs have been trending upward. Sports such as tennis and pickleball have also been growing in popularity.
    • Meditation and yoga have also become very popular, especially in virtual programming.
  • A major drawback to virtual training is the fact that consumers are already in front of their screens all day. They might not want to go back to their screens for a workout.
  • There’s an argument that virtual training isn’t a strong revenue driver long-term — it’s the cost of doing business in the current climate.
  • Get educated on the products available for virtual programming, as there are several.
  • Sara Kooperman’s recommendations, via the SCW Virtual Training Certification:
  • Recommendations from Bill McBride:
  • There are also several companies featured in IHRSA’s CBI:
  • Make sure you get the technology right. The quality of the product is paramount.
  • Pay the necessary licensing fees for music usage.
    • If you’re livestreaming classes, you can use whatever songs you want. However, if you’re pre-recording classes, you’ll have to use royalty-free music.
  • Consider changing your waivers to “assumption of risk” documents — courts aren’t recognizing documents labeled as waivers in some cases.

To access the on-demand version of this webinar, click here.

To access the audio-only version of this webinar, click here.

UPCOMING: Don’t miss the 28th installment of our virtual roundtable series, “Successful Strategies for Shaping Your Future: Thinking Like a Retailer in Fitness,” on Wednesday, October 14 at 2 p.m. EST. Limited seats are available. Click here to reserve your spot.

Bobby Dyer

Bobby is the former assistant editor of Club Solutions Magazine.

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