Personal training (PT) has been a mainstay on clubs’ offering lists for years, but 2020 showed owners that it can also thrive as a virtual offering.
Cecil Hightower, a partner in Villa 59 Fitness Consulting, said clubs that want to be successful will embrace the virtual option and make it an adjunct with their in-person PT options.
“Combining in-person and virtual personal training will give the member an option to engage fitness to their comfort level,” said Highwater. “Additionally, if set up correctly, virtual can be an additional revenue stream for the PT or membership department in the form of an additional membership or subscription option that can be priced according to how much access the member would like with their trainer.”
Luke Carlson, the CEO of Discover Strength, agreed combining in-person and virtual PT is vital. He expects in 2021 their training services will be 80% in-person and 20% virtual.
Carlson explained their virtual workouts fall into three different categories: clients who do a workout in the facility during the week and also supplement with a virtual session, clients who have not returned to the facility and choose to perform only virtual workouts, and clients who live across the country or world who utilize the virtual offering.
While offering PT virtually is a great way to reach new members, it is also a great way to reengage current members.
“PT both in person and virtually will be very important to offer in 2021 because it gives you an organic opportunity to reengage with your membership,” said Hightower. “They will either decide to come back to the gym environment or will continue at home and need expertise on how they should go about doing it in the most efficient and safest way for themselves.”
Safety in the form of being supervised is a key point to keep in mind when offering virtual PT.
According to Carlson, supervision actually leads to better results from exercise. “The one consistent element that continues to emerge from the scientific research is this: People produce better results when they are directly supervised,” he said. “Now more than ever we should be concerned with producing better results from our exercise. Of course, PT revenue is important to offset a loss of dues revenue, but to be successful, the whole club company needs to understand the foundational importance of supervised exercise.”
A great way to ensure you can properly supervise and keep your virtual personal training members safe is by having the right technology tools. When it comes to choosing the right technology, Hightower recommends first deciding what you plan on offering.
“You are going to need a video portal,” said Hightower. “I am a fan of Zoom, but there are plenty out there. Google Hangouts and Skype are a couple others. If you want a good programming option, Trainerize is one I really like. It has the ability to house video and photos and the ability to customize the look of the app, so it mimics your brand. Additionally, it has the ability to stay connected to your client’s activity, whether they are training with you or on their own.”
Carlson said Discover Strength has been successful in virtual PT by using very simple technology. For him, Google Hangouts, FaceTime, Zoom, and a tablet or laptop are his preferred tools. In addition to technology, Hightower said don’t forget to utilize your social media channels to connect and foster community. Whether in-person or virtual, people still want to engage with like-minded people.
While there is a lot to consider when offering PT virtually, Hightower said it is vital to maintain the integrity of your brand. Use the virtual options to support your current offerings — as well as give you the ability to reach outside your walls — to stay engaged with your members who are not ready to come back inside the gym. “If you don’t stay engaged with them and keep them connected to your community, they will look for virtual options that mimic what they liked about your brand and they will move on,” he said.
While virtual PT was a way clubs pivoted to continue serving their members in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, it can be a great way to reach members for years to come.
“No single program is good for everyone,” said Hightower. “We all need customization and it is definitely more difficult to achieve this in home where your exercise options are more limited. This is where trainers should take the opportunity to offer assistance and fill this need going into 2021 and beyond.”