At the Gym or at Home
A Life Time member consults her phone for class time and locations
The landscape of the fitness industry is changing, with several trends on tap for 2022 that some say were amplified by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. In Nevada, of the 374 health clubs operating pre-pandemic, 67 had to permanently close their doors in 2020, according to IHRSA, the nonprofit trade association representing the global health and fitness industry.
Many athletic facilities that remained open developed appealing alternative options for members, which paved the way for a new fitness routine this year.
Life Time, Inc., which operates two clubs in Las Vegas and more than 155 nationwide, initiated an omnichannel approach to wellness – a blend of virtual and in-person workouts. The company launched an expanded digital platform in December 2020, and the app-based membership receives more than six million visitors each month with more than 450 classes a week livestreamed from 20 clubs across the country.
“Hybrid workouts provide the ultimate flexibility to stay consistent,” says Andrew Becker, senior area lead – Life Time Training. “Wherever you may be and whatever device you have, livestream classes complement the in-club experience. It’s the foundation of what we are trying to accomplish.”
He says the company is also focused on more value-based membership opportunities this year, including adding new programming to its digital membership, expanding the Kids Studios and GameFace Sport classes, and providing its signature membership with unlimited small group training classes. In addition, the company plans to grow its nationwide roster of Life Time Work facilities, which integrate where consumers work and live a healthy life. Two new Life Time Work locations are slated to open this year, bringing the total to 11.
Sixty-eight percent of people who began using an online fitness service during the pandemic plan to continue to do so, according to the 2021 IHRSA Media Report: Part 2. The report concludes that in order to meet the demands of health club members, clubs will be expected to offer a hybrid or omnichannel approach to delivering fitness, wellness, and sports.
For Jessica Peralta, owner of the FIT4MOM franchise in Las Vegas, transitioning to a virtual platform 36 hours after the COVID-19 shut down gave her nearly 400 members an opportunity to stay connected and not miss their scheduled workouts. She also held game nights, wine tastings, and social meet-ups through Zoom, so moms would have the opportunity to get to know other parents in the Las Vegas Valley.
“We did our very best to try and navigate through the challenge and sustain the experience we provide for our families,” says Peralta, who started FIT4MOM in 2012. Today, the pre and postnatal health, wellness, and fitness company for moms is focused on building its membership and community partnerships back up. “Covid presented an opportunity to make people realize that workouts can be a little bit more accessible to them. The hybrid model still gives moms that opportunity to come see us and connect on all levels with other moms and then still get that great workout in person when they’re able to.”
The FIT4MOM digital app supplies a library of growing pre-recorded classes to moms at home, including momma and mini workouts, cardio, prenatal and postpartum, yoga and restorative and more, according to Peralta.
Brianna Garcia, a FIT4MOM Stroller Strides instructor and avid runner, says finding other moms to exercise with was essential after she moved to Las Vegas from California in July 2021.
“I could work out all day long by myself at home, but it was getting boring and I was so isolated already that I wanted to find other moms and a community,” says Garcia, who purchased a Peloton during the pandemic. “I will still split my time between FIT4MOM and the Peloton because there are days that I can’t always go.”
FIT4MOM also tailors its services to organizations such local schools and physician groups who request small group classes.
Peralta says she is adapting her fitness model to fit the new norm. “None of us had a playbook. No small business owners knew what to do.”
According to the IHRSA media report, the fitness industry lost $29.2 billion in revenue from March 2020 through June 2021.
Julie Johnston, owner and founder of Camp Rhino, says she offered outdoor bootcamps and online health and fitness challenges as a tactic to engage members and generate new ones.
“I had people from all over the world who participated in the five-day Foodie Fit-in-Your-Jeans challenge where, over the course of five days, I showed people how to lose weight and still eat the foods they love and live a happy life,” says Johnston, who founded Camp Rhino, which focuses on bootcamp, strength, and conditioning, in 2004. When Camp Rhino closed for 79 days, Johnston says she immediately transitioned to virtual workouts and offered classes on Zoom multiple times a day. “Before the pandemic, I had an in-person six weeks challenge, but online I can touch so many more people. I had 226 people participating in the last on-line challenge.”
She says that even though virtual workouts are no longer offered at Camp Rhino, she is noticing more people are continuing to split their time between exercising at home and online.
“We are seeing more of a hybrid now, where on days they are too busy to come in, members have an at-home option like the Peloton that they acquired during the closures,” she says. “When the gym opened back up, our members couldn’t wait to come back. They say that when they work out at home, they don’t push quite as hard or do quite as much as they do in the classes or in personal training. We can have all of the tools and we can know how to do everything we need to do, but in-person motivation and camaraderie can’t be digitized.”
According to Becker, the two Life Time clubs in Las Vegas have seen a spike in personal training.
Johnston says membership is at 66 percent of what it was pre-COVID. Their Rhino Ninja gym, which features an obstacle course for kids and adults, is attracting new members. “I’m seeing several people come in who are doing things that are outside of their comfort zone to feel alive because they know they made it through a worldwide pandemic,” she says.
Cheryl Snow, who ran her first Tough Mudder obstacle race just before her 50th birthday, says she joined Camp Rhino in the summer 2021 to help manage and overcome her fears.
“Every time I go in, I’m nervous and I don’t know what kind of hard thing I will have to overcome, and I kind of like that,” says Snow, who tackles the course once a week. The course features obstacles similar to those found on the television show “American Ninja Warrior,” and in competitions such as the Spartan Race and Tough Mudder. “The ninja gym has allowed me to operate more confidently in the world. I’ve got better balance, and I know how to handle myself in certain situations.”
Snow says it also provides a distraction and offers a feeling of accomplishment for her at a time when other things during the pandemic might be dead ends. “I was in a pretty bad mood from just some stuff that had happened during the day,” she says. “You don’t remember any of that stuff when you are jumping off, you know, a five-foot platform onto a trampoline to then jump six feet to grab a trapeze.”
Ninety-four percent of people say they plan to return to their gym in some capacity, according to the IHRSA media report. When they do, here’s what they might find topping the list of trends.
Mix it up. The hybrid workout, a combination of at the gym and at home workouts will continue to take center stage this year.
Sports of course. The fast-growing sport of pickleball is anticipated to be front and center at many Life Time clubs across the country, along with basketball, tennis, and swimming.
Relax your mind. Meditation among gym-goers is expected to grow as more people might be searching for new stress relievers to enhance their wellness routine, Becker says. Life Time plans to add more than 100 meditation sessions to its digital programming this year.
Don’t forget the cool down. Proper exercise recovery will allow you to train harder, according to Beker. Life Time offers foam roller classes to help relieve muscle tightness and soreness and increase joint range of motion.
Let’s be friends. Exercising in small groups of six to eight people is forecasted to grow this year, Beker says. More people are looking for socialization and a sense of camaraderie they missed during the height of the pandemic. Life Time is expanding its small group training programs this year with additional classes to meet demand.
Get your Zzz’s. The importance of sleep education is part of the Life Time training app. Members can log their hours of sleep and share those results with their trainer. Trainers can make suggestions for more exercise recovery time if needed.
1. Body Well eight-week transformation sessions. The combination of fitness, nutrition, and wellness programs are poised to see an uptick this year, according to Peralta. FIT4MOM’s Body Well program takes a small group of participants on a results-based, eight-week journey. Small group workout coaching, nutritional guidance, and weekly fitness challenges focus on improving the physical and mental well-being of each member.
2. Build your endurance. Endurance training programs, such as FIT4MOM’s Run Club, which focus on cardio endurance, will be at the forefront this year, now that in person races are making a comeback. The program will help participants meet their fitness goals and be ready to compete in one of FIT4MOM’s planned races.
Step outside your comfort zone. According to Johnston, more people might try things they were afraid to do before. Making it through a pandemic has prompted many to push aside their fear and see what new things they can accomplish, she says. The Camp Rhino Ninja Gym, which offers obstacle course training for children and adults, has attracted several women over 50 years old who have never trained on an obstacle course before.
Beginner’s luck. Johnston says Camp Rhino has always attracted people who have never worked out before or who want to get started and she expects that to increase this year. The goal to get healthy and survive whatever comes next will be on the mind of many, she adds.
Creative ways to develop a sweat at Camp Rhino
A FIT4MOM outdoor workout for mothers and their babies