BIG BOX's Play in Virtual Fitness. Part 2


As the at-home workouts are swiftly ramping up with smart technology and specialized programs from innovative companies such as Mirror and Tonal, larger health clubs and gyms are quickly getting into the game. A few are starting to serve-up classes and coaches to their members in the comfort of their home. Mirror is rolling out a "live" virtual coach/trainer option and Tonal's Coach A.I. learns from your body's movements and abilities and adapts in real-time offering guidance for quicker results. The competition is fierce and the audience selective and discerning.

Top Gyms Offering Virtual Fitness to their Members:

Gold's Gym International: A big player in both the corporate and franchise segment with over 700+ locations in 28 countries around the world serving over 3M members. They launched GOLD'S AMP a "Digital Personal Trainer" offering both audio and video coaching for "anytime anywhere" workouts as well as music mixes from a library of DJs. For $9.99 a month, BOTH members and non-members can have access to the app, sync to their Fitbit and interact with the brand outside of the gym.

Crunch Fitness: From one club in the East Village (NYC) in 1989 to now over 300+ clubs throughout the US, Canada, Spain and Australia, Crunch is seeing huge growth and momentum. Mostly franchised, with 50 corporate-owned locations, Crunch's promise is a "no judgement" approach offering a budget friendly gym with boutique-style amenities. They also have their "Signature" Clubs, at a higher price point than their budget clubs, offering more classes, fitness studios, full service locker rooms and more. They now offer 85+ online workouts and customizable fitness plans on Crunch Live. $9.99 a month or BOTH members and non-members.

Digital Fitness Platforms: Helping Big Box and Boutique Bridge the Gap

Wexer: Wexer has a few digital offerings. With Wexer Virtual, gyms can offer over 1500 virtual group classes in their studios, taught by top instructors across the globe. By outfitting select gym studios with large screens, these classes can be scheduled to automatically play at set times throughout the day to maximize group fitness class offerings or be available on- demand. Their Web Player allows members to access classes (anytime/anywhere) outside of the club with a password-protected web portal, integrating with existing websites or apps. They also offer Wexer Broadcast, providing hardware and software to record and broadcast a club's "branded" live exercise class direct to members when they're not in the gym. These live-streamed classes can then be offered as a library of on-demand classes. Their Wexer Trainer brings virtual fitness to the gym floor with a touch-screen unit with over 900 pre-loaded exercise videos. Wexer works with over 4000 health club customers across more than 50 markets.

Fitness on Demand: Like Wexer, Fitness On Demand also offers virtual group fitness classes to help gyms fill their class offerings during off-peak hours. The Group™ platform is also like a "point-of-service" kiosk allowing members to jump into a fitness class with a virtual trainer either scheduled or at a convenient time for the member. They also have a "media hub", allowing select sections of the gym to become training zones fueled by these virtual offerings. Fitness On Demand also offers a mobile app allowing members to access both live-streamed and on-demand classes and workouts wherever they are. Their app integrates with Apple Health, FitBit, Polar, and Apple Watch and they pride themselves on celebrity trainers such as Jillian Michaels, Mike Donavanik, Will Brereton and Anja Garcia.

Forte: Forte allows studios to stream live and offer on-demand classes directly to the fitness enthusiast at home or on the go. They have partnered with boutique studios worldwide such as Exhale, Aerospace, Ripped Fitness, TruBarre, Flex Studios, Banana Skirt Productions and more, allowing users to experience these classes on their TV, Phone, Tablet or Laptop. Forte installs BOTH the hardware and software into boutique studios allowing their classes to be streamed LIVE to Forte's platform. The subscription based model is $39 a month for the fitness consumer.

Les Mils On-Demand: Also offering health clubs the opportunity to increase their group fitness timetable by offering virtual classes in their studios, which they call "off-peak optimization". Their research has shown that virtual classes act as a stepping stone for newer members to feel comfortable and confident to step into "live" classes, helping increase live class attendance by 12%. Club partners include GoodLife Fitness, Virgin Active, 24 Hour Fitness, Midtown Athletic Club and more. As with all the virtual offerings mentioned above, all strive for cinematic screen and sound quality because viewers have come to expect it.

A few key points from research conducted by Les Mills International and IHRSA (International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association) on the importance of Group Fitness and how virtual and live and on-demand classes help fuel each other.

  • 60% of people join a gym based on the group fitness timetable. Virtual classes maximize these offerings.

  • Group Fitness participants are 26% less likely to cancel their membership as they feel more part of a community than a gym-goer only.

  • 50% of new gym members cancel their membership within the first 6-months. A major key of retention is Group Fitness participation (both "live" and "virtual")

  • The higher level of instruction (in the virtual offerings) from world class teachers across the globe has raised the bar for clubs owners and managers to hire top-tier group fitness instructors within their clubs and gyms.

Virtual classes, personal training and in-gym virtual "hubs" are all ways for gyms to interact with their members on a more connected level both inside and outside the club. This allows Big Box to continuously interact with their members, increasing touch points and elevating the member experience with high performing platforms and smart, engaging content.

Final entry of this 3-part series: The Emerging World of Connected and Adaptive Fitness in Cardio + Strength Machines.

Be Well,

Ann Marie

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