What is the future of 'fitness' ?
Whilst the devastation in the wake of 'Coronavirus' reaches much, much further than fitness, it is undeniable that it has impacted many many people across the world and affected how they train.
Exercise is important. For many people it is their 'thing'. For others it is not only necessary, it is essential. Our gyms and classes are a place where we gain social fulfilment. It is where we escape to. Not to mention for many it is their livelihood as a fitness professional .. training and paying for qualifications, building their client base, and devoting time to helping others achieve all of the above.
Here in Scotland, gyms, leisure centres, studios and boxes closed in March 2020 in an effort to control the spread of the virus. Approaching the two-month mark and some of the Lockdown restrictions have started to ease - but the measures are of limited benefit to gyms.
But when things do "go back to normal" (LOL what will that even be?), what has it taught us and what will the future of fitness look like? Things I am thinking about in my own mind are; safety and viability of facilities, equipment, media for training.
Thinking about gyms, leisure centres, studios, boxes ... ("facilities"), there is a possibility that, like other public venues, their re-opening will see specific measures put in place to facilitate social distancing to maintain people's safety. One example for group activities could mean reduced class sizes so that people can move safely. For classes of 20 in a studio possibly being reduced by half, how can facilities ensure this is done fairly to accommodate everyone? Personally, I am slightly concerned about my routine for Group Ex if class numbers are limited - I am not naturally a competitive person, so competing for a class space is a daunting thought. I also enjoy the predictability of working my gym time around my 9 to 5. I'm also thinking about those people who enjoy classes as a social experience, less than likely if half of the #sqwad can't book into their 10.30 Zumba. How will people be monitored using multiple items of equipment? Will facilities and equipment be kept clean for use, and by whom? I don't know about you but how any people do you actually see wiping down the equipment after they used it - especially barbells and plates. Prior to Lockdown the facilities I taught classes at required members to wipe down bars, mats, etc before leaving. It made me wonder if the kit had ever been cleaned before that point, and how did we even cope pre-COVD ?? So.. do these safety precautions ultimately strip the human 'experience' away from paying & showing up to work out?
But now to ask a provocative question .. what about when this happens again (a pandemic)?
Will more facilities need to invest in their online presence, perhaps to supplement the physical environment? Recent weeks/ months have forced a swift reaction from many businesses in this way. 'Survival of the fittest' is a poignant concept here - and no, not the fittest in terms of fitness, despite the theme of the blog - but the true meaning .. survival of those most successful in adapting to their environment. I think facilities are going to need to offer some added value to members to remain attractive in the long run.
I would also like to know, are people really satisfied with online workouts at home? Or will members have the confidence to return to a facility in terms of safety and 'experience'? Below are a couple of screenshots, but I have seen a number of similar threads being raised. Are people going to go back to their facilities? Looking ahead, I hope that recent events will encourage a more creative outlook from businesses in helping people work out more flexibly and successfully. Getting people passionate about exercise is tricky when it's through a screen - so I look forward to seeing what the future holds. It's important for businesses to know why their members exercise and what experience they want to gain from doing so.
In one of my other posts, I mention that finding home kit online right now is like finding gold. At this stage it would probably cost you less too! Many sites have kit on pre-order or simply SOLD OUT. Dumbbells, kettlebells, studio bars & plates, sandbags/ med balls... Whatever people can squat, curl, deadlift, press... they'll grab it. Rightly so.
This one time I went to Aldi and got an 8kg Kettlebell for £2.49. I cannot express to you my joy. This is because for weeks I had gone without any 'strength' kit at home, merely swinging a backpack full of books and sugar around. But for those that have 'everything they need', will they continue to pay a membership?
In a post-Coronavirus landscape, will everyone have home gyms? Well I doubt it, for several reasons. Aside from the safety aspect, space and money are top. Is a home gym in every home feasible? For me, cycling a heavy barbell quietly in a second floor flat is on the unlikely end of the scale, along with convincing my landlord to let us fix a pull-up bar to his drywall to practice toes-to-bar. But generally for many activities, yes, home workouts can .. work out. The situation has however laid bare the polarisation of people's living circumstances. Online I have seen many people pining for their own garden to work out in, others frantically clearing space in a spare room to roll a yoga mat and simply be able to do a set of push-ups.
When Lockdown materialised, some facilities - typically community/ independent venues - managed to provide equipment 'on loan' to members to help them stay active at home. This is obviously a great gesture of trust on the facility's part and has allowed more people to vary their training, but in some cases the kit hasn't served all members and some have gone without. This week I was (v) happy to have been provided with a pair of dumbbells and an ab-mat from my facility (shout out Claymore CrossFit, Perth).
In another post, I explained differed media for home workouts. Depending on the workout or your Trainer, you might need kit to participate. For example, BODYPUMP (and similar) classes are popular Group Ex classes across the world .. the ability to do it at home online, solitary, is a welcome compromise in the circumstances, but it doesn't have the same effect without the bar and plates.
I also think about the people who perhaps have less 'fitness' in their life than myself. We were all there at some point.. remember that time before you started working out, it's not worth imagining is it!?
I think we all share that mindset though - like you know in January when everyone starts joining the gym, and you get suuuuuuper annoyed with all these impostors taking up precious gym space? But.. secretly, you're actually quite happy because it's new faces (again, that social instinct in us kicks in) and you're kind of excited about being able to express your passion, experience and knowledge when someone looks over helplessly and says to you "this is my first time, I've no idea what I'm doing!" - and we want to help others get that feeling we get when we do our workouts; whether it be lifting, Group Ex, CrossFit, yoga, dance, cycling, running ...... So in a possible world with different access to gyms compared to six months ago, how will people fall in love with fitness? I think we need to make that our mission.
So, what do you think the future of fitness is? Are we simply going to flock back to the gyms as soon as we can, or do you think this is the dawn of a more varied routine for many of us?
Would you feel comfortable training, or working, in a facility like you did before .. or are you anxious about whether safety changes will alter your fond memories of that place?
You can find me on Instagram if you want to mull over the issue further.