Health & Fitness

Did COVID-19 Kill Traditional Gyms?

This week Apple rolled out their new Fitness+ feature.  This is an app that allows Apple Watch owners access to a variety of different workouts for an affordable monthly fee.  This comes at a time where more and more people have had to work-out from home due to COVID-19.  

The day of the release, I came across an article on the Wall Street Journal by Nicole Nguyen where she provided her review of Apple’s new Fitness+ service.  What caught my attention wasn’t the review, but a revelation she had.  She states, “One revelation I’ve had during the coronavirus crisis is that there is no way I’m paying for a gym again.”  I found it interesting because I’ve heard a couple people say that traditional fitness gyms are dead.  

So, I got to thinking… will these new easy access fitness apps/services and the fear caused by this pandemic be the shift that forever changes our mindset about going back to a traditional gym?  

Let’s talk about that. 

Even before COVID-19 appeared, people were starting to buy into at-home workout equipment such as high-ticket items like Peloton bikes/treadmills.  Companies like Peloton discovered a pent-up demand from consumers to work-out at the convenience of their own homes.  Once the pandemic hit, and when faced with the notion that we had to stay indoors, some people took the plunge and started buying all sorts of at-home gym workout equipment.

Moreover, you could already find a ton of fitness apps and/or programs available for those people wanting to get easy go-to workouts to do either at home or at the gym.  Heck, YouTube has every type of workout you can think of available in their library of videos available to you for FREE.  

So, with access to all of these novelty fitness apps, programs, and new equipment… why would anyone want to go back to a traditional gym?  Here’s what I foresee for the traditional fitness industry going forward.  

Given the ever increasing, easy access to fitness from home services and equipment, it will force the traditional fitness industry to change. Even before the pandemic, many businesses were moving more towards an online business model.  The pandemic just solidified this movement as a must for many businesses that want to survive.  The fitness industry is no different and I do believe that the pandemic is changing the status quo and gyms will need to adapt.

Fierce competition from companies like Apple, Peloton, Lululemon and independent influencers are taking people away from traditional gyms and into their homes.  Traditional fitness gyms will have to provide alternate methods to keep their members engaged and coming back.  They will have to double down on providing services that digital fitness providers cannot offer. 

Let’s look at the upside of digital workout subscriptions and the three reasons they’re gaining traction over traditional gyms.  

  1. CONVENIENCE – You can literally workout whenever you want and in different locations.  The most competitive apps offer a wide variety of classes that may require, or not, some equipment (stationary bike, treadmill, dumbbells, etc.).  Gyms, for the most part, have set business hours.  If the facility provides organized classes, those classes may not be available for access by everyone.  By having the option to download a variety of fitness classes whenever you have the time to work out, makes this a very attractive reason to join an online fitness subscription.
  2. OVERALL VARIETY – People have a tendency to get bored and want to switch things up.  Online app subscriptions give you access to a wide variety of classes and exercises.  Some traditional gyms may give you a variety of fitness classes, but most focus on a specific regimen or a very limited offer of programs.  
  3. AFFORDABLE – Somewhat. Apart from having to buy expensive equipment (bikes, squat racks, dumbbells, etc.), these online subscriptions tend to have a low monthly fee that, for the most part, beats those traditional gym fees.  

Now let’s talk about the top three reasons why traditional gyms are far superior than digital workout subscriptions.  

  1. AMPLE EQUIPMENT – Most traditional gyms have far more equipment than any household.  This provides a wider set of opportunities to create new, creative and unique workouts.  Most homes invest in either a bike, or a treadmill, or a small basic home gym.  Due to cost and space, most households don’t invest in a wide variety of equipment.  
  2. ON-SITE TRAINERS – Most traditional gyms have access to on-site trainers.  If you decide to invest in hiring a GOOD trainer to help you with your goals, you will get access to their professional expertise.  They will not only plan your workout of the day, but they will make sure that you practice good form and will help keep you accountable.  A good trainer can make the difference between you meeting or crushing your goals.
  3. COMMUNITY – The most important thing that no fitness app, or even a live online class can replicate, in my opinion, is that sense of friendship and community that you can build at your traditional gym.  In my mind, this is the single most important reason for returning to a gym.  Being around like-minded individuals is so important to keeping you interested and motivated when trying to accomplish your goals.  Fitness has a lot to do with accountability and having access to that support system can be key to your success.

So, do I think that traditional gyms are dead?  Nope.  Don’t think so.  First off… we’re social creatures and we need that social interaction, especially now since so many of us have locked ourselves up due to this pandemic.  I think that once things start normalizing, people will be back to their pre-pandemic traditional gym life… for the most part.

With that said, I do think that things have changed and what used to be the norm, will no longer exist.  I do think that things have gotten way more competitive and that most people will use a combination of new digital platforms and traditional gyms to achieve their fitness goals.  

It will be interesting to see how it all pans out in 2021.  Until next time, I’m wishing everyone a stronger and healthier life!

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