This year has seen the fitness industry turned on its head, leaving many scrambling to figure out a digital solution to continue their fitness offerings to the millions stuck at home.
From this sudden disruption, we’ve seen thousands take to Zoom and social media platforms to deliver their home workouts and fitness classes. Some have worked and some... really haven't. Running classes through live-streaming platforms requires the same core discipline knowledge but a very different skillset in terms of communication, technology and event management.
But, don't worry, if you’re struggling to crack this digital form of fitness, we’ve got some top tips on how you can run a successful online group fitness class.
Plan, plan, plan
Failing to plan? Then you’ll be planning to fail. Always make sure you've checked your logistics in advance. Ask yourself: what do your customers need to know and need to prepare themselves before the class kicks off?
If it’s your first ever attempt at online fitness classes, ask a friend to try your online workout. You could also join the online 'room' earlier to test the tech set up equipment and how your users will experience it from their point of view.
As well as preparing the workout, you’ll also need to help them out by making them aware of any equipment or substitutes they may need.
Send a few reminders ahead of the class. Lots of people are repurposing their kitchens, gardens and bedrooms as workout areas, which means they are often crammed with laundry bags or furniture. Sending them a reminder at the right time may make a difference in them showing up for class by giving them enough time to preparing their space.
Keep it personal
Savvy instructors have realised that people are looking for online experiences that feel the most similar to those they would experience in real life.
Interactive live-streams are a brilliant way to maintain communication in an authentic way during the class. But, it's definitely a little more complicated when you're all doing burpees on the floor!
Calling people by name, cheering them on or re-affirming is a great simple hack. Whether you are complimenting Jane on her squat form or guiding Mark through a deadlift, live conversation enhances the collective energy, the social bond and your customer's sense of personal motivation.
We've also seen - and our forthcoming member survey results support this - that people hugely value the personal interaction. It's a big difference from the more 'broadcast' offerings on social platforms.
Similarly, that personal interaction has an echo effect on your customers' commitment to showing up. There's a sense of personal connection and personal responsibility that is forged and which makes both parties feel they are accountable.
Welcome with open arms
Before starting your class, it’s always good to be aware of any newcomers. This is truly the time you can catch your attendees' attention. Introduce yourself and any house rules. Give a special greeting to any newbies by name but also be sure to give a personal hello to any regulars. This is also the perfect time to run through the structure of the class if needed - especially if the rest time is short.
Pro Tip: always remember to mute people before the class starts.
Clever ways to enhance interaction
Before you kick off your at-home workout, you can send a personalised playlist everyone can listen to together at the same time. Many fitness professionals I work with pop wireless headphones on and listen to the same playlist as their attendees. This really enhances the group feel and keeps everyone in sync.
Another useful way to interact with people in an online class is to ask them to do something (for example do thumbs up, or put their hands in the air) during rest time to check if they are enjoying themselves or need moves/instructions repeated.
In very small classes, you can even dedicate some time at the end to create a clever finisher - as an example, something that worked with a client before was to have their attendees pick one exercise each for the five minute finisher. This works best for online fitness classes with 4 to 5 people.
Pro Tip: Make use of the chat box on Zoom. Ask for contributions or suggestions like song requests, thoughts on choreography or instruction variances.
Always ask for feedback
Creating a feedback loop which allows you to consistently act upon feedback as well as sharing that feedback, and how you're acting on it, is critical. Digital tools and interactive live-streamed classes are a great way to be able to act on this.
Encourage your customers to share what they loved and what can be improved, as well as any post-workout selfies. Prompt your customers by suggesting a post-class social post or review - this is actually the perfect time to do this because energy and emotion levels are at the right point (as long as you have delivered a brilliant class of course!).
Live-streaming is here to stay, in a big way
So many of our instructors are telling us of the successes they have had with live-streaming, especially with classes like yoga and pilates, but with other class types too. It's easy to get set up and get going but bringing your classes up to an excellent quality level requires craft and attention to detail - exactly like the best classes in real life!
All being well, acting on these tips will really help you to run satisfying, fulfilling and energising classes that recreate the best elements of group classes that we have all missed so much during lockdown!