Plus, as 'freedom day' draws closer, 10 PT’s share their visions for the future of fitness.
Gyms being open in the UK again has meant a whole load of you revelling in being able to book your favourite workout classes again.
But, question: what will gyms look like moving forwards? Will you be allowed inside for the foreseeable, or will outdoor gyms become the new in thing? Will you have to social distance, and will you be required to wear masks for your sweat sessions? What about classes - will they largely be online, like Joe Wicks YouTube workouts, or will the fitness industry return to normal, hundreds of sweaty humans working out under one roof?
Not only that, but will people want to head back to the gym, or do you now prefer your home set up? Will there ever be the same demand? Lockdown has encouraged most of us to perfect the home workout gig, and stats show many are reluctant to return at all, favouring their new routine.
New Classpass stats reveal some of the answers so far, in handy infographic format:
To get a further feel for what the future of fitness may look like, read our guide to this year's fitness trends, here, and keep scrolling for ten PT's takes on what gyms reopening will look like. Sports bras and workout leggings at the ready.
With gyms reopening, what will the future of fitness look like?
1. People will feel empowered to workout in whatever way works for them
That's according to co-founder and lead trainer of the Tone & Sculpt app Krissy Cela. "I’ve seen such a massive shift in community mentality," she shares. "Instead of thinking 'we can't' or 'l don’t have time', more and more women are finding ways to move their bodies that work for them."
Personal trainer Emily Ricketts agrees, adding that it's one of the biggest shifts from pre-covid. "People have been empowered to see all the other ways there are to move your body that don’t exclusively have to happen inside the gym walls," she shares. "There is something really powerful in that. I think people will put less pressure on themselves to hit a strict non-negotiable gym only weekly schedule - I can definitely see more fluidity playing out in people’s routines."
As Wellness Director at KX Gideon Remfry puts it, the one size fits all approach to exercise is long gone. "It's flawed and out of date," he explains. "This new age of wellness is seeing people create unique and holistic physical activities programs to suit them."
2. People will make their own rules
The pandemic has undoubtedly been tough, but it's also given a lot of people the time they needed to stop and reassess the life they were living.
"I think that’s made the idea of ‘normal’ become very blurry, and when it comes to fitness and healthy lifestyles, I think that’s made people confident enough to make their own rules. I love that," she adds.
3. A physical and digital hybrid will continue to evolve
Her bet is that people will do a bit of both: some in person classes and some home workouts, too.
Ricketts agrees, sharing that live streamed workouts, fitness apps and online offerings only allow more people to move when and how they want. "I don’t think online workouts will ever fully replace the in person facilities, but I definitely think the digital space will continue to boom. It gives people the best of both worlds and allows people to be the boss of their own lifestyles," she says.
4. People will remember the joy of the in studio feeling
That glorious, glorious post-class glow does sit slightly different when you're not, ahem, sweating so much you stick to your living room carpet.
"Nothing beats that in studio feeling. Plus, that's where you'll really take yourself out of your comfort zone and truly challenge your fitness levels," explains Chief Operating Officer at Core Collective, Heloise Nangle.
5. We'll embrace the social element of training again
For many, fitness isn't really about keeping fit, or looking or feeling great. Far from it - it's about catching up with friends, chattering while getting some miles in, or bonding with strangers over a barbell.
"Training alongside other people, in a space created for that purpose, is irreplaceable," Nangle shares. "You simply can't replicate that sense of community, that real raw energy, and that feeling of being in it together." Gyms reopening will only encourage this - social interaction while keeping fit, too.
6. Classes will be redesigned to fit around your time constraints
People have realised they can get a good workout in in a shorter amount of time which, simply put, means gyms will have to mix things up to lure people back.
"Returning to the gym doesn't need to be complicated, but it does need to fit into your daily routine ," Nangle explains. Their classes at Core Collective are 45 minutes long, just the right amount of time to squeeze in pre-work or on your lunch. More micro and manageable offerings will only keep coming, making sure the workouts genuinely work for you and your busy schedule.
7. People will embrace new ventures
This one's a big one, says Hilary Rowland, co-founder of Boom Cycle. "Some people will be more inclined to try new things and venture out of their comfort zones because so much of our lives have been put on hold," she explains. But she reckons that means one thing, and one thing only - 'they won’t want to wait another second to live fully as soon as they can.' Hear, hear.
Remfry agrees, adding that having to adapt to training at home has made many people 'exercise curious'. "People are ready to try new things they may not have before, from strength training, to yoga, to cold water therapy, to dancing."
What are you keen to try?
8. More people will be working out full stop
You all know lockdown turned us into a nation of runners - the NHS Couch to 5km app saw over a million downloads in March last year.
But, actually, with gyms reopening, whether people return or not, they will be working out more than pre-covid times, Rowland reckons. "So many people have realised just how important fitness is for both your physical and mental health," she explains.
9. Home practice is here to stay
Let's not beat around the bush - for many, the ease and flexibility of exercising in your own space, on your own time has made fitness and exercise more accessible than ever. So, for those people, gyms reopening might not be of interest.
"Exercise has now been adapted to fit your routine, not the other way around. We are shifting away from the days of people waking up at the crack of dawn to attend an oversubscribed gym class," explains Olivia Brierley, Pilates teacher and founder of the Mindfulsoul Movement Library.
10. Classes will move outside
As Lillie Bleasdale, personal trainer and head coach at PASSA puts it, we all love fresh air...
"Studios such as 1Rebel and Third Space have already seen great success in their outdoor group workout options, and they only launched a few days ago," she shares.
11. Flexible working = flexible working out
We've always championed flexible working here at Marie Claire. Next up? Flexible working out, which we are very here for.
"We're seeing more hybrid working systems, with less people travelling into an office, which allows greater flexibility for fitness. People will train as and when it suits them, rather than having to make set gym times. In general, the approach to fitness will be less regimented and stressful," reckons Brierley.
12. Some gyms will, unfortunately, have to close
It's a sad fact of the pandemic that many bricks and mortar businesses will have to close.
"Gyms reopening need to adapt quickly to the new normal to survive. While big established chains like Equinox will be able to do that, swiftly, small fitness boutiques might have to make considerable changes. We already are seeing the formation of Boutique Fitness Supergroups, pioneered by Kobox and Boom Cycle," she explains.
13. Gyms and platforms will need to offer mental fitness options, too
One thing this pandemic has made many people realise? How important mental wellbeing is, according to Leigh Clayton, personal trainer at Leigh Clayton Coaching and Elite Personal Trainer at Third Space Islington.
"People have an increased awareness of overall wellness and mental wellbeing, rather than just fitness, which gets the job done but leaves you constantly stressed," he explains. "Fitness and health aren’t the same thing - you can be incredibly fit without being healthy. People are realising this, and industry will need to start offering wellness and mental health options alongside the standard fitness offerings," he shares.
Laura Ruthnum, personal trainer and co-founder of PUSH PT, agrees. "For so long, people were going to the gym most days and smashing their body to pieces each time. Because more is better, right?," she shares. Yet.... it's not. "Since the closure of gyms, there’s been a shift in attitude and people have realised that this just isn’t the case. Instead of stress-inducing training, people are opting for fun workout classes, yoga and low impact ways of keeping their minds, and bodies, in shape. The fitness industry is finally training for longevity and health."
14. You'll continue to walk more, for your physical and mental health
Think you've done enough walks in the last two years to last a lifetime? Yeah, us too, but Clayton reckons these lower impact ways of working out, that are more accessible for most, are here to stay.
15. People will continue to invest in home equipment
Yep, you read that right. For many, we've already spent a small fortune on kitting out our homes, so while we might head to the gym for a class here and there, we'll stick to home training purely to make sure we've got out moneys worth. "Fitness equipment sales will only continue to grow, as will the online coaching and Zoom personal training" shares Clayton.
Plus, he reckons fitness equipment companies will continue to capitalise on on the trend by creating more products designed for living room training environments.
Bleasdale agrees. "We spent a minor fortune kitting our own homes - remember the dumbbell shopping wars of March 2020?," she shares. "This will no doubt play a big part in whether people decide to stay exercising at home or whether they go back to the gym. A large portion of PASSA clients have decided they'll continue to do strength work at home. Going back to the gym just isn't necessary now they've invested in the equipment themselves," she explains.
So - what do you reckon about gyms reopening? Are you counting down the days until gyms reopen or keen to stick it out at home? Let us or our health editor know on Instagram at @marieclaireuk and @allyyhead.
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Ally Head is Marie Claire UK's Senior Health, Sustainability, and Relationships Editor, nine-time marathoner, and Boston Qualifying runner. Day-to-day, she works across site strategy, features, and e-commerce, reporting on the latest health updates, writing the must-read health and wellness content, and rounding up the genuinely sustainable and squat-proof gym leggings worth *adding to basket*. She's won a BSME for her sustainability work, regularly hosts panels and presents for events like the Sustainability Awards, and saw nine million total impressions on the January 2023 Wellness Issue she oversaw. Follow Ally on Instagram for more or get in touch.
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