How coronavirus changed the fitness industry forever

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  • Our bodies are not the only things that have undergone a reshaping during the Covid-19 crisis. The fitness industry has too.

    The fitness industry has adapted to life in lockdown by going completely virtual – and it could well hold on to those changes permanently.

    I’ll admit, I was one of those people who mocked at-home workouts, believing you couldn’t effectively exercise unless you were physically attending a gym or class, dripping in sweat and tagging your location to Instagram to prove you take caring for your body seriously.

    How wrong I was. Freed from the encumbrances of physical infrastructure, I was shown how fitness can happen anywhere, in any form and at any time. Psycle, the boutique fitness brand I’m a paying member of, moved all its classes online almost immediately after its voluntary closure in London. The classes I love (barre, yoga and strength training), came direct (and free) to my living room. It soon became clear they were just as tough, and I tried just has hard to please the instructor. Why did I think slogging to a studio made me a better fitness enthusiast?

    Confidence boost

    Instagram star, best-selling author and personal trainer Alice Liveing welcomes the change in attitudes to at-home workouts. ‘The fitness industry spoke ill of home workouts before. The perception prior to lockdown was that they were the easier, lazy option, or just an option for if you have children to timetable into your life,’ she tells me.

    ‘Convenience was frowned upon. Now all of us have resorted to home workouts, it’s been eye-opening to recognise you can often do the same workout from home – especially if you invest in equipment, such a kettle bells, dumbbells and resistance bands.’

    Better still, Alice, 27, who has been hosting at-home workouts using little or no equipment on her Instagram, has seen an increase in exercising interest and participation from social media users, which she believes is because their confidence has been boosted by completing classes privately in their homes.

    ‘I understand that gyms are intimidating spaces and if you lack confidence or experience they can put you off attending at all. Creating a safe space at home is a real positive of them,’ she enthuses.

    That said, if you are working out at home, it usually means you are joining classes through social media. This makes social media a necessary evil, because being connected all the time can be detrimental to your mental health. Alice could easily spend the entire day replying to direct messages and hosting workouts, and she advises following just a handful of motivational, realistic and helpful fitness influencers. This allows you to ‘get your fitness fix without feeling you should always be exercising or doing more’.

    Making a case for gyms, it’s important to remember that humans are highly social creatures, and community in gym workouts is a top motivator for us to go. And if they are cleaner, quieter and less crowded, that’s even better! ‘I do miss seeing my clients, receptionists, the other PTs…’ Alice concedes. ‘What I would like to see is people continuing to build up confidence and strength via online fitness at home, and then progressing from a home to gym membership, as gyms need business and I don’t want to see them close for good.’

    Hotbed of germs

    For those convinced gyms are still a hotbed of germs, there are outdoor workouts. Over 70 per cent of ClassPass users say they would prefer an outdoor workout over a studio workout. Fresh air and social benefits? Sounds good to me.

    fitness industry future

    Over 70 per cent of ClassPass users say they would prefer an outdoor workout over a studio workout (Unsplash)

    ‘Corona-stone’

    As I said at the start, Covid-19 has caused us to reshape in two directions: the ‘corona-stone’ or ‘tone and hone’. Qualified personal trainer, Bodyweight Champion and ambassador to leading sports nutrition brand Grenade® Nathan Williams tells me how to get back on track with your fitness if exercise hasn’t been your focus during lockdown.

    ‘You’ll likely need to accept that you’ll have lost some muscle mass but, don’t worry, not all hope is lost because muscle memory is a thing, Research in the fitness industry shows that it is easier to regain lost muscle and strength in a much shorter time than it took to initially gain it,’ he explains. ‘To regain your muscle strength, stretch your muscle to increase mobilisation, reduce the weight you lift, reduce repetitions for a low intensity workout and use machines rather than free weights, to help you execute the lifts with precision.’

    I thought I’d be desperate to leave behind the home workouts and get back to my usual fitness regime – but I don’t. I emailed Psycle to ask if the reopening of the studios on July 27 means an end to virtual classes. They tell me they are currently working on creating a digital platform too, which I’m definitely keen to use when I can’t make a studio class.

    The fitness industry has been driven by technology in recent years (from fitness trackers to sleep apps), so perhaps it is not surprising our workouts are going virtual. Maybe coronavirus just sped up the process. One thing for sure is working out at home is not a trend. It is here to stay.

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