By Inyeong Kim
BU News Service
BOSTON – As fitness centers and personal trainers offer online classes, presenting an alternative to closed gyms during social restrictions, indoor exercise has become a hot commodity.
In light of the pandemic, exercise is more important than ever. People should aim for 150 minutes of physical activity per week, or more than 20 minutes a day, according to the American Heart Association.
Closing their gyms for in-person services, 24 Hour Fitness, headquartered in San Ramon, California, served nearly four million people across the U.S.
They adapted to online platforms through their personalized fitness app and recently launched 24GO LIVE, a free YouTube broadcast that offers at-home workouts, such as Zumba or yoga.
“While 24GO has been a part of our fitness offerings for some time, the app has experienced heightened popularity since the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders went into effect,” wrote Karen Bakula, senior manager of public relations at 24 Hour Fitness.
By answering a few questions, clients can find more than 1,500 workouts on the app. The app also customizes the material based on what equipment clients have, and it is free to users.
As clients began accessing services online, some trainers faced difficulties choosing and maximizing their platforms, such as Zoom, Facebook and other apps to shift in-person training to virtual classes.
Aaron Orton, the owner and head trainer of Genuine Fitness, transitioned his training to online classes. Genuine Fitness is a private training facility located in Eugene, Ore.
“We’re offering online programming video workouts,” Orton said. “Skype to Facebook calls: everything that our clientele could ask for remotely.”
Orton said needing to continue offering personal training, even if people couldn’t come to the facility, motivated him to take the gym online.
“We still have clients that need our help whether they’re physical therapy clients, an older population [or] younger,” Orton said.
Some clients needed specific instruction from the trainers even if they could not meet them in-person.
“We have a lot of people who are getting ready for a bodybuilding contest and are lost without our guidance,” he said. “[I had to] stay in contact with everybody and maintain accountability.”
He appreciated how he was able to conduct online training with advanced technologies, but compared to the number of clients before the pandemic, his clientele has dropped.
“We probably have some attrition rates,” he said. “We’re probably down 60% from where we were, in terms of customers.”
Due to layoffs during the pandemic, some customers weren’t able to pay for training even though Orton opened classes online, he said.
The clients taking online classes are given customized instructions just like in-person services. Depending on each client, Orton provides different classes. Some clients request nutritional assistance to maintain dietary habits. Others request resistance training to prepare for competitions.
“Those are the individuals that we’re doing video talks with and covering the things we need to,” he said. “All their questions are answered during this time.”
Online training still presents many obstacles. Some customers do not have high caliber equipment to workout at home, so Orton brainstormed alternative equipment people can find in their homes.
“Some people are just limited. They only have a stability ball or a yoga mat; they don’t have anything else,” he said. “It’s been our job to try and help them find equipment or create equipment for the time being.”
The switch to virtual classes has been rapid and riddled with obstacles, and gyms will continue to adapt as there has been no indication of limiting restrictions in Massachusetts as of Tuesday morning.