The global COVID-19 pandemic altered the way we live and exercise. As the world gets to grips with our ‘new normal’, fitness professionals need to adapt their offering to meet changing trends around client engagement preferences.
“To succeed in this market, personal trainers and instructors need to understand the need for auxiliary online services and support, and determine how to effectively use both models,” explains Paul Mills, Managing Director at the Health & Fitness Professionals Academy (HFPA).
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In this regard, Mills suggests that fitness professionals like personal trainers and fitness instructors reconsider their offering to include options that target individuals and groups, with structured packages for clients that augment physical and online sessions and offer variable pricing.
“It is vital to develop a business plan that covers every facet of this model and clearly defines the services a trainer will offer online versus in the gym. Spotting a gap and finding a niche will also determine a fit pro’s success given that industry professionals are transitioning to this model en mass.”
Consider the threats
Fit pros should also remain cognizant of the potential threats posed by this switch to digital as it opens up the industry to greater competition.
“The digital marketplace lowers the barrier to entry, while the abundance of standardised ‘cookie cutter’ programs can dilute a fit pro’s offering.
“As such, trainers who engage via low-touch digital channels will need to market and sell the importance of individualised programming and constantly add value by tracking progress and adapting programs based on regular testing to ensure their clients continue making progress,” asserts Mills.
Furthermore, anyone with some understanding of fitness and training can also commercialise their experience via digital channels, even if they don’t have a valid qualification. The lack of regulation for online service providers, coupled with access to international fitness celebs and personalities, makes education and qualifications more important than ever.
“In this context, qualifications will remain the foundation on which fitness professionals build successful businesses. Expertise, experience and client success will differentiate fit pros from the rest in the increasingly cluttered online marketplace,” states Mills.
Additional considerations when setting up a digital offering include selecting the best digital platform and engagement methods based on client preferences.
“There are so many platforms out there, which all come with different packages and cost structures. Functionality and content also differ, which means there is no one-size-fits-all solution,” says Mills.
More importantly, fit pros must ensure that they can still fulfil one of their most important roles – offering clients support and motivation – when engaging online.
“Much of what a trainer does is about motivation. They must find ways to be there to encourage and maintain client accountability, even if they’re not physically present at a session during the week,” adds Mills.
In this regard, Mills says there are various ways to hold clients accountable, be it instant messaging, tracking uploaded workouts via an app, or encouraging clients during live virtual sessions.
“No matter what platform the trainer uses, they must still come across in a professional manner and deliver an engaging and effective session.”
The bottom line
According to Mills, operating in this new normal is all about agility and adaptability. “Success will hinge on a fit pro’s ability to provide their product or service in the way clients want, across multiple environments.”
So, for those trainers who have patiently bided their time, waiting for gyms to reopen, Mills suggests that it’s time to craft a comprehensive offering and build an online profile.
“Fit pros must take the time to determine how they will appeal to new clients in the digital marketplace to attract and retain both local and international clients. Those that don’t will quickly get left behind in the post-COVID era,” he concludes.
Author: Pedro van Gaalen
When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.