Written by Mark Teahan, Director of Spencer Institute
After repeated waves of pandemic lockdowns and disruptions to daily living, the fitness training and coaching industries are emerging with a new outlook. For the fitness professional, it is one of bravado; within the coaching field it is more one of hope and opportunity.
The fitness industry was gutted during the COVID pandemic. Most of us can agree that it was also significantly altered, maybe permanently. But, it is emerging evolved and with more opportunity.
And in some more extreme cases, this led to some fitness clubs defying state orders to stay open, closing down entirely, or just waiting for something to break. This is not a great vision of hope.
Most fitness centers opened at differing intervals. In Southern California, gyms were limited to a certain capacity while people lined up out front for someone to leave and take their spot. You could feel the tension while people kept outside watched exercisers on machines.
The Gamble: your fitness club’s got this!
For one fitness chain in particular, staying open during the pandemic meant paying daily fines to the state. They didn’t need to worry about this, they had a massive influx of people who were willing to not only pay dues, but to work out during the pandemic, and do so without a mask. So workouts became political. You could almost sense some hate and disgust among members who disagreed on the use or non-use of a mask. For myself, I wore two. I knew the risk I was getting into, right or wrong – I felt confident.
But during this time, gyms were willing to hustle or wheel and deal. You could offer to buy a year in advance for a deal. You could get in at the lowest price in town – but even more expensive clubs could easily get new members during this time. People who worked out regularly prior to the pandemic seem to have a different mindset of less fear and being more proactive. Our health is our own responsibility. In other words, eating well, sleeping well, and staying active are all better for our body than isolation and no activity. We pretty much all can agree on that, correct?
But things changed when gyms were allowed to reopen for round 1 versus round 2. For round 1 reopening, it was just a sense of relief that we can get back to where we were. After another lock down and reopening number 2, things were different. Some members had decided that this new way was not for them, they may not have known what they wanted to do but they did not stay. People do not like to wait to get into their gym, a lot like waiting for gas at the pump. And trainers took another hit.
Now that we are open – and hopefully for good, gyms are less willing to wheel and deal. Their rates have gone up. You can’t say “Well the gym down the street is five dollars less“, anymore. Because the truth is, they probably jacked up their price too!
So yes, Fitness is changing. How much we value it now becomes more of a pivotal issue. Is an increase in monthly dues worth the benefits of a healthy lifestyle? We know the answer to that! But outside of the fitness or coaching industries, that message is often lost. This is understandable, a lot of people are simply trying to navigate difficult times. The last thing they want to worry about is their gym membership going by $5.00. Or more.
But we feel a different sense of urgency three years into our pandemic. This is also just a reality based on observations. Data backs this up: a recent story claiming some impressive totals that suggest the fitness industry is back. A reported 24 % increase in check-ins might be skewed, however, as it is a comparison of one year prior. Fitness was still locked down. The numbers have to be viewed in proper context.
A Coaches Tale: Help us Help You.
Then there is the hopeful optimistic coach. Coaches were lucky if they could sustain online coach work, but many were simply handed a pink slip. This would also change, as more people believed in the power of coaching for behavior changes in the midst of COVID. The same challenges that required behavior change were magnified during the pandemic. Other problems that were not known yet, came to the surface. This is where coaches really do their best work, helping to identify what’s currently happening and mining for more information.
It seemed to be a no-brainer. Everyone all over the world will realize how scary this is to live through a pandemic and then will be more responsible for better behaviors and work toward positive health outcomes. That was the idea or thought, anyway.
We all know what’s happened in fitness, the explosion of in-home fitness training has shown us that the opportunity cost of exercise can be eliminated if we only have to walk out to our patio or spare bedroom to get a workout finished. If it’s convenient and you can swing it, it’s a great way to vary up your routine and give yourself the extra time normally spent driving to and from a gym. In hectic times, these extra minutes matter more.
Time management, stress management and even health management fall under the domain of coaching, but there’s nothing that says a fitness trainer can not also intervene in the same way with a client that they train with programmed exercise. Maybe it’s time we look at program design to include some of the pros of wellness coaching and healthy behavior change strategies.
The outlook for fitness and coaching is still solid. Even better.
LinkedIn mentions these professions as in the top tiers for expected growth over the next 10 years.
This makes sense, as millennials now take a closer look at their health. During the pandemic, the adult population in the USA had a weight gain averaging 26 pounds. For those in the millennial group, 41 pounds were gained. This sort of crisis – significant weight gain – can trigger a need to change. The landscape is changing across the general population in terms of coaching with these metrics in mind.
There is still time to learn lessons from the COVID pandemic, we might expect things to stay as they are for a while. Whether this is a permanent shift or a passing phase, the clarity provided to the industries impacted is dynamic and will be met like all other challenges from our past. We study, learn from best practices, and share it forward!
We are here to support you as the training and coaching industries emerge bigger, better and stronger than ever before. We have certifications and continuing education to keep you on the cutting edge.