What do you do with a fitness business that involves close physical contact during a global pandemic? Innovate, pivot, give it your all, survive and thrive.
Every morning pre-March 23rd, I’d wake up and slither into my workout gear. Usually I’d be cycling to Crystal Palace to race relentlessly up and down the stairs in the park. Today the bike stays put. I ditch my coffee and fire up the laptop. Grinning back at me, is my personal trainer, Sarah. Welcome to fitness 2020.
Like many other fitness businesses BUA FIT saw their outdoor fitness company come to a jerky halt when the pandemic was declared. The whole enterprise was built to supply outdoor classes to the masses. The classes ranged from yoga to boxing to HIIT with groups of 10-15 people lead by an incredibly engaging PT.
BUA had to think fast.
With the launch of Houseparty for social settings and the takeover of Microsoft Teams in corporate spheres co-founder Dave Stapleton and web developer extraordinaire, Sam Woodbridge, launched virtual, live, group fitness sessions two days into lockdown. Trainers were briefed on how best to teach online; the killer angles and positioning, music, lighting, and framing. Insurance and liabilities were explained. PTs who turned to Instagram live quickly realised that likes and views would not pay the bills. Many joined BUA FIT instead.
BUA FIT contacted their 10,000 strong community and reassured them that the move to online fitness was a seamless means of keeping fit during Covid without them or their PT leaving the house.
Clients were told that they could still exercise with their fave PTs in their favourite classes among their friends online. The payment system was tanked up to deal with new clients and PTs were offered quick, secure payments, whilst BUA took care of the necessary marketing, admin, and GDPR worries. For many PTs BUA FIT was a breath of fresh air; with no subscription fees, rent or sales targets. They were offering a means to diversify income with open arms. Bringing together a fitness industry that was on its knees.
What BUA FIT didn’t anticipate was how much group online classes became a lifeline to many, like me, who were living alone and craving normal social interaction. The live and group element was vital to its success. Football and netball clubs booked grouped online sessions as an entire team. After work drinks soon turned into intense, competitive HIIT classes for city workers, and a Saturday night dance became a virtual Zumba club. Housemates who had never worked out together before were lining up in their lounges for daily lunges. Families of three generations were clearing coffee tables and exercising in hysterics. It was wonderful to watch. I sit there listening to Sarah coo instructions whilst watching strangers and friends on the feed from all over the world come together in one motion. I feel part of something bigger. A wave of togetherness in something so isolating.
With Covid restrictions lifting, demand is still high online with PTs enjoying business from all over the UK and abroad; clients previously they would not have been able to accept. PT Sarah remarks, “I’ve grown my business in a way I would have never expected.”
However, BUA remarks that the hungriest PTs aren’t waiting for things to return to normal. And normal, London is far from. With large gym chains suing the government over the extended closures of gyms (and not bars), the indoor fitness market is uncertain. Couple that with the growing number of people now exercising outside, promoted by the soviet style government endorsement of daily outdoor exercise, outdoor fitness will be the new normal. There is a renewed craving for green open spaces and fresh, fresh air.
With vast improvements in the weather, BUA FIT is back open catering for the growing outdoor fitness market. Locations are popping up all over London. Demand is high. PTs now host HIIT workshops beside the Monument deep in the city’s streets, encourage running races by the Thames, or lead yoga in wooded oases. Class numbers are maxed at 5, everyone comes masked, equipment isn’t shared, and socially distancing rules are adhered to.
I look back at this crisis and remember that Sarah was there for me throughout. And that matters. In times of uncertainty, Sarah offered me a plan of action. She said, “In this class, you control the next 60 minutes of your life.” And that was all I needed to hear. Tomorrow she’ll be chasing me up the stairs in Crystal Park and we will both remark upon how outdoor exercise makes us feel human again.
If you’re a PT and fancy benefitting from BUA FIT’s success, you’re in luck! They are recruiting. Sign up here: https://buafit.co.uk/join-our-team