Culture & Lifestyle

Virtual is here to stay: Canadian gyms to maintain, expand online offerings as facilities reopen

TORONTO —
As gym facilities across the country begin to reopen with new restrictions, some Canadian franchises say they intend to maintain the online offerings they launched due to the pandemic closures.

Orangetheory Fitness, a chain of boutique fitness studios with more than 100 locations across Canada, launched its online platform “OT Live” in the fall. OT Live aims to give its members the coaching and community experience that they’ve missed without the traditional gym setting. It offers real-time guidance from the local coaches that members would be used to seeing during a typical class and allows users to track their heart rate and calorie data using the same devices they use in the studio.

“It’s certainly been a big change for everyone, but I think in the long run it will actually make it easier for all of us to work out in terms of convenience and from an accountability standpoint,” Blake MacDonald, president of Orangetheory Canada, told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview.

MacDonald added that the convenience of the OT Live platform has its advantages in a post-pandemic world as well.

“We think it’s here to stay,” he said. “We think people have realized that sometimes it’s a little more convenient to get their workouts in from home. For a lot of people who can only make it to the studio a couple times a week, they think they’ll be able to get that third or fourth workout in with this product.”

In addition to OT Live, Orangetheory also launched a collection of at-home workouts available on YouTube, which are routinely updated with new videos.

Orangetheory isn’t the only brick-and-mortar gym franchise to find relative success in the at-home workout space during the pandemic.

According to the fitness research firm ClubIntel, about 70 per cent of gyms incorporated digital on-demand offerings to their experience during the pandemic.

One of the companies to begin offering on-demand workouts during the early days of the pandemic was GoodLife Fitness with its “GoodLife at Home” platform. The program offers members virtual fitness classes, recipes and health tips.

Sander van den Born, chief marketing and technology officer with GoodLife Fitness, said that while his company’s gyms are slowly reopening, the platform is here to stay.

“We will have and continue to offer (this product) for our members going forward, making sure that whenever, wherever a member will want to use our content or exercise in any shape or form, whether it’s audio, a workout session or maybe completing a training plan or a challenge, they’ll have access to it,” he said.

Since its launch, GoodLife at Home has racked up nearly 700,000 users, while more than 800,000 people have tuned into itslive workout classes held through Instagram.

Van den Born said the company began developing GoodLife at Home before the pandemic as a way of improving its online experience with easier class bookings, but itquickly shifted once the pandemic began.

“We did foresee to be offering classes and informational workouts or even individual exercises in that mobile application, but the pandemic drove or did speed up the amount of services to be released quicker,” he said.

Van den Born added that GoodLife is expanding its online experience in the spring with compatibility for a selection of fitness wearables that will give personal trainers more insight into a member’s workout, such as their heart rate and calories burned.

Other online fitness platforms have also found success during the pandemic.

Peloton, which offers virtual classes using stationary bikes, treadmills and free weights, exploded in popularity during the pandemic. In November, the company announced its first quarter sales more than tripled compared to a year prior and the company anticipated the holiday season would help it reach its first billion-dollar quarter.

Meanwhile, fitness apps have also spiked during the pandemic. According to the mobile analytics firm App Annie, health and fitness apps saw a 30-per-cent spike in both downloads and consumer spending in 2020.


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