Bright Spot: Live Online Classes Give The LAB An Invitation Into People’s Homes During COVID-19 Shutdowns

(Photo courtesy The LAB. ) Michael Piercy, owner of The LAB Performance & Sports Science in Fairfield, New Jersey, had offered online coaching in the past to clients who were out of town, but the COVID-19 related shutdowns in his state led him to try out live online group classes, something that has spurred family fitness fun and normalcy for his clients and new users of his services.

I own The LAB Performance & Sports Science in Fairfield, New Jersey, one of the states where gyms closed on March 16 and as of May 20, still are not allowed to be open by the state. We are a performance facility, and much of our group clientele are early morning professionals that work for companies in New York City.

Up until the temporarily closures, we had not done anything virtual from a group standpoint utilizing live technology, although I had offered online training with limited success for years for clients that were out of area and still wanted to train with me.

To be completely honest, I was skeptical of attempting to offer classes on a schedule from a live perspective during the current circumstances. I didn’t feel it was sustainable.

A conversation with a client changed my mind. A week before the executive order, we had begun providing workouts via our online app, which offers a program and videos for the exercises included but no live interaction.

After realizing that the workouts weren’t being done consistently that week, I called a client to check in. During the call, she shared that she missed the interaction and energy of the class. That inspired me to give live classes a try.

That conversation made me understand the barriers my clients were facing when the human interaction was absent from their daily workouts. As a certified ACE trainer, I knew my clients would benefit from the live online classes because they needed me to adapt in order for them to maintain an effective level of activity. I knew that I needed to become more of a coach to them and not just their trainer.

By having the live interaction, I was able to motivate my clients and rekindle their sense of purpose. Now that I’ve helped my clients adjust their fitness goals while they’re at home, I’m confident they’ll have no problem keeping up with their workouts.

We amended our classes by taking our complete class schedule to a virtual format using Zoom to conduct the class live via video conferencing. We also created quarantine survival loaner kits for members who did not have equipment to use in the workouts.

These live workouts have generated more than $5,000 extra revenue per month above our regular revenue since we began the programs.

And the cost to offer these live online classes is minimal. You can start with just your laptop, tablet or smartphone.

Some of the challenges were revamping a working schedule for virtual offerings as well as streamlining the sign up and participation processes to accommodate the new technology we were using. To overcome those challenges, we adjusted to times that would not interfere with school yet would allow whole families to participate in some fitness fun.

To streamline the sign up process, we allowed sign ups on the website up to an hour prior to class, which would be more than enough time for Zoom or Google links to be emailed to participants, allowing them to prepare and be ready for classes.

The first classes were filled with our regular participants consistently. The average number of participants has grown exponentially without the barriers of location. People from anywhere are able to jump in and share in the workouts. One of the comments that really stood out was that for people who are on stay-at-home order, it felt like the classes gave them a real sense of normalcy. Being able to have me or an instructor interacting with them made the difference in the experience and has led to regular attendance.

I would say the biggest success is we regularly have families joining in the workouts. Mom, dads and kids of all ages. On another note, I feel there has never been a better opportunity for fitness professionals to be invited into homes to inspire full families to move and take their minds off the current climate with some pure fitness fun.

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