Virtual Cycling Classes Offer Clubs Flexible Group Exercise Options

Offering onrequest video classes can help club operators profit from existing equipment and space Photo courtesy of Fitness On Request
<p>Offering on-request video classes can help club operators profit from existing equipment and space. <i>Photo courtesy of Fitness On Request.</i></p>

The next big thing in group cycling might not require an actual group, or even an instructor.

A growing number of fitness facilities are now offering video classes in group fitness studios that allow club operators to select video classes in advance to fill gaps in their group exercise schedules and provide members a chance to select and start classes at their convenience.

Most virtual group exercise setups include a 150-inch screen and projector to display the video, speakers, a kiosk where exercisers can select classes and software that allows club operators to track what classes members are watching and at what time. Although users can choose from a variety of programming, including yoga, dance, strength and fusion classes, group cycling is a particularly viable video option because of the forward motion footage available.

Dave Kraai, founder of Fitness On Request, a Minneapolis-based company that offers video classes and equipment, says videos also can offer a return on the “stranded investment” of a cycling studio.

“When you compare the group fitness spaces, they put more money into that room then all the other ones combined,” Kraai says. “It’s just sitting there. You can’t multipurpose it because you have all that equipment sitting around.”

On-demand cycling classes provide a way for facilities to get more money out of existing space and equipment, making cost efficiency one of the biggest benefits of video classes. Fitness On Request estimates that the average cost per traditional group exercise class for a facility is $25. Instead of paying an instructor to teach the class, operators using video classes pay a monthly licensing fee, which significantly reduces the cost of offering group fitness, Kraai says.

“When you look at the ROI, even getting just a few people who aren’t involved in group fitness engaged and the effect on retention all the industry research shows, it’s a pretty nominal investment to have a solution in that space,” Kraai adds.

For Brian McClure, owner of the Grove Fitness Club and Spa in Boise, ID, offering virtual classes is an effective way to provide members with a full group exercise schedule without having to pay instructors to teach every class. The classes have benefitted both the facility and members.

“With people’s schedules being as busy as they are, having the ability to come in and try something new and different keeps them engaged,” McClure says.

Benefits to Traditional Classes

The Grove offers scheduled virtual classes and lets members start classes on their own when the group exercise studio is empty. But the schedule also includes live classes, which are still vital to group cycling programs.

“There is no substitute for a rock star live instructor,” says Garrett Marshall, business development director for Fitness On Demand, Excelsior, MN, which offers on-demand video programming and equipment. 

Video classes are best used as a supplement to live group fitness classes that can help facilities profit more using existing space. Instead of absorbing group fitness as a cost of doing business, club operators can use the software offered with video systems to track class attendance so they can make cost-effective decisions about their programming and make top line revenue enhancements, Marshall adds.

And rather than competing with traditional exercise classes, video classes can actually lead members to try instructor-led classes, says Josh Taylor, international Spinning master instructor for Mad Dogg Athletics Inc., Venice, CA. Taylor appears in the video classes available on the eSpinner bike, made for the cardio floor.

“For people that are scared to death and don’t want to walk into that Spinning studio because they’re a little intimidated by the intensity or the loud music or even that group fitness environment, that gives them a perfect opportunity to get the benefits of Spinning on their own terms,” Taylor says. “And once they get into it, they’re going to want to migrate into that room.”

Video classes can help get them in the room, but results will keep them there, says Angie Sturtevant, Spinning’s director of power-based training. This summer, Spinning will launch Spinpower, a cycle and instructor education program which will allow riders to track the power they are exerting, which will in turn provide them with the actual number of calories they are burning, Sturtevant says.

“More and more, the gimmicks of exercise are leaving,” Sturtevant says. “We’re in a world now where people are really focused on getting the most quality out of their training.”

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