When COVID-19 forced the world to close down, many industries were hit hard, but those that served their clientele in person and within indoor spaces were among the largest casualties. Restaurants, bars, spas—and fitness businesses. Studios and gyms were forced to shut their doors with little notice and began hemorrhaging revenue. With major players like 24 Hour Fitness filing for bankruptcy as a result of the pandemic’s physical distancing requirements, the industry braced for a massive hit, one that has caused countless permanent business closures.

As a result of the pandemic, the industry launched an abrupt—and understandable—mass migration to online services. The clientele followed, shifting from in-person gyms and studios to online classes and training sessions.

One software company was a key player in this movement, particularly for personal trainers and fitness clubs. Led by co-founder and CEO Sharad Mohan, Trainerize—a fitness app and software company that connects trainers and gyms to their clients via online personal training—was pivotal in helping many clubs and studios come out of the initial lockdown still standing.

An advocate for accessible fitness, Mohan has led the Trainerize team since the brand’s inception, originally with a Blackberry app and then with the current version available on iOS, Android, and desktop. He sees technology as an aid for personal training, rather than a replacement.

“I see tech bringing the trainer to the forefront of the relationship with the client. Pairing real live people with advanced technology allows you to bring clients the best of both worlds,” says Mohan.

During the pandemic, this has proven true. Mohan has always been strong in his conviction that digital fitness is a necessity for fitness businesses and clubs, but the pandemic has presented an opportunity for the rest of the industry to catch up.

With over 150,000 coaches using the app around the world, and nearly 20,000 gym clients like Anytime Fitness and Crunch, Trainerize supports personal trainers and gyms in taking their services online quickly, effectively, and with discount codes to boot. As a result, Trainerize users are increasing their product offerings, diversifying their revenue streams, and setting themselves up for long-term success—with or without physical distancing requirements.

Instant impact of COVID-19

Immediately following the outbreak of COVID-19 in North America, Trainerize saw a huge dip in their metrics—the number of daily tracked workouts plummeted in the face of sudden lifestyle shifts and isolation, however, in the weeks and months that followed, there was a massive surge.

It started with web traffic increasing by 300% in March. Then, product usage increased by 200% in one month. Nearly six months later, not only is usage increasing, but engagement levels are still spiking. Trainerize has seen a 400% increase in trainer-client interaction and in-app activity since the pandemic hit, indicating a want for interaction and community in uncertain times. Like Mohan says, it’s not just about gyms making fitness available to consumers in an app—it’s about embracing a platform that connects trainers to their clients, and vice versa.

Record numbers are being tracked in Trainerize—not just for workouts, but for nutrition tracking and habit tracking, the app’s two other main components. Not only did Trainerize see a massive pickup in users of their own platform, their data also shows a significant increase in the number of clients being served by individual trainers in the app—an average increase of 75%—meaning entrepreneurs and fitness professionals are expanding their businesses.

Trainerize has not only kept small businesses in business, but has supported many small business owners in increasing their revenue, such as BreeAnna Cox, founder of Body By Bree, and Randy Palmer, CEO of South Austin Gym. According to a survey facilitated by ClubIntel, Trainerize was a leading choice for industry businesses to respond to COVID-19.

The COVID-19 fitness consumer

COVID-19 forced fitness enthusiasts into their homes and introduced an entirely new workout experience for many. Workout apps, Zoom fitness classes, and on-demand training packages exploded onto the scene. Some individuals, both fitness consumers and fitness professionals, may assume that when a vaccine is released, the industry will shift back into its former norm.

For Mohan, however, the future looks more like a hybrid model or fitness ecosystem: a well-rounded set of workout types that will replace a single gym membership.

Rather than working out entirely in their homes or entirely in their local gym, Mohan sees fitness consumers shifting to a diverse range of workouts with varying degrees of technological and personal elements. This ecosystem would encompass in-gym, at-home, and outdoor workouts, include a variety of tech such as wearables, smart devices, and mobile apps, and utilize different styles of training—things like spin, sports, and circuits. Users will choose their unique mix of activity depending on their needs on a given week, enjoying a routine that is adaptable and engaging, as well as tech-forward.

“A typical routine might look like a club member doing most of their workouts at home, but also heading to a studio for some socially-distant and safe group fitness classes,” says Mohan. “We’re confident that this hybrid approach is going to stick; consumers love the flexibility and choice that come with their new at-home programs and they don’t want to give that up.”

Due to the pandemic, consumers have been enlightened of greater possibilities for flexibility, convenience, and diversity in their workout routine. As consumers are exposed to a new array of workout solutions and additional training services, fitness businesses need to keep up with trends and offer those in-demand services. And Trainerize can keep gyms up to speed.

Continued industry shifts

Not only does this hybrid model extend fitness businesses and their services offerings, it also applies to the industry as a whole. Of course, fitness professionals, including personal trainers, solopreneurs, and business executives, have had their eyes opened to the advantages of digital tools—including stronger client engagement, stronger efficiencies, and particularly, increased flexibility—due to COVID-19. That flexibility is how businesses will be empowered to ride the waves of the pandemic in the coming months.

While social distancing requirements continue to fluctuate, fitness businesses can pivot in the moment, having established the systems they need to respond to public safety needs while also continuing to serve their clientele and keep their revenue up.

Just as consumers are now able to pick and choose their fitness ecosystem based on their needs, schedule, and interests, businesses can now do the same, shifting the proportions of their business as the weeks pass by. If cases are down in their community, having Trainerize implemented enables businesses to re-open their physical gyms while continuing to offer online services to members who need them. If public health requirements necessitate a closure or a decrease in attendance to facilitate better sanitizations and distancing? Business can seamlessly transition services online, switching in-person training sessions to video calls and shifting in-app training programs to client homes.

The flexibility to offer both online and in-person training at various levels depending on the public health situation will be key to the coming months of facing this pandemic.

“For businesses that want to come out stronger on the other side of this global pandemic, offering smart, motivating, supportive online personal training and digital fitness services is a must,” says Mohan. And it’s because of Trainerize that thousands of businesses are able to do just that.

Fitness beyond COVID-19

So how will Trainerize continue the momentum? For Sharad Mohan, supporting the industry has been his top priority throughout 2020. Firstly, his team upgraded their servers in preparation for the increased demand and increased dependency on Trainerize. His team also implemented discounts to ensure that all fitness businesses could afford to shift to online, keeping their revenue up and continuing to employ their teams. In both cases, Mohan felt a sense of responsibility to support users navigate this difficult time. He and his team made sure their users could count on Trainerize—offering them not only a quick shift to online but also peace of mind.

Then, Mohan shifted his development team’s roadmap to ensure that all new developments would support COVID-specific needs—needs like an improved on-demand video feature and video call capability, additional revenue capabilities for users, and an upcoming Apple Watch app. Mohan and Trainerize are on a quest to make fitness more accessible and this mission drives everything they do. Saving the industry from a global pandemic? Just a side project for 2020.