The pandemic will leave a lasting mark on the fitness industry. Many locally owned businesses have faced heavy restrictions that have severely impacted their ability to operate sustainably. Amidst various provincial re-opening plans, we are proud to see all our studios re-opened and membership levels sustained. Yet while there were many challenges, we’ve found it important to monitor Canadians’ changing fitness preferences and trends throughout it all – some of which we believe are here to stay, including: an increased need for ongoing support, flexible fitness offerings and strict safety protocols/training in-place.
For many gym-goers, returning to their pre-pandemic endurance and strength exercises, combined with heart-pumping music, will mean rehabilitating a sense of community that has been lost for the last 18 months. During the pandemic’s studio closures, it was imperative we not let our members’ sense of community diminish. The fitness industry had lost its ability for live in-person coaching and feedback, but this also meant no pre-workout lobby conversation or post-workout celebrations – all of which contribute to and are imperative to an individuals’ fitness routine.
Operating as a franchise-based model, all studios were encouraged to maintain its community through social media and virtual communications. We learned this was one way to keep morale high, and provide an open, two-way communication channel between members and their home studios. At a time when external factors felt so uncertain, we wanted our community to feel reassured that we would support their fitness journey and questions from afar.
And while we are still patiently awaiting the return of high-fives, we have hope that these will return soon.
Since the onset of the pandemic, we also understood that members were looking for more flexible fitness offerings. Our conversations with members were the key driver of the launch Orangetheory At Home in 2020 and Orangetheory Live in 2021. While the notion of “Zoom fatigue” was growing in other industries, virtual workouts continue to be praised in ours. We recognized early that there were a multitude of at-home workouts available to Canadians, both free and paid, but every one of these offerings failed to deliver on the most critical component of a successful fitness routine – the accountability and motivation that can only be delivered by a live local coach.
The Orangetheory Live platform provides a setting whereby we can virtually recreate the OTF experience while participants exercise from the comfort of their own home. The platform’s innate ability to simultaneously provide a live coach stream, the video visual aid, a participant’s OTBeat stats, a visual of other participants and many other subtle tools, allows all variety of participants the individual elements they need to be successful in their workout.
From big-box gyms to boutique studios, we anticipate that virtual offerings will remain a supplemental offering for members. In our case, we believe OTF members will utilize their membership at around 70-80% in-studio and will complement their in-person experience with our virtual tools. We will continue to provide flexible options for our members without comprising the effective and entertaining workouts members have come to expect. As Canadians return to their busy day-to-day schedule, more convenient workout options will become an expectation for fitness-goer’s.
The safety of our employees and members remains of utmost importance – this will not change. Through firm health and safety protocols, including strict physical distancing, continuous cleaning, and mandatory use of protective equipment, Canadians must be able to trust their fitness partner to be a safe space to invest in their health and wellness.
As a science-backed fitness concept, we are encouraged by the progress Canada has made vaccinating most of its population and the subsequent alleviation of pressure it has had on our health care system. We strongly encourage our members and staff to get vaccinated and stay vaccinated as we believe the world will be dealing with COVID-19 for several years. As we continue to navigate out of this pandemic, Orangetheory Fitness will strive to remain a leader in the fitness space in keeping our members and staff safe. We’ll continue to work closely with local health officials and implement ongoing safety measures that will ensure a safe workout environment for all.
Looking forward, we will continue to independently evaluate studio safety protocols, and remain dedicated to innovating, whether through investing in government-approved health policies or by adapting to meet the changing needs of our members.
The fitness industry will continue to work alongside our provincial governments and public health officials to answer key questions to make informed, evidence-based decisions. As such, we’re also thrilled to have opened doors again to returning and new members. To stay updated on Orangetheory Fitness’ safety protocols and offerings, visit www.orangetheory.com.
About Blake MacDonald Blake MacDonald is the President of Orangetheory Fitness Canada and its corporate studio business with 17 studios in the Edmonton, Saskatoon and Toronto markets. He is also a Managing Partner of Franvest Capital Partners, a private equity firm that invests in companies with a focus on fitness and franchising. Blake has been actively involved in the management of the portfolio companies including TraceAbility Solutions, Windship, Club Fit, International Fitness Holdings, XS Flooring, Fresh Fit Foods Inc., World Health Edmonton Inc., and most recently OTF Canada Inc., OTF Edmonton/Affiliates Canada Inc. He specializes in the development of sales, financial, and operating systems. Prior to Orangetheory, Blake gained extensive experience as a partner and Chief Operating Officer of Club Fit. In his role, Blake also presided over the Personal Training program at Club Fit and was responsible for developing a “best in class” personal training service model. After leaving Club Fit/IFH, Blake has pursued several consulting roles with various fitness chains across North America to help them develop their personal training and membership sales programs. In 2012, Blake and David Hardy (along with a group of Edmonton based investors) purchased the 10 Edmonton based World Health Clubs under World Health Edmonton Inc. and then sold them again in 2018. In 2011, Blake (along with David Hardy) helped establish OTF Canada Inc. as the Canadian Master Franchisor of Orangetheory Fitness and simultaneously established OTF Edmonton/Affiliates Canada Inc. (to develop the Edmonton, Saskatoon and Toronto markets).