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The future of post-coronavirus workouts to be a hybrid of in-studio, digital classes

Sumner Park

At-home workouts might be here to stay.

Fitness studios closed down as the coronavirus outbreak swept through the nation, many companies have accelerated their digital platform to bring workout classes from the studio to your living room.

The boutique fitness franchise touted by former Yankee Alex Rodriguez, who’s also an owner, TruFusion, has grown in some areas where it doesn’t have a brick-and-mortar location.

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“The online presence has been so successful for us that we really feel that it’s going to be a part of our business model moving forward,” President of TruFusion, Kari Comrov, told FOX Business about the all-encompassing fitness and yoga concept, which offers multiple studios and boutique style classes under one roof. “Growing virtually has always been something we have wanted to do, and the coronavirus has certainly expedited that process. Virtual at-home workouts are going to be important in the long-run.”

Comrov said that TruFusion will keep its online offerings even after reopening all locations. As the fitness brand moved online once studios closed, it has reaped a large participation rate from its current member clientele, in addition to former TruFusion members that moved away from on-site locations and could rejoin virtually. 

At Orangetheory Fitness, a class-based chain with 1,300 locations worldwide and across five different countries, the franchise made a radical shift in its rapid transition to at-home workouts as soon as all locations shut down in March, swinging from a nearly billion-and-a-half dollar business to zero revenue overnight.

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“The pandemic only accelerated our evolving business model to be a hybrid in-studio and digital fitness brand,” CEO of Orangetheory Fitness, David Long, told FOX Business.

For the mom who has a baby at home or the student who attends classes and works a full-time job, at-home workouts have provided accessibility and convenience packaged with the motivation from a favorite workout instructor and group participation.

Hosting virtual classes with Orangetheory® At Home™ has allowed the brand to reach audiences who were previously untapped. One of the major roadblocks for people deciding to join any fitness facility is the intimidation factor that comes with showing up for a first class.

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“The At Home workouts have allowed for people to try Orangetheory in the comfort of their own homes and see what we’re all about,” Long said. “Feedback so far has been outstanding and we’re looking forward to continuing what we do best,” helping people stay active while at home and as studios reopen.

Both TruFusion and Orange Theory have worked to replicate the in-studio experience and fine-tune the components that distinguish their brands. At Orangetheory Fitness,the digital experience will integrate its unique trifecta of science, coaching and technology both in and out of the studio.

“There is no shortage of digital content out there,” Kevin Keith, chief marketing officer of Orangetheory Fitness, told FOX Business. “There's a shortage of motivating, consistent, results-driven content. So we wanted to really take the ingredients that made our studio experience successful and try and bring that to the digital environment.”

TruFusion has worked to reproduce the in-studio experience through its app by incorporating more instructors, production value, and time availability and opting to host a real schedule with up to 60 options daily of live classes. A live and interactive schedule enables the “TruTribe” community to feel connected while apart.

Comrov said that the at-home workouts have boded well for members because it has enabled them to feel connected and accountable. Real-time classes require members to show up for the 9 a.m. pilates class or the 2 p.m. boxing session just as they did when studios were open.

In order to maintain the value of community that is often ingrained in the gym mentality, TruFusion has worked to go beyond what a regular online work out class has to offer. In addition to workout classes, members can tune into instructional medication videos, nutrition and self-care webinars, interactive tutorials on topics including essential oils and step-by-step recipes from chefs and even happy hours with leaders in the health and wellness community.

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Workout studio locations for both Orangetheory and TruFusion will begin to reopen under state guidelines, but franchisees are still waiting to make the final call based on local government policies and member feedback. Out of the 1,300 Orange Theory studios, about 500 are on track to reopen by June 6. Meanwhile, the fitness destinations continue to expand their digital landing, enhance the production quality, and work through some of the digital obstacles.

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“While the launch of Orangetheory At Home has been a hit and members have been loving what we are offering, we’ve learned that there is truly nothing that can replace our in-studio experience,” Long told FOX Business. “The camaraderie and motivation from our staff and members is extremely difficult to replicate entirely digitally, so our challenge has been figuring out how to bring the same energy members experience in-studio to our Orangetheory At Home workouts. We’re also learning that our coaches and our members continue to be our greatest source of inspiration and they will play a huge role in how we continue to evolve and improve our digital platforms.”

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Meanwhile, workout studios are upping sanitation standards and safety conditions for those who return to classes. TruFusion will increase its frequency of cleaning before and after classes, integrate new equipment like UV lights or additional air filtration systems and revamp its reservation system for workout signups. Depending on the state, workout reservations will be available so long as it coincides with social distancing or capacity limits.

Orange Theory will require its staff to wear face masks while in the studio and its coaches to wear protective eye covering while coaching. Class capacity has been reduced to minimize congestion in the lobby spaces and to maintain social distancing recommendations and workout-goers have to prescan for coronavirus symptoms before entering the class.

The Fitness Design Team will control what equipment members use during class to avoid the sharing of equipment and cross-contamination. Classes will also be shortened from an hour to 45 minutes to allow for a full 15 minutes of cleaning in between.

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“The studio will always be the core,” Keith said. “We firmly believe in the human experience, the coaching and the community that comes with that. At the same time, we recognize that we need a hybrid solution both for the short-term needs and the long-term. What will tie it all together is the technology, the science, the data and the motivation.”

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Alex Rodriguez is an MLB studio analyst for FOX Sports, a unit of Fox Corp., parent of FOX Business and Fox News.

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