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When gym goes online

It started out as a response to the lockdown crisis, but now online fitness classes are becoming one of many new normals, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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For a moment there, many of us thought we were pioneers. Taking fitness classes online. Yoga training. Dance lessons. We were so cool. Until we realised we were part of a global trend, and merely making the best of a crisis situation.

As COVID-19 began demanding social distancing from the beginning of March 2020, the entire fitness industry had to reinvent itself overnight.  In the United States, yoga teachers found themselves facing classes of thousands. In Dubai, a gym owner instantly rented out his fitness equipment. Across the world, thousands of live-streams and pre-recorded classes are available for viewing or downloading.

In South Africa, a popular high-energy fitness event, That Fit Fun Fest, hosted its first online event with the help of a start-up called Flock Eventing Platform. Its last live event, in February, had attracted 220 people. The online event, available from anywhere in the world, saw more than 2,800 people join in.

That Fit Fun Fest had previously hosted events in a wide range of venues, from basements to sports fields. Now, they called on Flock to help them to transfer the experience to the living room, via an app.

“The way of hosting events has changed overnight, and the market is adapting to it,” says Mike Lysko, CEO of Flock Eventing Platform. “Online events have been steadily gaining in popularity over the past couple of years, but the COVID-19 outbreak has been the push they needed to take them mainstream. Event hosts and planners are realising that it’s not only still possible to bring people together, but they’re able to create virtual events with an almost similar – and in some cases, better – experience.”

The app allows That Fun Fit Fest to provide event information, live streaming feeds for fitness sessions, feedback forms and surveys, a live social feed, instructor profiles, photos and other forms of interactivity.

Says Lysko: “It’s a worrying time for the fitness industry, with gyms forced to close their doors indefinitely. But we’re seeing a groundswell of businesses and brands shifting to online classes for their members to not only maintain their fitness levels and practices at home, but to keep that sense of community and connection with the brand.”

The app is as adaptable as the industry. It is set to be used for a conference for more than 100 veterinarians; a live stream of a music concert; an online wine and gin festival; and a career expo for students.

“A few years ago, the idea of staging an event or conference online might have seemed absurd. But technology has improved, and our view on traditional events has changed as we realise the benefits of going virtual: super cost-effective, extending the reach of your audience, reducing carbon footprint, and including people who may not necessarily want to travel.”

Read more on the next page about how established brands like adidas are offering virtual training online.

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