Why Live Streaming Wasn’t Enough to Save Our Gym

COVID-19 has decimated small and medium businesses across the country. Gyms have especially taken a toll during this pandemic with many box gyms having to close their doors for the foreseeable future. 

With more coaches shifting to remote training it is imperative that you give your clients the same personalized service they had grown accustomed to when they could go to the gym.

Joe Hashey, President of Synergy Athletics, gives us some insight into the steps he took to ensure his gym’s future while maintaining the personal touch his clients have come to expect.

Jimmy Pritchard

Joe Hashey

Joe Hashey is the President of Synergy Athletics, best selling author, graduate of Goldman Sach’s 10,000 small business program and 2019’s Small Business Person of the Year.

Joe helps gym owners rebuild their gym businesses with a free daily tip series at www.levelupyourgym.com

// How We Saved Our Gym During the Pandemic

It was a Thursday in early March around 11am I received that dreaded phone call.  

All gyms were going to be shut down indefinitely due to COVID-19. We barely had time to shake off the shock before we had to take action.

With 3 locations, nearly a thousand members to manage, and a team of 6 coaches, we needed to quickly provide a solution to keep our base training during the shutdown before cancellations piled up.  

Our gym members are accustomed to personal programming and exercise guidance. 

Our packages ranged from $99-199 per month. We have developed a unique fitness system where each member receives individual programming and guidance in a group setting. There’s no preset templates or whiteboard workouts for all.  

We like to say, “It’s like personal training at a group fitness value.” Our members had come to expect a high level of value for the cost of their membership, and we knew we’d need to deliver.

Our First Attempt

By that Saturday we had launched a Facebook live workout series…but it was group training that lacked a personal touch. It would only get us so far.

Then we tried live Zoom classes. It worked for a while, but attendance started to fade due to the rigid time frames of our sessions and our clients’ lives being thrown into chaos. Again, the personal touch was lacking. Our members were used to exercise customized to their goals, and that was difficult to deliver in a single group Zoom class.

Both Facebook Live and Zoom were a decent quick fix, band-aid solution to keep members engaged. However, we quickly ran into other speed bumps.

For example, what if one member had more equipment at home than the others at the session?

This happened on several occasions. A member loved TRX exercises. However, no one else on the Zoom or FB Live class had that equipment. So we had to program it out.

She became frustrated and was ready to cancel her membership until we introduced her to the TrainHeroic platform where our coaches could integrate in her personal equipment. Fortunately, she has stayed active and happy for an additional 8 months now.

Another major setback was that a single group class run through Zoom or Facebook Live also doesn’t allow for personalized programming based on specific abilities.

We have a member that has two replaced knees. At each group zoom or Facebook Live that he attended, we had to quickly program out all knee flexion exercises so he didn’t feel physically hurt, embarrassed, or left out. Of course, this limited the programming for the rest of the group.

The final speed bump was the personalized guidance (coaching) I hinted at earlier. We couldn’t effectively track who participated in these virtual classes, even on replay. Therefore, we didn’t know who was being helped and who was being left out.

We faced a dilemma. How could we continue to provide the value our members expected from us?

Then a friend recommended TrainHeroic

First, we reached out to members and offered three options.

They could put their memberships on hold or continue at their normal rate for their choice of Facebook Live or TrainHeroic personal programming.

We didn’t discount our rates for these services, because we were confident we could provide equal value to what our members had become accustomed to with a combination of live classes and personalized coaching on the TrainHeroic app.

We ran Facebook Live classes every day at 9am for a general fitness group training and used TrainHeroic for those that wanted specific programs for their fitness level or home equipment.

We used the platform to save another 150 memberships. By learning from our early missteps with virtual classes, and focusing on providing what our members have come to value, we focused on three things.

Step 1 – Visual connection feels personal and is important

We hired a videographer for 2 hours. He came in and shot 15 second clips of our trainers doing over 100 exercises.

TrainHeroic has an exercise database already to go and we added this for a personal flare. The software allowed us to put our video link right next to each exercise so we could drop them in a program seamlessly.

I’d HIGHLY recommend videoing you or your staff delivering the exercises to keep connection with your members.

Step 2 – Create Program Templates

Our staff quickly put in general exercise templates into our TrainHeroic account. They were able to pull those templates into a member’s calendar and then customize it for that individual person.

It made it MUCH faster than reprogramming everything from scratch each week. Our coaches that managed the TrainHeroic side would make 1 week templates for people with 2, 3, or 4 sessions per week.

Step 3 – Checking in with clients is vital

TrainHeroic notifies us when a member completes a session so we can keep tabs on them.

During our Friday sweep through, we’d then use TH’s built in messenger (TH Chat) to check in individually with our members. We’d exchange everything from a funny meme or to a heartfelt motivating message.

That accountability piece was so important to keeping our members engaged, and very easy to reach out through the TH software.

Moving Forward Into the Future

We’re in a state with heavy lockdowns and have been going through this for over 7 months. Some members have returned, some aren’t ready. Others want to come in once a week and do personal home workouts during the rest of their sessions.

As a brick and mortar gym, we have 1 major advantage over online only training…we’ve built valuable relationships in person first. So our packages all remained at the same rate. Members can come in 2, 3 or 4 times a week or any mix of in person and online.

For example, a member with a 3x per week package can do 1 check in workout in person with their trainer and 2 TrainHeroic sessions or vice versa. Members appreciate the flexibility in making it all work around their schedules!

TrainHeroic has let us ride these waves with a simple solution that our members have truly enjoyed.

We’ll still use it long after we’ve re-opened.

TrainHeroic was an essential piece of the puzzle to pull our company through the lockdowns. We used it to add a personal touch, hold members accountable, and provide them a higher perceived value than a regular streaming workout.

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