How to Set Up Your Gym for Streaming Live Fitness Classes

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen coaches creatively deploy various solutions to provide remote training to their clients. 

Real-time connection is a common feature many coaches wish to provide their clients or members. Personal trainers, who build their business on relationships find the “facetime” valuable to keeping those deep personal connections they’ve built with their clients strong. Many gym owners need to provide the  group training sessions their members have become accustomed to paying for. 

If leveraged correctly, live stream sessions can be a great addition to your remote training product offerings. The connection and engagement provided is a great complement to the suite of training and engagement features TrainHeroic provides. 

If you’ve tried to run a training session over Zoom or Facebook live, you know the adjustment and struggle can be real.

Luckily, Mark Campbell of CORE Strong Fitness agreed to share some insights and lessons he learned from experience that can help you make the most of streaming live fitness classes or training sessions.

Mark Campbell

Mark Campbell

Mark Campbell is the owner and founder of CORE Strong Fitness. Mark Campbell is a NSCA Certified Personal Trainer since 2008, he is the First Certified BLACK Rank TRX Training Coach in the Midwest and currently holds the highest level of education offered through TRX, is FMT Level 1 Certified through RockTape, Theragun Master Trainer, Certified Barefoot Training Specialist though EBFA, Precision Nutrition Level 1 coach, and Performance Climbing Coach.

// setting up your gym stream for Live Fitness Classes

For several years, my wife and I have been talking about the need to expand our coaching beyond the four walls of our gym. 

We have social media followers all over the country and across the world and more and more of them have expressed an interest in training with us. But something always seemed to pop up and divert our time and energy in other directions, so we never got past the planning stages. 

It took the COVID-19 pandemic abruptly slamming our doors shut to push us into making virtual classes a reality. 

Initially, we used a combination of my laptop and our cell phones to record and conduct online classes that were all circuit based. 

Once we were given the OK to reopen CORE Strong Fitness, it gave us the opportunity to rethink the format of how we delivered coaching virtually, what we could do to make better use of our space, and how we could offer classes simultaneously to clients who were rejoining us in the gym and those who were more comfortable continuing from home. 

First, we needed to figure out what our community needed and how they were planning to train with us moving forward from the COVID-19 reopening. So we sent out a survey to all our members to get their feedback. 

The results showed that around 40 percent planned to come into the gym, while 60 percent indicated they’d prefer to attend online classes for the time being. 

In the first couple of weeks, we’d only offered our two most popular classes virtually: 6 AM and 5:15 PM. But it soon became clear that this was a barrier to many members who couldn’t make it to those sessions, so we also decided to offer our 8 AM, 10 AM, and 4:30 PM express (a shorter workout) classes to both in-person and virtual clients. 

We also realized that the circuit training format wasn’t as effective as we’d hoped, and so chose to switch to individual stations with certain pieces of equipment, such as kettlebells and TRX Suspension Trainers, instead. This made for smoother transitions, helped us implement stronger safety protocols to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, and maximized the use of our floor space in the gym itself. 

It also simplified things for people at home who were training in smaller rooms.

deadlifts at home

Outfitting a Streaming Station

When thinking about the placement of our streaming technology, we considered the best position for allowing whoever was coaching to both keep an eye on what’s happening on the gym floor and pay attention to what online clients were doing. 

This meant mounting a 40-inch screen on an extendable arm onto a thin pillar. To upgrade the video quality, we purchased a GoPro HERO8 camera and after a lot of testing, decided on the best spot to mount it. Then we realized that this camera doesn’t have an HDMI out port, so we had to buy a converter and a cam link to connect to our computer. 

High resolution video is of little use without a stable internet connection, so we paid to upgrade our package to the highest level and hardwired a line to avoid the interruptions that can come from a router malfunctioning or shutting down. 

To make doubly sure of continuous uptime, we could use one of our laptops if the new Mac mini that we invested in went down for any reason and switch to a smartphone if the GoPro stopped working. A month of trial and error and equipment research also enabled us to dramatically improve the quality of our audio by purchasing a high-end Bluetooth wireless microphone. 

It allows us to deliver coaching cues from across the room rather than needing to get up close to the camera (one of the challenges we’d identified after reviewing video of our early recorded classes).

Keeping In-Person and Online Clients Connected

deadlifts at home

As important as it was to dial in our equipment, it was even more significant to make everyone – whether they’re joining us in person or online – feel like they’re an important part of the experience and our community. 

This is one of the main reasons we chose to run each class for both groups at the same time, rather than separating them (with time and resource limitations being a secondary factor). 

Now someone who’s in the gym can say, “Oh look, there’s Ian training at home,” and Ian can say, “Hey John, how’s it going in the gym?” 

Beyond the banter between our clients that helps add a sense of normalcy and togetherness, the coaches also make a point of acknowledging each and every client, whether we’re actually in the room with them or not. 

We’ve continued to celebrate good efforts even though I’ve had to stop my usual high-fives for now.

Another way we’ve made people feel included and appreciated is to designate a “demo king” and “demo queen” for each of the workouts. 

Having someone else to demonstrate frees the coach up to concentrate on cueing and correcting technique errors, while also empowering the king or queen of the session to be front and center. 

As they’re always eager to perform the exercises with perfect form, it’s also a nice way to reinforce movement quality. 

Plus, they come away with the confidence that they’re at a high enough level to be able to demonstrate to their peers.

Improving Reach and Value Proposition

It’s tempting to revert back to in-person only classes now that your gym has hopefully reopened, but making them dual purpose allows you to expand your services and revenue sources. 

Setting up a streaming station gives you a gateway to people in other cities, states, and countries so they can improve their health and fitness wherever they are. 

Opening up a free trial class to members of Facebook groups has allowed us to reach potential new clients in new locations. We’ve had multiple people across the US sign up and recently added our first paying member in the Netherlands.

Existing members are also benefiting because their all-access membership passes now include the option to either join us at the gym or participate in their home. We’re recording all our sessions and adding them to a categorized online library as well. 

This way, even if someone can’t make it to a live class they can still train at a more convenient time. In addition to opening up all our classes to online clients, we’re also offering our FMS movement assessment virtually. 

This allows us to better understand someone’s challenges and tailor their training accordingly.  

COVID-19 presented new and unprecedented challenges to gym owners. Ultimately, it came down to a simple choice for us: either we give up and fail or we adapt and thrive. 

It took several months, a lot of education, and a continual dialogue with our community to make it happen, but we chose the latter and made it work. 

Now we can reach more people than ever before and, as a result, help them achieve their health, fitness, and wellness goals.

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