The COVID-19 pandemic shut down gyms and fitness studios, leaving coaches and trainers no choice but to take their livelihood online for the very first time. What’s more, it was also a period of realization for people who had never taken fitness seriously. However, that wasn’t quite the case at cult.fit, where virtual fitness was always a part of the portfolio.During the pandemic, most centralized digital platforms run by gym companies boomed, including our platform. In fact, it was an opportunity for us to more vigorously pursue our goal of making fitness in a collective, homogenized experience like with working at an office, watching a movie with your family, or playing video games with your friends.Recently, Ankit Gupta, Head of Engineering at cult.fit discussed with Nandagopal Rajan of Indian Express about how the pandemic resulted in a digital fitness revolution. In this article, we will talk about the key takeaways from the interview and the developments happening in the sphere.
Watch the whole interview here
The Pandemic and the Transition from Gyms to Online Workouts
Free from the hindrances of physical infrastructure, the pandemic taught us that fitness could happen anywhere, in any form, anytime. In fact, COVID-19 and the social distancing that came with it resulted in two significant changes.
- First, people became more health-conscious. Those who had never thought of fitness before started seeing it as a part of their life
- Second, people who regarded health as “curative” (something you work on curing during instances of a disease) started considering it “preventive”
If we look at data, we saw nearly 6x times more visitors than usual ever since the pandemic. People who were stuck at home and no longer able to access gyms or fitness centres were approaching our platform for digital fitness solutions every day. These people were looking for the same kind of workouts they could do at home as they would at a fitness center.
Digital fitness was always a part of our portfolio
Digital fitness and meditation sessions were among our offerings when we launched four years back. What’s more, before the pandemic in October 2019, we even launched Live Classes, where we gave like-minded people the ability to come together to indulge in the workouts of their choice.So, when the pandemic finally hit the world, we had five months of necessary feedback from users we could leverage to make our Live Classes better. All that was left to do was scale our product.
Coming back to offline vs. online workouts
Initially, we were worried if the pandemic would make our users lose out on their fitness needs. And we thought the digital solution might help them cope. However, with the lockdowns, we quickly realized that there existed a whole different segment of people who couldn’t reach our cult centers due to accessibility issues.We found that only 70-80 percent of our existent users went from gyms to using digital fitness. However, the number of new users who tapped into our Live Classes was 5x more than our existing users.Essentially, digital workouts are pretty superior to the traditional format of working out at a gym or fitness center.
- You get the ability to work out whenever you are, wherever you are at your convenience.
- You also won’t be worried about your surroundings or conscious about how people around you are working out.
- Ideally, you get to work at your own pace and at your own intensity, which is precisely what a fitness enthusiast should be doing.
Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, this trend is becoming more prominent at a global level.
Will the New User Behaviour Stay?
The pandemic resulted in a lot of people starting their fitness journey for the very first time in their life, that too digitally. Once the cult centers opened after the lockdown ceased, the gym-goers did return back from Live Classes. This sheds light on the fact that working out at a fitness center is not just about achieving your fitness goals; it is about the whole experience.Even with all the advantages of working out in isolation, people really missed going to the gym. The thing with gyms and fitness centers is that people love the ambiance that is full of energy and enjoy talking to other fitness enthusiasts who share similar goals—things you miss out on when working out at home. So, even with the convenience, and the functional part of it, virtual fitness fails to offer the experience a gym does.Nonetheless, two macro patterns were observed once the lockdown ceased.
- First, people who started their fitness journey with virtual fitness sessions stuck to it, while others did go back to working out at gyms.
- Second, our long-term users have always let us know through our social media handles that they couldn’t wait to be back at our gyms. And they were back the first day we reopened our centers.
The Digitisation of Fitness is Here to Stay
The pandemic has resulted in the digital fitness arena progressing faster than ever. It has even transformed the way we work out, fortunately for the better. Though the fitness industry is a bit chaotic at the moment, the chaos is temporary. Nevertheless, the rapid digitization is a wake up call for fitness enthusiasts and key players in the field to tap into its benefits. Data and technology will keep on driving the industry. Still, it is nothing without a tight-knit community.You can also listen to the podcast here.