Delivering Online Fitness classes: Tips and tricks for a killer class
The fitness industry has seen a huge shift in operations over the last few weeks. Gyms have been closed for just over 4 weeks now and many people have started to take their business online. Virtual classes are not a new phenomenon. The early days of virtual workouts could be traced to home workout videos, where thousands of people were doing the same workout pre-recorded workout programs with superstar trainers in their front room. In the last decade this developed into streaming service such as Les Mills on Demand, FiiT, Aaptiv and Plankk where you can choose your workout from a bank of pre-recorded sessions on the app. However, the last couple of years we’ve seen the emergence of live virtual workouts, through companies like Pelaton. With group fitness, we know that people buy into people, it is the human connection a participant gets with the trainer and others in the class that keeps them coming back every week. It becomes a community of like-minded people training and working towards something together. This put many people off virtual classes for a long time as they just weren’t as motivated to do it on their own whilst being coached by someone they didn’t know.
Instructors have hardly been keen to accept the virtual revolution either. Many of us have been continuously hating on virtual for the last few years, convinced that gyms were going to get rid of live instructors to cut costs and leave us obsolete and unemployed. However, thanks to the Coronavirus closing our places of work, we’ve been forced to think of ways of making an income and serving our members… and that means virtual classes! What was once our biggest threat has become our biggest opportunity. Virtual live classes are the closest thing we can get to a real group fitness experience right now, and there has been a massive influx of people trying to get their own virtual studio set up online. These are mainly being done via Zoom, which most of us have found to be the most stable video conferencing platform.
The whole process of setting up to teach virtual classes can seem a bit daunting. There’s a lot of new technology to deal with and new administrative procedures to think about. We’re going to break this down step by step from what you need to do to make sure you are legal to the tech you need to make your class smooth and professional.
The legal bits
The most important thing to note is that your current insurance policy may not cover you for teaching online classes and you may need to upgrade. Les Mills insurance (I have my policy with them which is the only reason I know, I’m not promoting their service over another provider!) have said that for the duration of gym closures you will be covered to teach programs via video conference. If you want to continue doing this after lockdown has finished it might be worth reaching out to your insurance provider.
Music licensing laws haven’t vanished due to the coronavirus, unfortunately. Usually when we play licensed music in gyms we are covered by the venue’s license, but in your own home this isn’t the case. You need to make sure that the music you are playing is PPL/PRS free. There are lots of sites you can get royalty free music from, or you could encourage your participants to play their own music at home. If you are a Les Mills or Zumba instructor, they have released specific music that you can utilise for virtual classes.
Make sure that every participant has signed a PAR-Q. Most of us only teach at gyms and aren’t responsible for the legal and health and safety aspects of running classes. When members sign up for the facility they will have to sign a health statement/PAR Q to say they are fit and safe to exercise and take responsibility for any injuries they may obtain. Make sure you also have one for your virtual studio. Good examples can be found on Google.
Ensure you tell everyone about your qualifications. There are several unqualified social media influencers who are doing live workouts via Instagram and Facebook at the minute. Whilst their intentions are probably good and they want to motivate their audience to keep moving, their workouts could easily cause injury as they haven’t been programmed with a deep knowledge of training principles. Let everyone know about what qualifications you have and that you have the knowledge to safely curate a training program. This can be as simple as listing your qualifications in your Facebook/Instagram bio.
The systems you need in place
A zoom account. You can sign up for free but if you want your classes to run over 40 minutes then you will need a premium account. These start from £11.99 per month, but this cost can be claimed back on your tax return!
You will need a payment system. You can either have people pay you via Paypal, Stripe or bank transfer. I would avoid cash/cheque payments at this time due to the high touch rate used with these methods. You shouldn’t be leaving home multiple times per week to go to the bank whilst we are in lockdown as you could be putting lives at risk. I also wholeheartedly believe that as qualified fitness professionals we should have no shame in charging for our services at this time – bills won’t pay themselves and the government stimulus for self employed people hasn’t been wonderful, but that’s a discussion for another time.