12 Steps to Facing COVID: How Team Trainerize Lived Our Values to Empower the Fitness Industry

I want to be transparent: when COVID-19 hit North America and gyms were forced to close, Trainerize saw a significant dip in tracked workouts. But what I want to focus on is what happened next.

What immediately followed the dip was a massive increase in users, workouts, and tracked actions — not only from workouts but from nutrition and habit tracking too. But this was no magic upswing.

This upswing in client engagement and user growth happened because of the hard work that the Trainerize team put in. It happened because we made a recommitment to our purpose of making fitness accessible.

It happened because we made a recommitment to our core values of collaboration, decisive action, and ownership. We’re proud to have helped the industry pivot in a time where pivoting seemed almost impossible.

I want to highlight the twelve steps we took — and to offer recognition to my well-deserving team.


1. Launched a landing page with brand new resources

Right off the top, we knew that in the face of physical distancing, consumers still wanted to engage with fitness and health. We also knew that both new and existing Trainerize users would have high upfront demand for online training, and we knew they didn’t necessarily know how to tackle that challenge.

So we created a COVID-19 First Aid Business Kit, with new, COVID-specific content to help trainers transition to online as efficiently and effectively as possible. Our marketing team worked with the customer support team to uncover our users’ pain points and provide articles, videos, and webinars based on in-the-moment problems. The team published new content almost daily, to make sure we were helping in any way we could.

2. Offered a 50% discount for entry-level plans

In personal training, a trainer typically has a set number of in-person clients that they train on a regular basis, creating direct revenue for their business. When COVID hit and gyms closed, that revenue went to zero overnight.

Trainers needed a platform to get their clients online, but with zero revenue, the monthly fee was a barrier. No one expected their gyms to close so abruptly! We wanted to make sure trainers could prioritize paying for the essentials they needed for their lives, rather than prioritize upfront business costs prior to revenue continuation.

3. Offered a 25% discount for higher-level plans

In larger-scale fitness businesses, such as gyms and studios, our users largely already had some form of online training business. We still wanted to offer our users a little help! So we implemented a discount for our higher-level plans. Plenty of Trainerize users are full-fledged businesses that had more robust needs, and we wanted to offer the kind of solutions that would support them in keeping our industry afloat and make that transition a little easier.

And it worked — we saw equal usage between the two promo codes, proving each use case was relevant in the industry pivot.

4. Prepared for growth by scaling our servers

Our engineering team may usually operate behind the scenes, but when COVID hit, they immediately empathized with our users. Shoutout to them for owning the situation and making the right calls. They saw sessions on our website spike by 400% and knew the urgency of the situation — our servers were not going to hold up. The team made the call to invest the money to scale up the servers, which in turn, kept our users, and us, online.

5. Shifted development priorities to COVID-friendly features

Typically when a trainer joins Trainerize, they are working to complement their in-person training offerings with online options. This year, trainers had to get all their clients online, at once. New and existing users reached out to our customer support team, asking for a faster way to import their client base, and the Trainerize team responded. We created a simpler tool to import users and build training packages to get trainers online faster.

We also made some adjustments to our group training component. People were working out at home, getting stir-crazy, and craving connection. A great solution to social isolation? Group workouts. Trainers shifted from 1:1 to groups, creating challenges and expanding the limits of their training programs. In response, we made adjustments in the back end to ensure users could facilitate larger groups and keep their clients moving.

Lastly, we started building out video capabilities — both for 1:1 video calls and on-demand video training. Video can drive higher engagement for people not used to working out independently or at home, and to me, it’s the most-engaging medium for online training.

6. Supplied free, no-equipment, at-home workouts to Trainerize trainers

When COVID hit in mid-March, tracked workouts in Trainerize tanked. Completely. Most workouts relied on gym equipment, and clients stopped working out. We dug into the data, identified the need for no-equipment, at-home workouts, and decided to help our users out. We developed pre-made workouts in the app and pushed them out to 150,000 trainers around the world. As a result, we saw tracked workouts boost back to pre-COVID numbers.

When I saw our team make this move, I was blown away. The team looked at the data, understood the insights, and built a grab-and-go solution for our users. The trainers were happy, our team was stoked, and people were working out again. This is my favourite thing we did during COVID — it just worked.


7. Co-founded a coalition of health and fitness pros

Understanding our industry is about celebrating other businesses in our community, rather than seeing them as competitors. Trainerize joined forces with industry leaders to build the Coalition of Health and Fitness, to help fit pros navigate the changing industry post-COVID. The idea was to help like-minded community members by bringing together creative brains, discuss the future of fitness, and get excited to expand and diversify the industry. We hosted free weekly webinars and engaged our networks to offer professional development as well as a bit of inspiration to fitness professionals.

8. Hired trainers from our existing community

The truth of the lockdown is that many personal trainers lost their jobs, lost their clients, or lost both. When this happened, we reached out to trainers in our network to ask if they’d be interested in working with us to support our customers.

It was our small way of supporting the fitness community… and in turn, supplying our customers with expert advice from seasoned pros.


9. Looked after our team’s well-being

To me, working remotely truly means that an employer is suddenly a guest in its employees’ home. We wanted to explicitly acknowledge and appreciate that, and support everyone in staying well. Our approach? Offering free digital workouts, yoga practices, and meditation classes to our team. Working from home can be stressful, so if a 45 minute midday stretch can help our team members, I want to provide that opportunity.

We also distributed a home office allowance to our team members to help everyone make working from home work for them. Being comfortable working at home is another wellness element. The best part is, these initiatives were spawned from our Wellness Task Force, which is a group of employees who are passionate about driving fitness, mental health, and wellness with our team.

10. Offered and encourage team member interaction

In the office, we had water cooler chats. Now we have 9am coffee sessions every Monday where we can talk and connect — about anything but work.

And we’re looking to do more here! We’re looking to business leaders and tech companies to see how we can better support our team from afar.

11. Prioritized corporate social responsibility

Shoutout to our ECO task force for their sustainable initiatives. It might be the easiest thing to let go during tough times, but going into COVID, we were confident we didn’t want to sacrifice our social responsibility efforts.

The organization we prioritized was Ocean Wise and the Vancouver Aquarium. Ocean Wise is a conservation program dedicated to education, sustainability, animal welfare, and shoreline cleanups. Typically aquarium admission revenue helps to support the organization’s essential conservation efforts, and suddenly in March, they were lacking the funding they needed. We launched a fundraising initiative and raised $12,000.

12. Lead by example

At Trainerize, we were proud to lead the charge on social distancing measures. We were dedicated to flattening the curve. In the weeks prior to government regulations and travel bans, our leadership team made the call to cancel all of our in-person marketing events, at a serious cost to the company. We also implemented work-from-home mandates by mid-March, to ensure we were being responsible on a community level for our global team.

So there it is — our twelve-step plan to shifting the industry.

Looking back, I know we did the right things, and I know so for two reasons.

For one, we were recognized as industry leaders in a recent report published by ClubIntel on the industry’s response to COVID-19.

And two, the data doesn’t lie. The fact that Trainerize usage is growing tells me we did the right things to support our users, their clients, and the industry as a whole.

Big thanks to our incredible Trainerize team — we couldn’t have done this without every one of you.

Co-Founder and CEO of @Trainerize — the company known for digitizing the fitness club experience. www.trainerize.com