The Future of Fitness is Here: 6 Trends to Watch for in 2021
History often repeats itself — When 2020 becomes history, which trends will stick to define the future of digital fitness?
Warning: obvious statement coming up.
It’s a weird time. Globally, we’re all experiencing an unprecedented phase of our lives. And the fitness industry is certainly in an unprecedented time.
We’ve witnessed a huge slow-down for fitness businesses like gyms and studios. More than we’ve seen in 100 years or more! And yet — we’re in a period of massive growth for digital fitness solutions. Just last week, the world’s largest company — Apple, with their $2 trillion market cap, announced they’re getting into the fitness fun! My next post will share my thoughts on why I feel Apple Fitness+ is the best thing for the personal training industry since sliced bread! But back to more immediate trends…
Fitness professionals have had to shift more this year than ever before — but for many, that hard work has saved their businesses. Let’s start with a look back at 2020.
1. Fitness businesses migrated to digital, fast!
March 2020 marked a massive transition for the industry — essentially a quick migration to online services. This transition was happening long before COVID-19 (Trainerize has been around for 12 years!) but 2020 was totally the year of digital fitness.
Online services became a necessity rather than an option.
In March, Trainerize saw a huge bump in our stats. Our trial sign-ups shot through the roof, our paid conversion rates skyrocketed, and the average number of clients per trainer started trending upward (and hasn’t stopped). What this means is, not only did fitness businesses migrate to digital, but consumers started to demand it, which brings me to trend number two — #PowerToThePeople!
2. Consumers followed fitpros online
Fitness businesses moved online this year — and with them, consumers have made moves. There’s been a real normalization of at-home and online fitness — like everything else in our lives, we’ve had to get used to a new routine.
Look at Peloton. They went public in 2019, then COVID hit a few months later. By summer, Peloton had become mainstream, and in October, their stocks reached an all-time high value. They’ve spurred dozens of competitors, sold a ton of bikes (including one to yours truly) and built brand loyalty by promoting their online membership — at an accessible price point.
And then just this month, we heard the exciting news about Apple Fitness+, just in time for Christmas, which will definitely move a lot of Apple users to online fitness.
These types of big brand booms are great for the fitness industry. The more the average consumer embraces digital fitness options, the more the ecosystem grows — making it easier for me and my team at Trainerize to play our part in it. I see consumers adopting these at-home fitness trends, and then asking for more! Gyms, clubs, studios, and personal trainers can be the personalized digital option consumers graduate to! This graduation option, BTW, is the part we at Trainerize play — empowering fitness businesses to be a part of the digital fitness consumer’s journey.
3. Healthier lifestyles are a top priority
Full-service training was key to coaching in 2020 — not only fitness, but nutrition and habit coaching too. That level of integration for health and wellness was priceless for fitness businesses and their clients.
I wrote about habit coaching recently: “I’m seeing such a tight integration between habits and fitness and nutrition, each one feeding into the other, building healthier lifestyles…Habits also open up opportunities for coaches to influence parts of their clients’ lives that don’t neatly fit into nutrition or fitness objectives… which is particularly powerful during a pandemic.”
This approach — that 360° approach to health and wellness — enabled gyms and trainers to be part of the members’ lives in 2020, seven days a week! Instead of engaging members only during their workouts, or just when they walk into the gym, this approach builds a relationship between trainers and members. Habit coaching is going to really open up the total addressable market for personal trainers in the long run. Basically, seven billion people can (and should) get a personal trainer! Not just people who are ready to “focus on their fitness.”
4. People were powered by tech
And speaking of relationships–another major takeaway from 2020 was the power of the human element.
I’ve been an advocate for this for years, so it’s not going to be a surprise to anyone that knows me that I think 2020 really doubled down on the importance of a human trainer. In 2020, there was absolutely no shortage of online workouts and digital platforms to power the consumer’s workout routines. But accessing workouts isn’t the problem. The problem is motivation.
This is why the future of fitness tech is connection: connecting real people together. Trainerize enables trainers or gyms to deliver online coaching — but really, we’re facilitating real human connection and ultimately driving the accountability that consumers need.
And in a year where we’re all trying to shop small and support local businesses — why wouldn’t we also shop small for our fitness experience? This is where the appeal of a niche trainer, a local individual, a specialized business kicks in. A “boutique” training experience if you will. And for me, I’m going to count on that personal relationship to drive my fitness journey — even if we’re supplementing with “big box” services. More on that below as we look ahead to 2021!
So that’s 2020… and I have a lot of thoughts on where the industry will go in 2021. Starting with — yep — even more people going online.
5. Going digital is the key to client engagement
We saw it in 2020, and it’s not going anywhere in 2021.
It’s no longer optional to have digital components to fitness businesses.
These online services don’t just fill the gaps between public health mandates — they build a new type of client engagement. They extend member experiences beyond the gym, they build stronger relationships (which results in stronger retention), and they look to the long game. Rather than seeing the urgency of online services as a pandemic-specific issue, forward-thinking entrepreneurs will see them as the future of fitness, something that will prepare them for 2021, but also 2022 and beyond.
6. The next buzzword is “Optionality”
Okay, I know it’s a weird word, so here’s a definition: Optionality is the quality of being available to be chosen but not obligatory.
In a diverse fitness landscape, optionality is essential to success in 2021.
Times are still unpredictable and public health restrictions are still varying, so next year will be the time for fitness businesses to put those 2020 pivots to work.
There are massive brands out there, like Apple, Peloton, Lifetime, that are obsessing about how to create the next best fitness experience. But trainers and studios can demonstrate their value by embracing that ecosystem, becoming a part of it, and help make sense of it all to their clients.
Here’s my example: I’ve adopted Peloton spin classes, my wife’s HIIT classes, and brisk outdoor activities with friends (#PandemicSocializing) this year. My trainer has embraced this optionality and built these activities into my training routine. If I get a little off track in my eating habits, I just hop on my Peloton for a light ride to make up for it! It’s helping me develop a consistently active and healthy lifestyle. And when gyms reopen in Vancouver, a couple of visits a week will get thrown on the calendar!
For businesses, embracing optionality might mean diversifying their own product offering to include some on-demand video workouts or 1:1 video call sessions.
When COVID is over, whether in 2021 or beyond, we believe consumers will go back to the gym, at least part time. But we also think they’ll be newly charmed by this anytime/anyplace/anything workout routine — and they’ll be especially engaged by the trainer or gym that’s pulling it all together to work for them. Studios too, who embraced tech during the pandemic, will be better equipped to compete in the digital landscape after the pandemic is over.
All of these factors will encourage the most exciting thing for those of us in the fitness industry — innovation and creativity. This year was big for platform changes and shifting consumer behavior… and I’m excited to see how businesses get creative, change things up, and keep pushing tech and the industry forward.
What do you expect to see in 2021? What have I missed? Tell me your thoughts by commenting here, or tag me on Instagram to chat more!