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GROUP EXERCISE


TECHNOLOGY EDITION


Virtual Reality V


Are virtual classes bringing a new lease of life to group exercise studios? Rasmus Ingerslev takes a look at this growing trend


irtual classes, teacherless classes, video-based classes – this new phenomenon, seen in both group exercise and


cycling studios, is growing fast and has many labels. But what is it exactly: how can it be used, how does it work, and what is its value?


A strong logic To start with the why, imagine investing in 30 treadmills and turning them off for 70 to 80 per cent of the day. It wouldn’t make sense, would it? Yet the same thing is effectively happening in group exercise and cycling studios around the world, which are not in use for 70 or 80 per cent of the day. There is, of course, an obvious


reason for that: any club will always consider the potential number of members who would be able to attend a class before putting it into a schedule and taking on the cost. It simply doesn’t make sense to offer live classes during the majority of the day. This is where virtual classes come into their own, allowing studios to add value to the club throughout the day – members can do the classes they want, when they want, while clubs optimise the use of expensive fl oor space and bikes they are already paying for.


58 Surveys in the UK and the Nordics


(over 1,100 responses) suggest that, in clubs with a virtual offering, around two-thirds of new members have been infl uenced in their buying decision by the fact that classes are available throughout the day. “Utilising dead space by offering classes


all day will no doubt sell additional memberships for us and add value for our close to one million members – without detracting from the quantity or quality of our live class experience,” agrees David Patchell-Evans, CEO and founder of GoodLife Fitness in Canada, which is


currently trialling virtual classes in six of its 300 sites. “We will ultimately add something like 25,000 virtual classes a week across all clubs, at a minimal cost.” It’s too early to tell if virtual classes


can also benefi t retention. However, with numerous reports – IHRSA’s guide to membership retention, for example – and myriad anecdotal evidence indicating that retention rates are higher for group fi tness members than for gym-only members, it’s likely that virtual classes will have a positive impact on retention as well as new member acquisition.


How does it work? The technical set-up for a virtual class system is very straightforward: you basically need a screen, a projector and a computer connected to the internet that stores and runs your classes. It’s typically possible to run the sound through the existing audio system in your group exercise studio. There are currently a number of


Virtual classes can be used to complement a live class timetable


Read Health Club Management online at healthclubmanagement.co.uk/digital


systems on the market, such as Fitness On Request, Fitness On Demand, MyRide (cycling only), Virtual Instructor (from Cyber Coach) and Wexer Virtual. Most systems allow clubs to either pre- schedule classes or let members choose classes on-demand. Since most clubs will not allow a single member to decide what happens in the group exercise or cycling studio – at least during hours where more participants are expected – most clubs prefer either only pre-


April 2013 © Cybertrek 2013


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