Virtual fitness programming has been a hot topic since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020. This issue, Jake Minnis, the Fitness and Wellness coordinator at the University of Arizona, shares advice on virtual fitness programming.
Describe a virtual offering that has done well this past year.
JM: Our virtual F45 classes have been doing the best out of all of the other formats we are providing. This isn’t surprising, as we’ve formed a strong F45 following and community since it launched in January 2019. Our general format classes such as HIIT, strength, bootcamp and yoga have been a pretty close second in regards to average participations.
What are the top lessons you’ve learned in adding virtual programs this year?
JM: Our live classes have seen better traffic than our recorded classes, which are provided through YouTube. Our metrics suggest our shorter videos are more likely to be viewed in their entirety and generally have higher views overall. I believe this may correlate with individuals feeling they are participating in a class that is closer to “normal” for them. Having the ability to interact with an instructor before or after class — even if it is a small gesture such as sending a “thank you” in the chat — may be helping those who have been socially isolated for longer than they are used to. We were able to obtain this participant data with the help of our Assessment and Communications manager, Megan Pontius, who created assessments for our users to better understand their needs and desires.
What do you foresee as the challenges ahead with virtual fitness?
JM: We have noticed since our facility opened, participation numbers have decreased. The more that reopening efforts progress nationwide, we anticipate the desire for virtual programming will wane. Keeping our classes high quality — such as video and audio format, instructing, interactions, etc. — and building upon the knowledge we have gained will help us give our participants the best class possible.
What should other campus rec professionals know about making virtual fitness an effective offering?
JM: We are certainly not the experts, but we found in order to help the staff who have never taught virtual classes before we need to give them as much information, reviewing and training before their first class as we can. Training material includes examples and manuals of recorded classes. We have noticed it helps with the nerves they may feel and makes that first class run smoothly. After that, our staff have done well to develop their own personalities and styles into their virtual classes, while still following the class outline and procedures.
Staff that actively try to create participant interaction before and after class, and who are able to instruct like they are teaching an in-person class, have had the best participation numbers.
How do you think the industry can continue to use virtual fitness?
JM: I believe this can be used in a way to help those who would like to begin regular exercise but do not yet feel comfortable coming into a fitness facility. If we can get them started at home in a private setting, hopefully we can instill a confidence that will help them step into a facility and build upon their physical wellness.