Has COVID-19 ended gyms as we know them? One fitness expert has seen the future, through Zoom

By | July 26, 2020

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COVID-19 has made us rethink what it is we get out of going to the gym. It’s not simply access to equipment — if it were, people spending thousands of dollars a year on cycling classes could opt instead for a stationary bike and get it done at home. “People need to be engaged on a deeper level. They need to feel part of a community. They need to feel that people care about them and about their results,” Smits explains. Using technology to convey those feelings to participants was ultimately the key to making the Inner Circle work.

The Inner Circle includes occasional outdoor live workouts — observing proper social distancing — held at a local park. Jeremie Dupont

“This program has found a secret sauce that no other gym, trainer, fitness expert, or wellness coaches alone could ever replicate,” says Jennifer Abrams, among the first to join the Inner Circle. “I was just stuck in a rut, trying to find my routine again,” says Leona Savoie, another participant. “I feel strong again. The motivation to exercise everyday is there. The community has been huge — more than the gym ever offered. I’ve had a blast.” Participants also gave testimony to the results — to their habits, their fitness level, their physique. Before-and-after photos show impressive changes in physiques. More importantly, everyone feels excited about exercise and wellness again.

The program isn’t for everyone: it requires a level of commitment and seriousness that might be too daunting or demanding for some, and at $ 499 per month, it’s priced closer to personal training than an ordinary gym membership. But after completing the first round with 40 people, Smits has seen a surge in interest. He plans to start another round of the Inner Circle again in the fall, and he hopes to expand the program with other trainers and in other cities.

Perhaps gyms, like many other things that became clear in the pandemic, are doomed to be a thing of the past. The days of sweating it out in close contact with 30 other strangers are over. What Smits has devised, he believes, is the future, and that over time other boutique gym owners and trainers will see the light and transition to a virtual model. This isn’t the story of one gym going online, but rather one gym paving the way for other gyms to follow.

“The good news is, you do not need to go to a gym ever again,” Smits says.

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