HOW TO ADAPT AND EVOLVE DIGITALLY DURING THE COVID-19 CRISIS

Matt Gleed, Master Trainer, PT and Educator explains the challenges he’s faced and had to overcome during COVID-19

This situation we are in with COVID-19 is obviously affecting the world in a dramatic way. As I write this piece, none of my direct family, friends or close few circles have been affected other than boredom really. But as I write this, the worst is still to come. For the purpose of this article, I focus purely on the impact to the fitness industry. An industry that has had to turn itself fully digital almost overnight in order to survive.

Without getting into the medical or political side of the Corona virus, this last couple of weeks have been worrying as I have now, for the first time in my life, got no upcoming work in my diary, other than some Live Workouts I have been asked to do on Facebook and YouTube. To me, this is probably scarier than deciding to leave full time positions to go self employed 10 years ago.

All my contracts from different companies have stopped, education courses have been cancelled and trade shows postponed. I usually spend my week driving from postcode to postcode delivering training to around 20-40 different trainers. It’s very social and very fulfilling, plus I get my own quiet time in the car listening to podcasts, radio and making calls to friends and contacts.

So now I have next to no income, little social time, no sport to listen or watch (that I miss a lot), but I find myself busier than ever! This is because I’m trying to adapt to the digital need.I’m used to screen time as I do write a fair bit and have lots of emails to coordinate my work bookings but the last week I have thrown myself into two specific digital-based projects.

Project 1 Self Development

So, after the news of the lockdown happened I went to check my Microphone and Transmitters and got them on charge, ordered soft box lights and got an IPad holder for my tripod. I knew I was going to need to get more online. But I wanted to do my research into the good, the bad and the ugly of what was already out there calling itself online training. I soon learnt what came across well and what didn’t. If you want the quick tip guide see below:

Good Points

Microphone use

Always visual role model

Lead from the front

Clear voice

Smooth transitions

Edited post videos


Bad Points

Talking to the floor

Excessive breathlessness

Stopping to say well done to camera

Too much wind blowing or noise across the microphone

Checking a bit of paper for the next exercise

You won’t be a Rockstar online instructor overnight. It’s important to be ok with this as you learn. The number of videos I’ve started and messed up is high but each time they get better and I’m improving which is all I ask of myself. Public Self Development is going to be hard at times.

Coming away from the online workouts, I have also listened to lots of webinars and conference calls about digital training. Once I finish the work on ‘Project 2’ I will circle back to ‘Project 1’ as it’s an ongoing learning curve. My next step will be to get into online PT sessions. In recent years, I haven’t done this as my work has been so busy, so staying in my lane and trying to perfect it was my goal. I’d like to think I was doing well as I picked up the UK Fitness Award for Contribution to Fitness 2019, but could I take a learning from the digital footprint I create and support the 1200 trainers a year I meet with an insight there too? Well it’s an obvious answer, and if new trainers are not having a digital footprint too then I feel they might not be setting themselves up for success. So, I learn and listen to the experts, ask the questions and prepare my system of online assessments, consider the platforms (I’m already down to a shortlist) and once I’m ready I will start with a sample group of friends that I know would support me and give useful feedback. I’m actually quite looking forward to see where this journey takes me.

Project 2 Content Creation

As ‘Project 1’ started, I also had thoughts about all the online videos I was seeing being given out for free. This is a great way to help people stay active at such a difficult time but how can PTs who need to keep their business afloat monetise this? I called a business owner I knew who had an app company, now he isn’t new to this game as he is the backend operator for several of the biggest operators and educators in the industry. The call was fairly quick; I said that I wanted to help Personal Trainers with content that they could use during this time. Not surprisingly he wanted to do the same. So, to work we went, myself I’m now writing up 350+ Functional Training exercise descriptions with images and video and using an empty gym as a photo studio whilst the app content will quickly be brought together to support trainers all over the world. If this is a way I can use my knowledge and communication skills to help the industry, then my passion will have been worth the endless screen time this week.

Future Business

I will make some early predictions now, that the future of fitness will have jumped 10 years by the end of this. Never would the average trainer start all these Social Media videos, Conference Calls, Online Group Training without the social restrictions that COVID-19 has placed on us. Now they see the reach they can have, I would be shocked if they even try to go back to the same face-to-face only methods as before.

When operators build studios going forwards I think they will start setting up cameras and microphone equipment for the digital class too. It just makes sense and brings the industry into the current times. Are Peloton really the craziest of companies, Les Mills have both, think about the Cycle Studios using virtual reality screens and visuals in a class. You can stream all these and increase the income so far ahead!

The merger of these two together methods of training will be the future of fitness, a way to connect with clients and members outside of the four walls of a gym and become an integral part of their daily lives.