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October 14, 2020

As we approach the final months of 2020,  it’s almost overwhelming to look back at the events of this year and the challenges we’ve had to overcome. When COVID-19 struck in March - which seems like another lifetime - the impact was felt on every level.

Globally, we felt fear of the unknown and sadness for lives lost and broken - emotions that many of us have never experienced before. On a smaller level, however, the impact of COVID-19 and the quarantine it incited was felt day-to-day. Routines became irrelevant as we were confined to our homes, and mental health became a large conversation as we were instantly, and without warning, cut-off from our friends and family. For many, it was the disappearance of the small daily joys of simply living that took a toll during this time.

My passion has always been fitness. As a former athlete, I cannot recall a time in my life where I wasn’t active in some way. So when gyms and group fitness classes abruptly stopped, and leaving the house was impossible, my fitness routine became nonexistent. I went from working with a trainer three times-per-week to lifting soup cans in my garage. While I felt this change on a physical level, it was more the mental aspect that got to me.

For the past year, I’ve been fortunate to be a member of both the Consumer Products, Lifestyle and Sports, and Technology practices at Finn Partners. Rarely do I see these worlds collide, but it’s always exciting when they do. The intersection of technology and fitness that took place as a result of COVID-19 is a great example of one of these moments.

It began with personal trainers uploading at-home workouts to their Instagram accounts, and fitness challenges were shared widely across social media. This virtual workout format expanded when trainers and instructors turned to the now invaluable video conferencing platform Zoom to reach a larger number of people and create an online community similar to a group fitness class.

Once it became clear that quarantine would last far longer than two weeks, gym franchises and fitness companies began launching on-demand workout classes via their respective mobile apps and websites. Examples of these revered brands are PelotonNike and Life Time. For the most part, these workouts were offered free of charge and required no membership commitment. The fitness industry recognized almost immediately that this was a time where people needed to stay motivated, mentally strong and have some semblance of a routine. 

All of this is technology-driven. Without Zoom, mobile apps and fitness wearables like smart watches and similar products, the fitness industry would not have persevered the way it has over the past several months.

It is evident that the industry will never be the same. This is the future. While gyms are slowly beginning to reopen across the country, many people prefer the at-home workout options that have been enhanced and popularized. In fact, a recent survey from health and fitness company Beachbody revealed that 9 in 10 Americans who exercise regularly say they will continue with at-home workouts even after they feel comfortable returning to a gym.

Two industries that weren’t commonly associated in the past are now inextricably linked and, in my opinion, it’s for the better. Whereas intimidation kept a lot of people out of the gym, the at-home virtual format gave them the opportunity to incorporate fitness into their lives in the comfort of their own homes, providing a physical release, mental solace and access to a more connected, healthier world.

 

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