Online fitness classes: Do they really work? 

We’ve all had our fair share of skepticism about online or virtual fitness and training classes. “Is it the same as in person classes?”, “Will it be effective?”, “It’s just a rip off” are all thoughts that have crossed our minds. Strive Founder/CEO Gayantha De Zoysa is here to tell you that “where there’s a will there’s a way”. 

Strive Founder/CEO Gayantha De Zoysa

Strive is a company that offers programmes that help you to build good habits to stay healthy, motivated, and productive. They do this through a novel mix of mindset, fitness, and nutritional coaching; definitely not your traditional fitness industry. From the get go, they were prepared for virtual classes and didn’t have to simply resort to it for lack of another option so they are well prepared to offer catered and personalised virtual training classes. 

We spoke to De Zoysa about whether online training is indeed effective, to which he responded that he strongly believes that it is, depending on the clients motivation and ability to remain focused. 

He explained that there have been a lot of surveys done on this topic that found that people like the idea of flexibility offered by virtual classes: “Being able to work from home or choosing to go to work is something that interests people; we use this as a base to ensure that people can access all our programmes from anywhere.” He did add that they do have in house classes for those that think they are better suited for that as certain people feed off the energy of their peers and feel motivated watching others. 

A dip in motivation

The biggest challenge Strive faced during the lockdown was a shared sentiment by both the coaches and the clients: A dip in motivation. “Yes, we are in the coaching business, but even we struggle sometimes with motivation,” De Zoysa commented, adding that he personally has experienced it and so have other coaches. He noted that this is why it is important for them to have a safety net within their organisation, since as coaches they are required to be empathetic towards people and when this safety net is available, people will understand when you are not performing as well as you could. By being empathetic, we were able to overcome this motivation dip. 

During lockdown, when all the Strive classes were online, one thing De Zoysa noticed was that all their clients, without fail, joined the virtual sessions. During the first few weeks, the clients were on time to classes and fully committed, but eventually they began to notice that less clients were joining, and realised that they were emotionally struggling, and their motivation levels had taken a dip.

Strive then came up with various different mechanisms to help them cope with the lack of motivation. When it came to fitness, they had accountability mechanisms in place. De Zoysa explained that if clients were part of a group programme, they were placed into teams: “The teams are to ‘compete’ against each other, which brings a sense of fun, camaraderie, and competitive factor into play.” This actually made sure that clients kept coming back. He added that if one person was feeling low or demotivated, the rest of the members of their team would keep in touch with them and persuade them to continue. The buddy system really allowed them to keep their customers engaged and motivated. 

The effectiveness 

We asked De Zoysa if he thought virtual classes were as effective as in-house classes, to which he responded that it’s a yes and no. “Yes, it’s highly effective for people who are highly motivated. Unfortunately not everyone is motivated all the time and people go through different stages of motivation,” he commented, adding that in their programmes they have certain mechanisms to identify if someone is going through a motivation dip, and if so, what else they can do to keep them active. For example, if someone doesn’t want to join virtual classes, then Strive recommends them to go for a walk or do an outdoor activity that excites them. 

Sharing some advice to other coaches, he explained that it is important to be value and result-driven but most importantly, it should also be customer experience-driven. “We can fill our schedules with so many classes, we can do various styles of sessions but if the customers are not getting the value or results, then you’re not doing something right,” he stated. 

At strive, he explained that they first look at the customers ultimate goal and then cater their programmes to that and go into a deep personalisation for the clients. 

De Zoysa also added that they believe that the virtual world is here to stay: “This is going to open up a lot of opportunities for everyone since with the pandemic, there was a huge digital transformation that took place.”

Many people who didn’t know how to use technology, are now tech-savvy and this, De Zoysa noted from the point of a service provider, will give them many more opportunities in the future.