It’s not easy to deliver a digital fitness experience that rivals the value of an in-person studio class. As lockdowns went into place last year, gyms and studios had to rethink their entire businesses overnight. Everyone was just trying to stay afloat.

For most, virtual workout experiences were completely new territory. What software should you be using to livestream or make your on-demand content available? Which exercises make sense for at-home remote workouts? How do you keep your community engaged?

It’s tempting to picture a future that looks exactly like the past, but the reality is that the world has changed forever.

Let’s talk numbers: More than 20% of consumers say they don’t miss the gym. More than 45% intend to make virtual classes a part of their weekly routine going forward. Since March of 2020, 85% of Mindbody consumers are now attending livestreaming classes weekly versus 7% in 2019. Virtual classes allow athletes to avoid the hassle of a daily commute to the gym, explore a wider range of experiences, and customize their fitness schedule to meet their availability.

This is a huge opportunity for all of us. In a hybrid world, fitness professionals who recognize the importance of building a strong virtual arm for their business will not only retain current members, but they’ll grow faster than their competition. A recent Mindbody survey showed 40% of consumers are booking virtual workouts with studios they had never physically visited before, allowing those businesses to reach “digital-first” clients. Taking digital seriously will give fitness businesses a concrete advantage: reaching consumers where they make their buying decisions.

At Exer, we’ve now seen hundreds of virtual workout sessions from all over the country. There’s a wide range of quality options available to the athlete at home, and it’s clear that the studios that make a real effort are winning. To truly succeed in this new paradigm, coaches need to craft digital fitness experiences that deliver the same value that in-person classes gave consumers in the past. This is possible now by leveraging the right toolset; one that includes best-of-breed streaming platforms and artificial intelligence-powered engagement enhancements.

A coach’s energy and expertise are the key to building trust within a community, but to truly nail the online experience, the proper supplemental tools and tactics are key.

Here are eight tips to set yourself apart:

  • Choose ideal locations to stream from, optimized for lighting.
  • Invest in a higher quality camera for your broadcasts.
  • Be deliberate about video streaming platform choice.
  • Optimize music streaming—look to broadcast music into the speakers of your athletes, greatly improving their experience.
  • Explore AI-powered tools that help with workout metrics, form correction and post-workout summaries.
  • Leverage breakout rooms and other ways to motivate small groups to compete with one another.
  • Consider a two-coach approach to virtual training, allowing one coach to focus entirely on individuals and targeted instruction.
  • Try broadcasting to multiple platforms at once, allowing athletes to choose which platform they’d like to watch from.

Ultimately, the fitness professionals who will thrive in tomorrow’s increasingly hybridized world will be the ones who leverage the tools at their disposal. Going the extra mile will help you strengthen your communities, enhance the experience you can deliver virtually, and lead to a strong, growing business.