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Why Gyms Are Reopening With Hybrid Online Classes

Tuesday, June 16, 2020
Fitness Business

Reopening Your Yoga or Fitness Studio: Are Hybrid Classes -- Online AND In-Person -- the Best Approach?

As you plan to reopen your yoga or fitness studio, offering live streaming of limited capacity, in-person classes could be a life saver for your business. The COVID-19 pandemic is still a real threat. And for many group fitness, dance and yoga facilities, operating at some of the mandated reduced capacities is just not enough to make it financially. 

Kelsey Donahue, the regional manager for Orangetheory Fitness in Denver, CO, said the state's cap for reopening of 25% capacity might be problematic for their studios.

“In our average-size studio, we have up to 45 people working out at once,” Donahue said. “We’ll just have to figure out how that works for us, and if that works for us. Is it even somewhat profitable to have only 11-person classes when we normally have up to 45?”

Plus, many students may not be ready to return to sweating it out inside right now. 

“Hybrid” classes, offering live, online participation alongside the in-person instruction are a popular option as fitness businesses roll out staged, safe reopenings. 

"I offer one hybrid class a day, and the response has been great", says Karen George, founder of Big Tree Studio in New Zealand.

There are 3 keys to successfully setting up hybrid classes.

1. Scheduling Your Classes for Online Booking

It’s easy to set up hybrid classes using your Punchpass fitness studio management software, thanks to our Zoom integration and simple class schedule set up process.

We suggest creating two separate classes, scheduled to run at the same time (of course), one with the word "Online" or "Virtual", and the other “In-Studio” at the end of the class title.

Karma Rae, who owns Yoga by Karma In New Zealand, currently limits in-studio instruction to 8 people while offering 6 online spots for each class.

Be sure to provide instructions in the class description for each type of student. Virtual students will want to know how they’ll get the Zoom link to join the class, and in-studio students will want a lot of instruction and reassurance about how to come back into your facility. 

Besides limiting numbers for in-person instruction, James Hasemer, owner of Central Yoga School in Surry Hills, Australia, notes that hand sanitizing and towels (to cover soft props) are important to his members.

For your in-studio classes, include instructions or a link to instruction on your website, for arriving, checking in, safely distancing and sanitizing before, during and after class. It would be a good idea to ask those coming to your studio to arrive way ahead of time – perhaps a minimum of 15 to 20 minutes before class starts. Everyone – including you and your staff – are bound to be a bit nervous and glitches tend to happen when brand new procedures are rolled out. 

2. Pricing

You’ve likely discounted or even offered your online classes for free or on a donation basis. Now is the time to return to a more formalized, paid pricing plan. You can continue to offer the online participants in your hybrid classes the opportunity to attend at their current “virtual class pass” rates. For those brave customers who return to your in-person classes, you may want to consider a discounted rate off of what your previous memberships, class passes and drop ins were before the coronavirus shut down. 

To encourage new student enrollment, and attract back students you’ve lost since shutting down, consider offering a “re-intro” deal and allowing members who paused or cancelled their memberships to have access to this for their return month. 

For example, at Green Monkey Yoga in Miami, FL, the studio is offering four to five hybrid classes a day where online students pay a $10 drop in, or use their virtual class packs, while in-person students are paying close to full price - $149/month for unlimited classes, but there’s a $59/mo “re-intro” offer. 

3. Class Setup

You may have been hosting online Zoom classes live – or pre-recording content – during the shutdown, so hopefully your video skills are camera ready as you move to hybrid classes. However, there are a few big differences you’ll need to adjust for. 

First, think about your camera angle. If possible, you want to be able to set up your filming device so that online participants can see you and the small group that’s in the room with you. This builds a sense of community and might encourage those at home to be brave enough to try coming back in person. Ideally, if you can have a camera mounted high in the corner of the room, and link it to your laptop or other streaming device, this gives a panoramic view. 

The next best option is to set up, and test with one or two willing volunteers, placing your camera or laptop up high on a pedestal, again, at a corner angle so that online participants can see you and the students. Remember, social distancing does not allow for you to walk the room, so plan to teach from one spot and make sure that the students at home can see your full body. Also, you’ll need to avoid touching or adjusting your in-person students, so hone those verbal cue skills! 

Be sure to test sound and light if you haven’t been filming from inside your studio. 

You’ll have a lot to deal with when bringing in students to your classroom for the first few weeks, so allow lots of extra time for new sign in procedures, showing students their new socially distanced areas, giving instructions on in class and after class procedures. Get all of this done before you hit go live on your Zoom screen for the folks at home. 

Don't forget to encourage community by facilitating interaction between the in-studio and at-home groups. 

Double bonus points if you record the class and post it to your Punchpass online content library.

What a great way for your community to see itself coming back together and healing!