- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 11, 2020

BOONE, N.C. — Greyson Summey, owner of Revolution Boone cycle studio, says her clients are “dying to get back” amid the coronavirus closure … so much so that breaking the law is not out of the question.

“The feedback I’m getting is, ‘we will spin illegally, please get us back in the studio,’” said Ms. Summey, whose gym opened last September.

To help keep them fit (and perhaps out of jail), she has created a Facebook group that allows customers to train at home via videos posted by her instructors two to four times a week. The videos help the 231 members of the page stay accountable at home, she says.

“If people aren’t going to be able to venture out and exercise in a gym, why not bring some sense of community to them?” she said.

Working out at home has moved way beyond the Jane Fonda VHS tapes of the ‘80s. Fitness YouTubers offer workouts via smartphones, laptops and TVs wherever and whenever a viewer might want to exercise. Some record workouts at home to edit and share with their subscribers, while others record at professional studios.

Most YouTubers make money from ads and sponsorships. At Revolution Boone, instructors are paid for each workout they record, just as they would for a cycle class.

Some smartphone apps, like Peloton and Nike Training Club, are subscription-based. Customers pay a monthly fee and participate in workouts on demand. Other chains, like Gold’s Gym and Orange Theory, stream workouts for free on their websites and social media accounts.

Planet Fitness, one of America’s largest fitness clubs, brought free fitness to its social media after gyms closed. The 15.5 million-member gym started its United We Move campaign in March within 48 hours of closing its clubs due to COVID-19.

The new program livestreams workouts every weekday evening at 7 p.m. on Facebook and YouTube, and the “home work-ins” have been viewed 20.3 million times according to McCall Gosselin, Planet Fitness’ senior vice president of communications.

Mr. Gosselin said that since launching United We Move, Planet Fitness’ Facebook followers have increased by 8.39% and YouTube subscribers have increased by 236%. On average, the program reaches 1.7 million people each day.

“The ‘home work-ins’ have and will continue to offer tools to combat stress, while providing motivation and inspiration sure to keep us all fit, especially as our daily routines have changed in unexpected ways and people may not be able to get to the gym,” Mr. Gosselin said.

On YouTube, average daily views of “home workout” videos have increased 515% since March 15, according to YouTube Trends.

A recent Pew Research Center study found that 18% of American adults have participated in some kind of online workout class during the pandemic. That’s just over 45.6 million adults, based on Census Bureau population data from 2018.

Cassey Ho runs the YouTube channel Blogilates, where she posts Pilates-inspired workouts for her 5.27 million subscribers. She said her views increased 220% during the months of March and April.

“Now, views are more in the normal range as more people have gone back to work or the gym. Videos focused on the abs have done really well but that’s always the case during spring/summer,” she said.

YouTube videos for “abs in two weeks” have gained more than 100 million views since March 15, according to YouTube Trends.

Ms. Ho says her workouts have always been mostly equipment-free, but as people transition to their new home space, many have maxed out investing in their own gear.

In 2018, North America’s strength and equipment market was valued at $5.24 billion, according to Statista, a German company that compiles statistics for market and opinion research.

Nautilus, which owns fitness brands like Bowflex and Schwinn, saw its strongest quarter in 18 months this spring, said company CEO Jim Barr.

“Net sales for the first quarter of 2020 were $93.7 million, up 11% versus the same quarter in 2019. The uptick was driven primarily by strong demand across the company’s brands, including Bowflex and Schwinn, in both strength and cardio products,” Mr. Barr said.

Mr. Barr says that the pandemic has brought consumers to his company’s products as they invest in their at-home gyms and cancel their gym memberships.

“We believe many will keep their options open by buying home equipment in case there is another wave or future virus,” he said. “There will be a temporary and a permanent component to the COVID-19 effect.”

In fact, 1 in 4 Americans say they won’t return to gyms when the pandemic ends, and more than 40% say they prefer their at-home gear to that of their regular gym, according to a June 2020 survey by online and mobile polling service OnePoll.

Briana Howell, 24, says she won’t return to her gym after purchasing a subscription to Beachbody On Demand, an at-home workout program.

“I get more out of this program than I would at the gym. The daily workouts are always different and going to the gym creates a routine which doesn’t create a challenge for my body,” said Ms. Howell, a sales operations specialist.

Bianca Ramos, 21, has used Facebook groups and YouTube to keep active during the pandemic. But “home workouts aren’t the same,” she says.

Ms. Ramos says that despite her anticipation to get back to the gym, she’ll wait until it’s “safe” to do so.

“It’s not the end of the world. I would rather be safe than sorry,” says Ms. Ramos, a student at Appalachian State University in Boone.

At Revolution Boone, Ms. Summey and her clients are waiting for the day that her doors reopen — not just to get their sweat on, but also to give back to the community.

Revolution Boone’s “pedal with purpose” motto goes beyond the studio. Each month, its cyclists nominate a local nonprofit to which the studio donates a portion of its profits.

“You’re working out for yourself, but you’re also working out for others,” said Ms. Summey, adding that the collective goal builds camaraderie among the cyclists.

“What makes Revolution Boone so special is the community here … the community is what really drives this business,” she says.

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