Online fitness is here to stay

While COVID-19 has forced lots of businesses to reorganise, few sectors have pivoted quite as quickly and successfully as health and fitness. From gym chains to personal trainers - businesses of all sizes have moved to a hybrid model where both in-person and online options are available for consumers.

Search interest in ‘workout online’ for the last five years with a severe spike when the first lockdown was announced.

“It’s not about bikini body goals, because who knows when we’re going to go on vacation again,” said Josh McCarter, chief executive officer of the fitness booking platform MindBody. “Covid-19 has pushed people to think about health more holistically.” - Bloomberg

While many consumers will undoubtedly return to their pre-pandemic routines, many will continue to workout online and from home. So when Lily Lifestyle requested some help systemising her now, online Fit Camp I knew it was a business model and system I wanted to explore. At the time Lily’s Fit Camp was the perfect MVP; a paid for Facebook Group which was working for its members but required a lot of manual administration. Hence these were our priorities for a version one:

Build priorities

  • Functionality: Live workout streams, workout video library, gated by a monthly subscription
  • Reduce administrative burden by automating: onboarding, monthly billing and video management.

Required tools

  • Webflow, Vimeo, Memberstack, Integromat, AddEvent

Note: Memberstack may not be required for newer, similar projects as Webflow rolls out its Membership functionality.

I’ll continue from the beggining just incase you arent familar with Webflow but if you are you can skip this bit.

Why Webflow

When I was initially exploring this build I considered Wordpress as an option for the CMS. While I am experienced with Wordpress, Webflow and frontend development, the backend is something I like to outsource. Now while there are many great hosting services for Wordpress - I reccomend Cloudways - I felt fully outsourcing this to Webflow was the right thing to do. I knew the website traffic would be somewhat sporadic, with potentially thousands of users logging on to watch the day's live workout. This allowed me and Lily to focus solely on the members’ experience and also, due to Webflow’s blank canvas, create something truly purpose built.

Favourite Webflow features:

  • Auto scaling hosting - managed by Webflow
  • Superfast load times - a huge factor for SEO performance and user experience
  • Easy to use CMS - ideal for handover to the client
  • Easy to plugin in automation tools like Integromat - making it easier to automate administrative tasks
  • Advanced control of HTML and CSS - necessary for making it beautiful

The business model

These are the two most popular business models for a paid, online fitness business: 

  1. Broadcast live workouts + back catalog them in a library for members to watch when they want. Works with subscription payments.
  2. Upload prerecorded workout video organised into a specific plan. Works with one-off payments.

A hybrid of 1 +2 can work particularly well if 2 can serve as a funnel for 1. Anyway, while Zoom and Facebook Groups + Live can work well as MVPs, they do not succinctly allow businesses to execute either of these models at a reasonable scale. Even with Facebook’s new Subscription add on for Groups, I would advise businesses to own their data and instead use a tool like Vimeo with a custom front end like Webflow.

MVP = minimum viable product. It is the most basic version of a new product. Just enough to prove there is demand for your product and obtain feedback from (potential) customers.

How Webflow works with Vimeo for an online fit camp

Vimeo not only allows us to stream live workouts to a gated page on our Webflow website but it also hosts and organises all of our workout videos. After each live workout the instructor simply puts the newly recorded video into the appropriate folder. From there it is picked up by Integromat and a new CMS item is created in Webflow. Even the metadata is automatically populated - video length, date and category. The final step, which Integromat can also perform is to let your audience know the video is uploaded and ready to watch. Right now this is a social media post but we are now also exploring some automated email options too.

Integromat is an automation tool which allows you to pass data between apps such as Vimeo and Webflow based on certain triggers.

The result of all this? Everything is incredibly simple for all parties involved. Of course this system is far from pushing the technological boundaries of any of these tools but in my opinion it has achieved something which so few custom systems actually end up doing: reducing their owner’s administrative burden.

Add Event

Another feature which we are proud of that the members value too is provided by AddEvent, a calendar tool. It allows instructors to create workout timetables which we not only embed on the website but calendars that members can sync with their own (iCal, Outlook, 365 and so on). Nothing ground breaking by any means and we could improve the process for adding workouts to the calendar, but it works well for the members.

Incremental automation and improvement

Looking forward we are going to continue automating what we can and actioning member feedback. Fortunately we can do this quickly and easily thanks to our setup and I hope to add to this blog as and when. On this note if you have any questions or would like to explore working with me, please message me using the details below.