The companies defining home fitness post-pandemic — The Forecast — Quartz

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Looking at Peloton’s performance this year alone, you might think the home workout trend is on its last legs. As society reopened, people rushed to join friends in in-person gym classes, rush alongside hundreds of others in marathons, or just generally enjoy outdoor activities. It’s the same kind of pent-up boom seen in industries like travel and weddings.

But the home workout industry is going nowhere. This summer, the pendulum will swing toward gyms and outdoor activities, according to industry insiders, but after that consumers will partly return. As with work, the new balance will include a new “hybrid” approach to exercise.

When the pandemic forced people to stay home, fitness providers quickly rushed to deliver digital content. Sometimes it was as simple as a trainer from an independent studio streaming exercises live from their living room, but a handful of companies have taken home workouts one step further. Peloton was the breakout star leading the pack, but Lululemon also provided home workout options through Mirror, a smart gym mirror that streams classes on demand. And concepts like Tonal use a dynamic weight system to recreate a compact yet complete gym.

Wearable devices like Whoop and Oura, meanwhile, allowed instructors to check whether someone was really increasing their heart rate or counting the number of repetitions, even if their client was in a different location or time zone.

But now the industry is moving towards “hybridization” of workouts, in which people will do a combination of in-person and at-home fitness.

With the specter of more covid waves yet to come, the strongest players in practice probably can’t afford to just focus on one format or the other. “It’s going to be a marriage of the two,” says Carson Caprara, vice president of Brooks Running.

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A weightlifter trains at home in front of a screen.

Image copyright: Tonal

Tonal’s home gym.

Three eras of fitness

Charles Beck is said to have established the first gymnasium in the United States in 1825. For much of its history, the value of a gymnasium came from space and equipment. A gym looking to grow its membership usually did so by increasing the number of physical locations.

Starting in the 2010s, boutique fitness exploded, shifting the value of place and material to connection and personality. More than a workout or a brand name, an inspirational and charismatic instructor became the main attraction. This shift propelled workouts like SoulCycle and Crossfit into the mainstream.

The current era of fitness, which has accelerated during the pandemic, further minimizes physical locations. While gyms still have a role to play, the focus today is on interdependence and personalization. It’s about meeting the consumer wherever they want to train, whether at home, in a gym or on the road, for 10 minutes or two hours, and at the intensity they want.


Platoon: Arguably the leader in home gear, its expensive stationary bikes were a top-selling item during the pandemic. But the company is struggling to maintain momentum and recently announced a big shift away from hardware and into digital content through its app.

🪞 Mirror: The Lululemon-owned smart mirror is the athleisure brand’s first foray into hardware. Besides its own content, the company has signed up with a variety of fitness providers to join the platform.

🎮 Zwift: This cycling workout is part of a wave of playful fitness concepts. Users are immersed in a multiplayer competition by pedaling with their avatar on a virtual course.

📣Coming: This app matches people with a 1:1 private coach, who then creates personalized workouts for the client based on their schedule and environment.

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“Gyms and studios will no longer be the center of a fitness seeker’s universe. Instead, they will be a spokesperson in the exercise ecosystem, making way for a new kind of ‘fitness set,’” said Joe Vennare, co-founder of Fitt Insider, a website that tracks the industry.

“Nutrition, health data and mental wellbeing will also be part of these bundles, going beyond fitness, as retailers like Lululemon and tech giants like Apple bring exercise into the mainstream. their ecosystems, redefining what it means to be a fitness company in the first place. ”

Vennare added that the new flexibility and customization options will entice the general public to begin their fitness journey. Although the pandemic has encouraged people to prioritize their health more, the CDC reports that a quarter of Americans are sedentary.

“From gaming to VR to outdoor exercise, omnichannel options, and everything coming from the metaverse, it’s all of the above,” Vennare said. “Because we obviously need a lot more solutions that appeal to a lot more different types of people to meet them where they are on this fitness journey.”

While providing a sense of community is something that can be a compelling selling point, Rishi Mandal, CEO of Future, told Quartz that what’s crucial is actually balance. Successful concepts will accommodate when the user just wants alone time to sweat it out, but can also change it to a social experience if they feel like it.

Connected devices and software, whether it’s a Fitbit, Strava, smart treadmill, or a combination of all of these, can help optimize tailored workouts for each individual, said Scott Hayton, associate partner at McKinsey, in a report studying the sector. For example, if someone slept poorly, “Imagine if your sleep data was connected to your exercise service or your exercise bike so that when you got on your bike, you received a course designed for someone. ‘one who had a bad night’s sleep,” Hayton said. “Or imagine your refrigerator starting giving you ‘Don’t make coffee’ suggestions, for example.”

📣 sound off

Do you prefer to train…

With a private digital coach at home

During a group lesson in person

Alone without an instructor

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—Tiffany Ap, How We Spend reporter (and Ashtangi prodigal)

One 🛀 thing

Holistic wellness practices such as meditation and sound baths represent only a small fraction of the overall fitness and nutrition market, but they are accelerating. While self-care has typically been a solo activity or something shared only among loved ones, like a mother-daughter spa date, there’s a tendency to make it a gathering place as well. Concepts like Remedy Place, which describes itself as a “social wellness club,” provide a tempting, toxin-free venue for a date, birthday party, or company outing. “We understand the importance of human connection,” said founder Jonathan Leary, “and use it to not only enhance the benefits of treatments, but also to enhance the connection with who you enjoy it.

Wiley C. Thompson