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Personal trainer Michelle Furniss is all about the connection between client and trainer. She says that just as we like to get on with our hairdressers, it’s so important to vibe with your fitness support.
Instructors to gyms are what hairdressers are to hair salons. This is the lens through which we should view our fitness instructors. As a service based industry, the quality of our individual instructors, and how they function as part of a team, is not only vital to the success of the centre, but to genuinely improving the health outcomes – both mental and physical – of gym goers.
2020 saw the fitness industry upended. As gyms and fitness clubs shuttered their doors in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, fitness fanatics turned their bedrooms and broom closets into makeshift workout areas. With this, we saw technology take on a much more prominent role in the daily workout routines of the nation. And while many club instructors quickly shifted to remote, Zoom-based sessions, there’s no denying that there was some stiff competition from all-digital platforms, with their pre-recorded workouts or virtual cycling tracks, separating instructors from their beloved – and typically loyal – customers.
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While this trend seems to have continued into early 2021, as lockdowns have eased, gym goers are more than ever seeing the value in hands-on, interactive classes – led by instructors who can truly keep them accountable. The service of providing tailored classes, where instructors can marry up their specific skills and specialisms to match an individual’s unique needs or goals, does not have a digital comparison.
Put simply, while a gym’s reputation or swanky-looking equipment may get people through the door initially, it is the instructors that keep them coming back.
That’s not to say we can disregard the importance of having a digital offering altogether. We know many gyms would not have survived without turning to online programmes during COVID-19. And similarly, many Australians would have simply abandoned their fitness ambitions.
We should consider technology as part of an integrated approach in the fitness ecosystem. Online classes can provide a great supplement to the in person experience, especially for those that still may not feel comfortable attending a gym in person. For those that are ready and eager to head back, online programmes and services can be used as an add on – ensuring people are building on their time spent in the gym – whether that be nutritional advice and meal plans, additional exercise, low-intensity stretches, or a relaxing yoga class.
It would also be remiss to not appreciate the many apps and technologies that provide instructors an avenue to focus on their true skills rather than dealing with the class bookings administration that comes with a role of working in a fitness centre. From rostering to class schedules, there are now technologies that ensure fitness instructors can spend more time doing what they do best – improving the health and wellness of members.
With instructors able to focus on motivating, inspiring and retaining customers, and services that allow intuitive booking, membership and payment technologies, the process for a modern day fitness centre is frictionless.
One of Australia’s most well known instructors and club owners, Mel Tempest, is not only one of the sector’s most staunch advocates, but also someone who exemplifies the impactful role instructors play in people’s fitness journeys. Her commitment and dedication to the fitness industry and her clients mirrors that of her peers. She too, understands that while not all instructors are perfect, the industry remains as strong as it has due to the invaluable contribution instructors continue to play in the everyday lives of many.
As she so eloquently puts, “People drive people. There’s nothing like the exchange of energy between an instructor and a class, when a group of individuals are moving collectively to the beat of the music, pushing them to not only compete with themselves, but spur each other on to achieve results. And although technology cannot replace the human touch, the reality is we all love to try something new and so it can be complementary to many gym goers. For instance wearable technology, that monitors performance and results in real-time and holds you to account when someone physically cannot do so. But ultimately, connection, community and culture will always win, and that’s why instructors will always remain the lifeblood of the fitness industry.”
Now more than ever, we’ve come to recognise the true value in the trainer-client relationship. No individual’s fitness experience is the same, and building a relationship with one’s trainer allows for a nurturing and adaptive programme, where you can grow together, learn together and meet and exceed goals, together, display vulnerability and growth with their trainer.
They say never underestimate the power of a good haircut, but really what we’re saying is never underestimate the power of a good hairdresser. The same can certainly be said for our fitness trainers!
Michelle Furniss is a certified personal trainer, qualified group fitness instructor and CCO of Health and Fitness, Australia/New Zealand at Xplor.