How COVID-19 Exposed the Flaws in the Fitness Industry

How COVID-19 Exposed the Flaws in the Fitness Industry

On February 24th, OPEX Founder James FitzGerald posted this coach tip on social media:

“So you are 3 years into coaching, now have a podcast, “success,” and are teaching folks how to “scale it” online; Stop it! Go back to teaching people, in person, how to move, towards autonomy, for another 10-15 years, then come back and attempt to teach others the “good word.” We need better craftspersons in fitness coaching, not technician to perceived master jumpers; and ironically, you will be more efficient when you come back and actually make sense.”

Ironically, here we are a month later and all we have are online coaches and podcasts, right? 


FitzGerald elaborated on exactly what he was referring to in his coach tip on February 24th:

“The tip was in context to the prevailing notion that the fitness coaching profession is like a Google search, and is alarmingly embedded inside the gig economy concept now—i.e. get in, get rich, exit,” he said. “So the clamoring and money is all spent right now on, ‘Over here, me, me, me, over here…Wohoo!’…everyone promising all they need as a coach is a sweet marketing and messaging plan and a podcast and voila: Mastery!”

FitzGerald added: “That is a pipe dream. No one speaks about the absolute failures in this approach, because our industry is not regulated, watched, supervised. It’s rape and pillage.”

Thus, his overarching point was simply to ask coaches to “get in the trenches and learn and really help people in person” first. And then maybe you have the ability to preach via an insightful podcast.

Luckily, this is exactly what OPEX coaches have been doing for years. 

They have been:

  • developing real relationships with human beings, 
  • performing one-on-one assessments to figure out their clients’ needs,
  • conducting lifestyle consults to uncover their clients’ true intention and goals,
  • building individualized programs for them to improve their health, fitness and lifestyle, and ultimately
  • helping their clients achieve real success, which results in RETAINING these clients for years. 

COVID-19 is Exposing the Flaws in the Fitness Industry

So while OrangeTheory gyms all around close and put up messages like this Vancouver, B.C. Orange Theory did when they closed on March 16:

Your memberships will be put on an immediate freeze for the duration of the closure, with your billing and usage cycle reactivating upon the studios open. While this was not an easy decision to make, to ensure the safety of our members and staff we felt it was required to do so

OPEX coaches continue to service their clients through individual program design and lifestyle consults through this pandemic and beyond.

How OPEX Coaches Can Deliver Their Service During This Pandemic and Beyond

Here’s why they can:

OPEX clients didn’t buy a hard workout in a group class setting. They bought a professional relationship with a coach, who mentors them, educates them and guides them to take personal responsibility and develop autonomy over their own health and fitness for life.

Here’s what Julie Migliaccio, the owner of OPEX Gold Coast in Norwalk, Connecticut, had to say:

“This is where the OPEX model really shines through. Almost all of our clients have been happy to have home workouts, and we lent out as much equipment (as we could), like kettlebells and dumbbells,” she said. “It has oddly been more work for us coaches, because we are really practicing the support piece more than ever now, providing more moral support and motivation, in addition to working double time to make workouts doable and motivating.”

She added: “We have found that more than half the clients want more workouts than usual.”

OPEX CPP Coach Andy Ewington, who lives in Dublin, Ireland, added this: “I am about the only coach in my area that’s still as busy as ever.”

Ewington rents space from another gym and trains his clients via individual program design and monthly consults. While he has maintained all of his clients, the gym where he rents space is experiencing hardship with clients wanting to put their memberships on hold or cancel.

“I guess because (the gym’s clients) expect gym access and classes, and they don’t feel like they will get their money’s worth from online classes. My clients signed up to a coaching package, which was never about gym access and they feel—(based) on a lot of comments (from them)—that this is a time they need me more because training is more difficult,” Ewington said. 

He admits there have been challenges with the facility closing, and expects there will continue to be, however; he has been able to mitigate any damage so far.

“My clients who were training for an event were a little frustrated at first. We had conversations around what we could do to preserve fitness qualities as much as possible, what to focus on while this was going on and things like that,” he said. “My longevity clients didn’t really need any conversations. They just let me know what they had access to (equipment-wise) and we went about the regular plan.”

Ewington continued: “For me, it (has) really been a bit of a non-issue, (other than) it created a high workload (for me) initially, because I had to start to do a lot of re-planning.” 

Though Ewington and his clients haven’t suffered yet, he is realistic about the fact that he may run into some issues when clients begin losing income and coaching services becomes less affordable. But so far, most clients are turning to him more than ever, and he expects this to continue for most of his clients. 

“If it turns into a longer ordeal, I can see myself potentially gaining clients”—clients who don’t have a place to train or who grow bored of online group classes, he explained. 

In recent days, Ewington said he has seen a lot of personal trainers offer free or discounted Facebook groups for online classes, which he doesn’t think have much of a shelf life should this pandemic carry on longer than we expect.

“I see them lasting until the novelty wears off, the same way that many people have RomWOD memberships and probably do one (session) per month. People will get bored, they’ll stop showing up to the live classes and quit,” he said.

The point is, now more than ever, people need a real coach in their corner, not a generic group program of home workouts, or a group class administered via Zoom, or an app that promises them sculpted abs by the end of this pandemic.

Consider this: Type 2 diabetes and obesity are two of the leading factors that increase your chances of developing a more severe case of the novel coronavirus. Nearly 40 percent of Americans are obese, and it is estimated that close to 35 million Americans have diabetes, with millions more going undiagnosed.

The charming dude with one year of experience, who has a podcast with 200,000 followers, or the latest fitness app offering generic fitness advice, has no chance of helping prevent or put chronic health problems into remission.

But the professional coach does. 

Take your first step to becoming a professional OPEX Coach today and sign up for our free Professional Coaching Blueprint.

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