Experience

The Importance of an Online Fitness Community During COVID-19

Jenny20Weller
Jenny Weller
04 May 20
11 min read
woman doing online workout

An online community for your members is not necessarily a new concept. The best way to connect with your members outside of class hour is usually online. A common example is through a chat group like Whatsapp or Facebook Messenger. This allows you to keep all your members updated and crucially, allows them to connect with each other, strengthening the bonds of community. 

Now the coronavirus pandemic has increased the need to connect digitally. There’s huge power in an online fitness community. It can create a sense of belonging, commitment, support, and teamwork.  By fostering a supportive community unique to your brand, you can connect like-minded members with similar goals.

A sense of camaraderie can do wonders for motivation. Just because you can’t physically connect with members, it doesn’t mean you can’t support and motivate them. In this article, we will discuss ways you can create and nurture an online fitness community your members will love. 

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Why Should You Create a Virtual Fitness Community?

Sometimes members will have days where the last thing they want to do is work out. During this time of uncertainty, they may feel this way more often than not. As we all know it’s easy to talk yourself out of exercise. Therefore a virtual support network is extremely valuable for your members when you’re trying to make positive changes to their health and fitness. Here are a couple of key reasons why you should create and maintain a virtual fitness community. 

Motivation and Support 

When it comes to exercise and getting fit, motivation is especially important. It’s that inner desire that keeps pushing you to hit your goals. When your members lack motivation, they stop putting the effort in, stop seeing results, and eventually stop being members. It’s your job to motivate and support members. An online fitness community can help motivate members. Words of encouragement from trainers and other members could be just what members need to get moving. That group mentality and not feeling alone creates an environment of support. 

Inspiration  

Watching someone accomplish something you thought was impossible is very inspiring. This is especially true when the person is just a regular member like you. An online fitness community is a great place to showcase member results and progress. All of this helps to inspire other members to do the same. When a person refuses to give up and keeps pushing themselves, share this with your community. 

Accountability 

Accountbalily is really one of the key differentiators when it comes to retaining your members as you move online. As Alex Hormozi said in a recent episode of our podcast, people pay for you to pay attention. Accountability makes sure your members stay on course to reach their goals and get results. And if they are getting results, they are more likely to remain a member.  In addition to the usual accountability tactics, an online community is a great way to keep your members accountable. When members feel accountable for their actions, they are more likely to hit the mat and work out at home.  

Flexible and Convenient  

Even in your normal day-to-day lives before coronavirus, not everyone has the chance to hit the gym every day. At-home workouts are now massively popular, but many people still crave the support of a community at a time that suits them. Being able to jump on a Facebook group or app when you’re looking for advice and support at a convenient time is very beneficial for members. 

4 Online Fitness Communities to Inspire You 

If you want to stick to a lifestyle change, whether it’s eating more healthily or improving your fitness, virtual fitness communities can help you achieve your goals. Here are five brands that have nailed their online fitness communities and developed the perfect environment to share, connect, and grow. 

MyFitnessPal

The free smartphone app and website help users to track daily calorie and nutrient intake. You can log meals easily with a database of over five million foods. You can also link MyFitnessPal to your Jawbone, Fitbit, or Apple Watch. The MyFitnessPal community has thousands of groups and forums you can join to share stories, track progress, and find an accountability partner. 

Fitbit 

The online fitness community revolves around the brand’s wearables that track things like steps, fitness, and distance traveled. You have the option to join interest-based groups like Training for a 5K. The Fitbit community is in the app where you can access news, connect with friends, and find new groups. 

Bodyspace  

Bodyspace is the social networking arm of bodybuilding.com. It specifically targets weight lifters and bodybuilders who want to increase performance and add more tools to their training. The free online fitness community connects like-minded lifters and bodybuilders. The platform also features a database of fitness plans you can use to track your progress. Members are encouraged to support others, connect, and help each other meet goals.  

Strava   

Strava’s website and mobile app connect millions of runners and cyclists. Strava has a global community that brings together athletes from all over the world. The app allows you to share your workouts easily with friends and family. The Strava feed keeps friends updated on your activities and allows you to give kudos and comment on friends’ activities. You can create all types of clubs and groups through Strava to help build online communities.  

8 Ways to Develop and Nurture an Online Fitness Community 

People love to feel involved and part of something bigger than themselves. When you feel part of a team, it can help you accomplish so much more. But, how do you foster community? What steps do you need to take to develop an online fitness community for your brand? Let’s talk about the ways you can establish and nurture your fitness community. 

1. Define Your Mission and Understand Your Niche 

Your mission is the reason you started your online fitness community in the first place. This will likely support your overall business goals and mission. Think about the reason members will join your community and why they will stay. Your fitness community should live and breathe your mission. Your mission should be echoed in every post and piece of content you push through. 

In reality community isn’t going to be made up of everyone who wants to get fitter. Start understanding and really define your niche. Your niche will be based on your fitness brand. Are your members’ gym pros or do they need your help and guidance? If your mission is to help your members eat more healthily, pushing bodybuilding content onto your community isn’t going to work. Instead, you would focus on recipes, healthy food swaps, and nutritional advice. Your mission and your niche help to define your community and give you direction. All of this should tie in with your brand values and goals.  

2. Develop a Community Culture Unique to Your Brand 

As a business owner or fitness professional, you can create a community based on a certain culture. This culture should reflect your morals, principles, and values. The culture you create in your online fitness community will either attract or push away members. Community members will respond to the group’s belief system. Think about the words that describe your brand culture such as innovative, friendly, transparent, or fun. Your community should be unique to your brand and the culture you have created.   

3. Be Inclusive 

It can be scary to join a group as a newbie. As your online community grows, members will bring in new faces to the squad. As a fitness community leader, it’s important to make your digital space inviting and welcoming. Make it clear what new members can expect from you and the group and how it will support and motivate them to be fitter and healthier. 

Nike + Run Club has created a thriving online community. They have created a space that’s open to all levels of runners to connect and interact with each other. The community is highly-inclusive and non-judgemental. They have based their culture around the idea that anyone can start running at any time. These values and inclusivity have helped underpin their success.  

4. Think About Communication Channels 

Where will your community interact and how will you engage with community members? Companies like Fitbit, Nike + Run Club, and Strava have apps that members can use to access the community part of the fitness brand. While other brands use their own website or make use of social media. There are different options when it comes to your online community platform. To start with, a private Facebook group is a great place to create an online community with a select amount of members. You have full control over who joins. This is beneficial while you refine your community management process and content.  

5. Offer Personalized Support 

Some of the most successful online fitness communities listen and respond to their members’ needs. They offer support and advice when members need it. A fantastic way to keep your members engaged and within your community is by offering personalized support. 

Set up discussion posts and FAQ pages. Make sure that your members can message you or contact you with queries. Spend time answering questions on community boards. Have conversations online and put the effort into nurturing relationships with community members.  

6. Maintain Your Online Community 

Once you set up your community, you need to maintain it. Once a community has a solid foundation with lots of members, they become a lot more self-sufficient. But you will need to interact and engage with your online community to nurture its development. 

You can either maintain your online community yourself or hire a manager to run and maintain it on behalf of your brand. Communicate with your members regularly and keep them engaged and connect with one another. 

7. Switch Up Your Content 

Keep your content varied to keep community members engaged. If your mission is to help members run their first 5K, think about how your content will support your mission. Even if you’re mainly focused on workouts, posting about post-workout nutrition is still super useful and beneficial to your community members. 

Think about switching up your content using things like recipe videos, workouts, blogs, nutritional advice, and general fitness educational posts. Whether you’re starting a discussion on a Facebook group or starting a new online fitness challenge, encourage community members to contribute content too. Encourage members to provide feedback, to share before and after photos, suggestions for content, and what they would like to see from you to feel even more supported online.  

8. Leaderboards, Challenges, and Contests 

Create leaderboards, challenges, and contests to raise the level of competition within your online community. Contests and challenges are a great way to fire up a sense of competition in the group. For members who thrive off of competition, the challenge of getting to the top of the leaderboard is enough to get them moving. One example is the Fitbit leaderboard that compares your weekly and lifetime steps with your friends to show where you rank on the board. 

Adidas’s recent #HOMETEAM campaign is another excellent example of an online fitness community that is fully on brand. The fitness brand is all about powering through together and using their community as a way to lift people’s spirits at a time they need it most. With the Fit From Home Challenge, virtual events, and live indoor training sessions hosted by community members, Adidas are leaning on their community and pulling members together to stay fit from home and keep working out. While at the same time, they are linking to sportswear to encourage community members to make a purchase.  

In Summary 

Whether you’re a personal trainer, own a yoga studio or boutique fitness club, an online community can have a powerful impact. Nowadays, community is everything, and developing a safe digital space for your community is so crucial. By developing and creating an online fitness community unique to your brand, you can increase brand awareness while offering support and motivation to your virtual squad.