Engagement strategies to maintain your community virtually

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Written by Rhodie Lorenz
Co-founder JoyRide Fitness

 

“Hello from the other side!” – Adele (and me). 

As a group fitness studio owner and instructor I am used to being in-house amidst the ongoing traffic of friendly faces walking in the door, pounding music, killer workouts, and endorphin-peppy showered riders stepping out ready for the day’s adventure. 

My company JoyRide is a local cycling and fitness studio with seven locations split between CT and TX. We have a team of positive and highly energetic instructors and staff who work hard to build an inclusive community where we are all on the same side, creating a collective community of joy together. And now in the midst of a pandemic, our community is tested in new ways to create joy together, and we are doing it virtually, but still together, every day.

In this unprecedented time of a global pandemic and social isolation group fitness has come to a screeching halt. Instead, boutique fitness studios are exploring ways to stay connected to the communities they built and deliver quality classes to their loyal clients.

Social isolation is a challenge for us all, but for those of us who work and participate in group fitness, the lack of personal interaction and personalization of workouts feels gloomy. Boutique fitness is designed to offer a social connection through specialized high-quality workouts that are inherently different from the solo experience of lacing up your sneakers for a run or riding on your home stationary bike to your predictable playlist in your basement. 

For those of us who wake up motivated to be in community with our team and sweat it out in the darkness to another remix of Destiny’s Child Survivor, creating an inspirational gym in the corner of our homes and apartments is challenging at best. So, what’s a boutique studio and our isolated members to do? 

Stay connected. And schedule that connection every day. 

While we may argue that just like there’s no “I” in team, there is also no “isolation” in group fitness, and in this moment, we’re lucky to have many tools to stay connected with both our communities of instructors and staff as well as our loyal clients. Here are a few ways that JoyRide is staying connected.

  1. Zoom and Instagram. We are fortunate to have access to live technology at minimal to no cost. Everyday JoyRide has a live schedule of classes on Zoom and Instagram Live platforms that the public can sign up for or log into at 9:15 EST and 10:00 with a few evening classes mixed in. We have programmed these classes as 30 minute (primarily off-the-bike bodyweight workouts) cross-training classes including formats such as Pilates fusion, tabata, and cardio. While it’s not the same as setting up your mat and grabbing your weights next to your weekly workout buddy, you know they are in it with you, in real time, staying accountable. You see them in their Brady Bunch Zoom box on the screen in sync with you and all the other people in boxes. You hear instructors shout out encouragement to Elizabeth and Peter, and give water breaks so everyone can refuel for the next round. Instructors have been inspired by the demand for the services even when we’re all at home, and the gratitude from their clients as they guide them through daily workouts so they can continue to receive the necessary both the mental and physical benefits. In what ways has your studio used social media or Zoom to stay connected and keep a schedule for your community?
  2. ForteFit. JoyRide has been a long time partner of ForteFit a platform that streams live classes from studios all over the country and maintains an on-demand library of previously recorded classes. During the pre-Covid days, JoyRide streamed 12-15 classes a week. Due to our social isolation, and as an owner of JoyRide, I am now the only instructor coaching our signature cycling classes four times a week to stay connected with our riders at home. The real time connection is most valuable at this time. Teaching indoor cycling to an empty room initially felt lonely, but knowing the riders who are with me on the other end of the lens has provided tremendous meaning in my days and connection that reminds me we are in this together and still going. Are there platforms beyond social media that you can use to connect to your community?
  3. Renting or selling equipment. JoyRide is an indoor cycling studio that offers complementary off-the-bike classes such as Circuit and Pilates. When we began offering Zoom and instagram classes, many of our riders did not have stationary bikes at home. No surprise, they thrive in the pack, in the darkness with Survivor cranking and personal shouts by favorite instructors that they “got this.” We rented bikes to our instructors who wanted to stay in cycling shape and teach Zoom classes from home, and we sold an older fleet of bikes from one of our studios to our clients so they could join us on our Zoom and Forte classes. Do you have equipment that you can rent or sell to keep your community engaged with your content?
  4. Socialize remotely. Group fitness is inherently social and bonding. In addition to working out together, we build friendships and learn about each others’ triumphs and struggles. In a time where we are confined to our homes alone or with the same people every day, the need to stay socially connected is essential. JoyRide holds weekly Thursday evening Zoom happy hours with staff from CT to TX where we can connect and see each other. In fact, we recently started a Friday evening “team teach” with Magen and myself that is a combo happy hour AND Pilates class. So, you get to drink champagne (BYOC) while you knock out the 100 and the ab series. I also began a Leaders in JOY series with JoyRiders who inspire me, including my sister, Ruth Zuckerman (co-founder of Soul Cycle and Flywheel), an ICU nurse at Lenox Hill, a preacher and a few instructors, bringing them together to discuss tools they use to inspire joy on a daily basis.  Additionally, riders and instructors share daily texts and FaceTimes to check in and commiserate on the loads of laundry or the 5th grade homeschooling science project that isn’t going so well. We recently had one of our OG riders celebrate a milestone birthday and a group of instructors and riders organized a “drive by”car parade with signs, balloons and a lot of loud honking through the neighborhood. While the online workouts are the main focus of staying connected, are you incorporating ways to engage socially and hear and share experiences with your staff and members?

 

There will be a time when our quarantine will be a memory of the past, and our studio doors will open to the bustle of the people and the electric energy of our classes. Until then, we have an opportunity to show our communities another side of our brand, the side that is resourceful in keeping the individual members fit and part of our collective group. It is after all, the sum of our individual and isolated shy, boisterous, dedicated, social, funny, driven and supportive members that make up the unique and irreplaceable other “home” we call JoyRide. We can still reach and engage with them through technology and our unstoppable human spirits. 

Gotta turn the music up and keep preaching, “I’m not gon’ stop, I’m gon’ work harder / I’m a survivor, I’m gonna make it /I will survive, keep on survivin’.” 

Keep on. Everyday. Keep on.

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