By 2019, I had been training older adults (aged 60+) in a class or small group training format, for more than 25 years. We enjoyed and relied on friendships and the fun we had in our group training. Then came COVID-19.
Most of my clients received the terms of lockdown quite well and willingly closed themselves indoors. Especially knowing that it was the older adults who had the highest mortality rates.
So, it looked like no exercise classes for my groups.
But with no income, something had to change. I had to pivot and move forward. I had to find something where my clients would remain accountable and still feel they were important in their group setting.
The answer was Zoom.
Adopting Zoom may not seem like a big to deal to many, but among the older community, Zoom was new, scary and beyond their technical understanding. Despite the challenges, I knew that most clients were comfortable with online shopping, so there was hope.
The first thing I had to do was move off the free Zoom plan and on to a paid plan as I needed more than the 40-minute sessions that came with the free plan.
Secondly, I had to find the best place to Zoom from. I set up computers, microphones, Bluetooth, TVs and lights in my loungeroom first, and then the dining room, but eventually moved into a spare bedroom, so I didn’t need to keep setting up and taking things down.
To attract customers, I sent out an email offering FREE Zoom classes to anyone who was interested, and reasons why they should keep their fitness up. I attached a “How to get started with Zoom” word document and gave them opportunity to contact me any time to ask for help – I figured ‘why not?’ since I was in lockdown and had nothing else to do! I said they could contact me any way they like, and most contacted me by phone. Importantly, I assured them that I would be patient and they could ask any questions along the way.
So, my FREE classes started with only three or four people attending but as the weeks went by, the numbers grew. After four weeks, I started charging for classes and by the end of lockdown, I had half of my clients on board.
And so, here’s where it got interesting for me.
When we could return to face-to-face classes, I made a big deal out of it. Most of the clients that had not been attending the Zoom sessions were straight back in. Surprisingly, only half of those that attended the Zoom sessions came back for the face-to-face classes!
It was that simple.
Some clients just didn’t want to take the risk of catching COVID. Even though we made it clear we were taking every precaution; we had the COVID marshal, we did the cleaning, we QR-coded, wore masks, the lot. But they were still wary and didn’t want to take the risk. Zoom was the safest option for them.
I had a few clients who did not want to be vaccinated, so it suited them as there were no questions asked with Zoom; they can just show up and be a participant.
Lastly, there were the clients who were caring for someone at home. They found that they didn’t want to take the time to come to class, nor could they afford the risk of becoming ill and passing it on. These clients, in particular, relied on my Zoom classes to keep themselves well, mentally and physically, so they could care for their partners. There is a surprising number of older adults who are caring for someone and so don’t have the opportunity to get out as much as they would like.
So now, two years on and my business has diversified to include Zoom as a standard offering. I have learned a lot and now provide a service that I knew nothing about prior to COVID. I feel that I am making myself more available and valuable to my community by offering greater accessibility to fitness classes.
Diversifying my business to keep the Zoom classes has opened a door for me. I now have the time to walk my dog on the beach before I fire up my computer and deliver Zoom classes. This enables me to then travel to my face-to-face classes, which now don’t start until 10am. This routine gives me variety and I find I get that valuable hit of happy hormones early in the morning, which tends to last me all day!
Based in Narooma (NSW), Nancy is a fitness and functional ageing specialist and the owner of Older Fitter Better. With more than 25 years’ experience in personal training, group exercise, post-rehabilitation, and now brain training, Nancy believes in keeping exercise fun and social. Nancy has a Degree in Health Science (Health and Leisure), Diploma in Fitness, Certification in Rehabilitation and Brain Training and has worked on programs such as Beat it, for Diabetes Australia, and the New Moves Mental Health program.