It feels a little strange trying to assess the state of an industry that has been completely turned upside down — with so much uncertainty still looming. So, to provide some insight into where we stand and what lies ahead, we turned to a prominent figure in our industry. Amy Boone Thompson is VP & GM of IDEA Health & Fitness Association, thought-leader and respected author and presenter. Here, she offers some guidance and advice as we move forward.
There’s great value in exploring our hierarchy of values like emotional development, economic goals, etc. While self-care is an important first step, how do we navigate the process?
One of the biggest blessings of 2020 was the ability to slow down, to reflect and to take inventory. Are you still connected to your purpose? Are you still passionate about the work you are doing, and are you making progress toward your goals as it relates to your role or to your business? If you are still committed, still connected and still aligned to the work you are doing, start there. Recommit yourself emotionally, mentally and intentionally. There are many businesses that saw a great deal of success in 2020, so I wouldn’t want to assume that everyone needs to recover and rebuild. But what I would suggest is to think carefully about your business model and how will you need to evolve to meet the needs of the consumer moving forward. Map a strategic plan taking into consideration all that we have learned and begin steps to follow your plan.
What are the biggest challenges for fitness professionals as we head into 2021?
Consumers are now conditioned to have fitness where and when they want it. They can find the modality and professional of their choice to meet with them anywhere in the world. To find and retain clients, you’ll need to consider how your business expands to offer tiered options for your clients where they can meet you online, in-person or simply follow your advice, coaching or program without meeting you at all. Diversify your approach to meet people where they are.
Following the pandemic, our clients, families and communities will need mental health support. Fitness professionals can partner with allied health professionals to have trusted referral systems in place. You can also take specialty courses and certifications to give you additional expertise for early identification and strategies.
What do you believe fitness professionals need to STOP doing in 2021?
Rethink the narrative and the marketing messages we use, and the story we tell in order to give fitness the essentialism it merits. This means sharing, highlighting and telling the stories of how we are improving health and how exercise improves life quality, mitigates disease and reduces mental health issues. Let’s tell more stories about how exercise makes you feel and move, and less about how it makes you look.
Where do you see opportunities for fitness professionals to invest more time, money and energy?
Find strength in knowing we are in this together; give yourself and others grace as we overcome, persevere and adapt. Reach out to other fitness professionals, club chains, studios and business owners and let’s unite so we can collectively welcome more people to our profession, and then, share the gifts of health & wellness with more people. That is how we can inspire the world! That’s the kind of change we need right now.
With the increase and appeal of fitness technology options, how do you see the role of the fitness professional evolving?
I view these as powerful tools to assist fitness professionals in facilitating results for more people. What has not changed is that ultimately clients need motivation. It doesn’t matter how many apps, streaming services or at-home equipment a person has; if they lack motivation to use it or to use it effectively to meet their goals, it is all useless.
What skillset(s) do you believe fitness professionals need to develop in order to adapt and succeed long-term?
Given the acceleration of online fitness and accessibility, the market is saturated with services to put fitness in our homes. Any fitness professional has access to tech to meet their clients anywhere in the world. But many trainers still lack foundational skills, they lack business skills and they lack confidence to enter a crowded space and survive. On top of all that, now fitness professionals need a new skillset of coaching remotely, intake, assessment, technique, cueing, they need business building strategies in social media for marketing/promotion, content delivery and platform, and they need more training in behavior modification/health coaching to address nutritional and mental health needs for holistic views of clients.
How do you see the current changes affecting the industry 5 years from now?
I don’t see us going backwards in terms of accessibility or availability. I am hopeful that these variables will attract more people to adopting healthy lifestyles and beginning or returning to exercise routines. If we can make it easier for someone to find something they love and will adhere to, then we can finally move the needle of more people exercising globally. There will be more and more technology available to help you achieve better results for your clients. More wearables to provide intelligence and more sophisticated equipment to appeal to more people. Seek to embrace these while providing the motivation and social connection your clients need.
What is your advice to newcomers in the industry?
We need every new fitness professional who wishes to enter the industry. No matter your path or entry point, you can grow from there. There’s a lot of advice I can give to help you enjoy long-term success in the fitness industry, but I would offer these two top tips in your first year. First, try to work with as many different types of clients as possible to gain experience. When you are faced with a new challenge or challenging client, research, learn and grow through the experience. Always be learning! Second, find a network of like-minded fitness professionals who will support, uplift and inspire you. Seek mentors and credible influencers who can provide guidance and motivation for you.