Is the future of fitness online? Here's what the instructors have to say

Some of Ireland's most popular trainers, including Maeve Madden, Aoife Hannon, and Rob Lipsett, chat about if home workouts are here to stay
Is the future of fitness online? Here's what the instructors have to say

Maeve Madden set up her Queens Don't Quit workout programme after the pandemic hit.

Gone are the days of waiting for machines or forcing yourself out the door at dawn, as gyms remain closed and we enter into another span of at-home summer workouts and online kettlebell bidding wars.

While fitness centres have been shut, however, some trainers have thrived by moving classes online. According to Garden of Life, some of the world’s best-known online instructors, such as Adriene Mishler of Yoga with Adriene and body coach Joe Wicks, made upwards of €700k to €2m last year. We chat to some of our homegrown fitness gurus about whether online coaching is here to stay.

‘You have to adapt’ 

Rob Lipsett fell in love with weight training as a rugby player in his school days, later qualifying as a personal trainer and giving advice to people on Facebook. Ten years later, the 29-year-old has his own app, a book, over 550k Instagram followers and 470k subscribers on YouTube.

"It started with writing Facebook posts about myths and fads," says the Dubliner. "I ended up gaining some good traction and from there I went to YouTube. I started talking about the same topics to the camera, as well as doing recipe and training videos, and it just kind of snowballed."

Because Rob was one of the first Irish trainers to really harness the power of the internet, business has been booming since the pandemic hit. He has had to reinvent many aspects of his coaching strategies, however.

A DECADE IN THE MAKING: Rob Lipsett was one of Ireland's first online trainers.
A DECADE IN THE MAKING: Rob Lipsett was one of Ireland's first online trainers.

"My whole business was already online based, but I've had to completely redevelop it. For example with my app, usually, people would use it in the gym. We had to strip it back so that, when you're filling out the questionnaire, you say if you're training at home and what equipment you have access to so that we can build people's plans around that," he says.

"You have to be a bit more creative with how you're going to apply progression to someone's training, but it is absolutely possible. You just always have to adapt and go with the times."

While hundreds of thousands have been following his home workouts over the past year, Rob does think that people will head back to the weights room once they can — if they don’t already have one at home.

"There's a lot of people who can't wait to get back to the gym, so there will be a little bit of a boom I think. But I also think there's a lot of people who are going to stick to at-home training," he says.

I've never seen so many people building home gyms. I know some of my friends who own equipment companies and their companies have blown up. They can't even keep stock

Rob does think that people will keep following the online trainers they've tuned into over the past year as well, with many looking to Instagram in particular.

"The rise of the swipe workout has been a huge trend in the fitness industry. When you go into the analytics, the engagement and shares on them are just crazy. The most powerful thing you can do to boost your page is having people save your post and the swipe workouts go down really well."

A community of ‘queens’ 

Maeve Madden knows all about how social media can boost business, having set up her Queens Don't Quit workout programme after the pandemic hit. The personal trainer and former Irish dancer, who spent three years professionally touring with shows such as Lord of the Dance, has since built up an online community of more than 330k people.

“I decided to become a trainer in 2015 when I first started talking about fitness on social media. I was already doing a lot of commercial modelling and fitness shoots, and it just seemed like the right progression for me,” the Down native says.

“When we first went into lockdown, I decided I would do some free live Instagram workouts. I started out with three a week, which then grew to nine a week. I really enjoyed it. Not only was it giving structure to my day, but I really believe it helped a lot of people in that first lockdown and continues to do so to this day.” 

QUEENS DON'T QUIT: Thousands tune into Maeve Madden's online classes every day.
QUEENS DON'T QUIT: Thousands tune into Maeve Madden's online classes every day.

With more than 3,000 people tuning into her online classes every day, Maeve has brought six other trainers on board to help teach the 20 live classes she now runs every week. The classes range from yoga to combat training, and Maeve also creates seasonal challenges and runs chat forums and Q&As with health experts for members.

“The website continues to grow. It's still fairly new, just over six months old, but it’s really exciting to have developed a platform for so many incredible women to support one another,” says Maeve, who believes that working out from home isn’t just a pandemic trend.

There’s no pressure when it comes to working out in your own home. It's safe, secure, with zero judgement. No getting up to go outside on a cold morning or having to stop at a crowded gym after work

Even as gyms get ready to reopen in London, where Maeve is based, she says that her online business will continue to be her main focus.

“I believe that my community will continue to grow. I’m helping so many women all over the world, and I’ve never felt more enthusiastic and enjoyed training as much as I do now.” 

‘People are seeing the benefits’ 

The pandemic also created an opportunity for physiotherapist and pilates instructor Aoife Hannon to start her own business. Before the pandemic hit, Aoife taught classes in a North Tipperary gym. When she started teaching online, her classes proved so popular that she was able to branch out on her own.

A few months into teaching through Zoom, she set up The Pilates Programme, an online site where members have access to three live classes a week, as well as a library of recorded classes.

"From a young age, I've always been really into fitness and exploring different ways to stay active. About five years ago, when I was in college, my fiancé suggested that I do a pilates course and start teaching to help fund my physiotherapy masters,” the 29-year-old says.

"Even after I started teaching five years ago, I always tried to explore different types of classes outside of the pilates world. That's how I came up with my own style and method."

LOW IMPACT, HIGH REACH: Aoife Hannon's Pilates Programme has soared in popularity during the pandemic.
LOW IMPACT, HIGH REACH: Aoife Hannon's Pilates Programme has soared in popularity during the pandemic.

The method, which involves a low-impact combination of barre pilates, traditional pilates and yoga, has been a hit across Ireland, including with some big names such as Louise Cooney and Rachel Purcell. Aoife, who has 30k followers between her social channels, went from teaching 15 people in face-to-face classes to hundreds online within a year.

Once you go online, your market just totally opens up. I do miss teaching in person but, as we come out of lockdown, I want to keep the online classes going because I am really passionate about them

“I do think there will be some classes that people will be keen to get back to, like spinning, but I think for classes like pilates, where there is such minimal equipment, people are seeing the benefits of doing them from home. Especially for busy mums or those working from home. I think it is something that we'll see more of in the future."

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