Before COVID-19, online training was niche. The normalization of virtual interactions quickly reached the fitness sector, however, where government lockdowns shuttered gyms early and often throughout the Pandemic.
“There has been a sizable disruption and shift in Canada’s wellness industry,” explains Curtis Christopherson, the founder of Canadian fitness startup WRKOUT.
In Canada, businesses in the fitness industry reported a decrease of 23% in 2020 in operating revenues as restrictions forced closure.
Christopherson is also the CEO of Innovative Fitness, a chain of personal training studios across BC and Toronto. That’s where he and his team felt the effects of lockdown immediately.
The only adaption forward was to take a business model based on physical interaction and bring it into the digital realm. It was an all-new experience for both trainers and clients.
“Despite the challenges the industry has faced, Canadians have found new ways to work out,” Christopherson told Techcouver. “Many Canadians have embraced the transition to online workouts and home gyms.”
Fitness is not going anywhere, gyms open or closed, Canadians have determined. In response to government-mandated gym closures, sales of exercise equipment increased more than 40% in 2021.
The online version of Innovative Fitness proved popular enough that Christopherson spun it off into WRKOUT, a Vancouver-born startup that raised $3 million in seed capital last year for its digital-first approach to fitness. The company was named the Top Fitness App this year by the Good Housekeeping 2022 Fitness Awards.
The WRKOUT platform efficiently connects clients to their ideal trainer—who could be anywhere in the world—without either person leaving their house.
“WRKOUT allows clients to use filters to search the online marketplace by location, in-person versus virtual training, or by training specialty,” says Christopherson. “They can then browse the list and learn more about each trainer by reading their profile, and if they feel that a trainer matches their needs, they can contact the trainer directly.”
The executive-turned-entrepreneur says it “all comes down to convenience and comfort.”
“It’s like having an UberEats or Airbnb of personal trainers to choose from, right at your fingertips,” Christopherson offers.
For trainers, there is appeal in having the freedom to train their clients where they want, when they want, and how they want.
“WRKOUT supports fitness professionals with tools to help them build their personal brand and business such as complimentary professional photoshoots for trainers, access to their own virtual studio, free logo creation, and a listing in the trainer database,” says Christopherson.
Personal Studio features include a stopwatch, countdown and interval timers, live chat, heart rate monitor tracking, and client scheduling and direct billing.
“All of these tools and features allow trainers to deliver a premium online training experience on a platform that is designed specifically for fitness training,” Christopherson notes. “We’re committed to enabling independent fitness professionals to thrive.”
According to Christopherson, the next generation of fitness technology is already here. Pandemic-fuelled innovation has now enabled the viability of online personal training and clients seem willing—if not eager—to embrace the concept.
“We’re on a journey to change how Canadians view their health and fitness,” he tells Techcouver. “Our mission is to create a global community of fitness creators and help them deliver the best fitness and wellness experiences to Canadians, and beyond.”