Fitness videos are nothing new. Jane Fonda’s famous 1982 workout video on VHS may have invented the category, which soon exploded. In the following 30+ years VCRs have gone away, but fitness videos for every possible discipline from Akido to Yoga are readily available online.
With so many fitness videos out there, why do so many people still go to the gym for a live workout session? One big reason is the value of instructor feedback. An instructor merely showing you how to do something is not complete training. Ideally the instructor should be able to watch and critique your form. A good trainer can also help motivate you during a workout by providing real time feedback on your performance. Unfortunately, there is a tradeoff. If you want this kind of complete training, you need to drive to the gym, rather than work out in the comfort of your home.
Interactive video fitness training appears to offer the best of both worlds. That is, personalized fitness training including real time feedback without having to leave your living room. Culturally, we are getting more and more comfortable using video and appearing on video. If people are ready to stream themselves live over Periscope or YouTube Live to the entire world, I think they are ready to workout in front of a webcam for their instructor.
Several companies are already offering interactive video fitness sessions. I took a quick look at a few to get an idea of exactly what is being offered today.
The Wello service is notable for supporting a large number of workout types. The service supports 9 different variations of Yoga, 7 various martial arts, 4 versions of pilates, 6 types of sports/performance training, 11 different general training sessions, and more. It appears to have something for everyone. Wello pricing starts at $15 per session for a set of 4 group classes, and $30 per session for a set of 4 1-on-1 training sessions. Prices are reduced for larger sets of classes.
Trainerly offers free registration as well as a free 1:1 fitness assessment. After signing up, users can choose to pay per class for individual classes at various prices. Trainerly markets itself not only as a virtual fitness center for users, but as a platform allowing new instructors to create their own virtual fitness centers.
LIFT offers new users a free session. After that, prices start at $44 per session or $79 for 2 sessions per month. More monthly sessions are available at an additional cost. This service appears to be more focused on the highly personalized 1-to-1 experience.
Powhow offers a list of group classes at various prices. Registration is free, with a mix of both group workouts and 1-to-1 sessions. Interestingly, the classes go beyond fitness, and include topics such as piano instruction, violin, and even training for new parents!
One notable thing about these services is that several of them have been in business for a few years now and appear to be growing. This indicates to me that interactive video fitness isn’t a flash in the pan but a viable way to sell fitness services. I think we are at a tipping point for these uses of video. More consumers are comfortable using video and the quality of video streaming technology is now high enough to support these services. Whether this remains a niche in the massive fitness industry, or starts to compete with the big gyms, remains to be seen.