How is Covid-induced popularity helping trainers earn a living in a world of increased online connections and decreased physical contact?
A quick online search for “Instagram trainers” yields a slew of names like Jeanette Jenkins, Lauren Leavell, Joe Holder, and Kaisa Keranen—fitness professionals who have hundreds of thousands…even millions of followers. It’s fair to assume that plenty of trainers have experienced a bump in their followings since Covid-19 hit—and with good reason.
A mounting Covid infection and death rate has left Americans gym-less and trainer-less; and thanks to wildfires burning across much of the Western states, they’re unable to even venture outside due to poor air quality. But the human body wasn’t built to be sedentary, so the demand for workout content seemed to explode overnight. Fitness professionals stepped up to meet the increased demand mostly by providing free online workouts. But how is Covid-induced popularity helping Instagram trainers earn a living in a world of increased online connections and decreased physical contact?
“When Covid hit, I knew I needed to pivot,” Matt Hoodie, owner of Transform Scottsdale personal training studio in Scottsdale, Ariz., tells Athletech News. “It became apparent very quickly…that nutrition education was going to become more important than ever—all of our activity was reduced.”
Hoodie’s studio had to close its doors when the pandemic hit, and he took the opportunity to launch his 12-week Hoodie Nutrition Academy education platform and post more workout content online. His pre-Covid postings were fairly short, but in recent months he began posting full-length 45-minute workouts that only required minimal equipment. Fitness essentials, like yoga mats and free weights, were selling out online and in stores. The new workouts were designed for people who might only have been able to snag a few resistance bands or a set of dumbbells.
The social limitations provided by Covid, as well as Hoodie’s online presence, helped bolster his line of nutritional supplements, which he’s been selling for over a year. And sales of his cookbooks and online program “just skyrocketed,” he says. He’s also added about 10,000 new Instagram followers.
“Overall, I’m in a better [financial] position,” Hoodie tells us. “[The pandemic] forced me to build out the [online] system that I probably should have had available to people a long time ago.”
The pandemic has opened up windows of opportunity for many other fitness professionals. Keaira LaShae, a fitness trainer, has added 100,000 Instagram followers since the onset of the pandemic. Her following is now north of 250,000. Before Covid she posted fitness and lifestyle content about every other day on Instagram and 2-3 times per month on YouTube. Now, she’s a one-woman health and fitness network: she posts everything from live dance workouts on Instagram and YouTube to workout challenges on her online gym IfYouCanMove.com. There are also cooking demos from her book “Vegans Don’t Eat Just Lettuce” and live conversations with LaShae’s supporters. She also posts pictures promoting her Peja & Amari luxury streetwear/athleticwear line, which she launched two years ago.
“My business has improved drastically since the pandemic because people are at home more and still want a great workout,” she tells Athletech News.
While there are Instagram trainers who are doing quite well for themselves, don’t be fooled into thinking that the pandemic has created an explosion of wealth and fame for thousands of physical trainers.
“Only like two percent of trainers are flourishing during this time,” Petros Arzoumanidis, NYC-based personal trainer and owner of Workout Anywhere, tells us.
Arzoumanidis believes that celebrity trainers and personalities who already had sponsorships and agencies to help boost them forward are really thriving these days.
But it’s not all bad news. He also feels that those who are truly able to pivot their businesses will still do well. Arzoumanidis has gone from eight client sessions per week at the start of the pandemic to about 30 sessions per week. He trains via Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, FaceTime, or however else he can connect with a client.
“I get paid a little less for my time, but I have less overhead and less stress and I work more hours, but I enjoy it,” he tells us. “I don’t have to worry about car maintenance, gas, [parking] tickets, etc…”
As the pandemic moves forward, he’s seen trainers supplement their income not only with virtual training, but also by considering fitness modeling gigs. And he doesn’t believe that social media followings, and thereby profits, will disappear if Covid were to suddenly become an unpleasant memory.
“A lot of these (social media trainers and influencers) were around before…[they’re] going to be around for a while,” Arzoumanidis further tells Athletech News. “They motivate people, and people follow charismatic attitudes. We all want to be like the person with the six-pack carved abs. I don’t think that’s gonna change.”