Graphic by K8 Strassma

The latest sector to flex their momentum muscles? Fitness & Health.

January 21, 2021

The home-gym hybrid model is giving us clues as to how the WFH / work from office hybrid model will work in the future.

For months, the far corner of our bedrooms has been the new corner office and our bosses have seen that WFH works when it’s needed.Now, we’re all wondering if and how we’ll return to office life. Will a hybrid way of working be the new way “to office?” The best clues are coming from hybrid fitness.

  1. Some days you work out at the gym, some days in your bedroom. Some days you’ll work from the office, some days from home
  2. Non-designated treadmills / equipment at the gym. Non-designated desks at work.
  3. Fitness influencers are becoming Zoom entertainers. Now we are adding entertaining twists to Zoom presentations.

Fitness & Training is the latest sector to flex its momentum muscles with impressive success building on the momentum for at-home fitness while also getting gym rats back into the gym safely.

Those of us that wanted to workout throughout quarantine could suddenly work out from anywhere: We downloaded fitness apps, followed fitness influencers, Zumba’d on Zoom, invested in equipment that transformed our 3rd floor walk ups into spinning studios, or just threw a yoga mat down in an open park and nama-stayed fit from a distance. Working out from a screen was almost as unbelievable as Zooming for conference meetings. Until we saw results.

Pre-pandemic, at-home workouts were seen as sub-par (unless you had the space and equipment for a true at-home gym). We made them work even in the smallest of apartments and we appreciate the benefits: convenience, efficiency, and the ability to maintain a fitness routine even when we can’t get to the physical gym.

In-person gyms & fitness studios are gaining momentum as they encourage a hybrid model. Big box centers like Equinox already have many people sold on their COVID safety precautions. To integrate gyms back into their routines, they’re leaning into consumers’ craving for socialization and an escape from home.

These days, not even Beyoncé or Elvis are staying in their lanes. Predominantly fitness center-based brands are branching into new digital territories while fitness influencers and predominantly DTC / digital brands (like Peloton) are evolving to be more experiential & entertaining.

With COVID came a wake-up call that we can no longer remain complacent about compromised health. Not all comorbidity is within our control but many underlying conditions are and many of us have become more proactive about taking our health seriously — starting with fitness. Because we have seen there are serious consequences.


In-person players like Equinox are surging in momentum, with an MFactor up from a low of 8 in December to 23 this month as they flipped the script on how to get people back IRL.

Decode_M Proprietary MFactor Score

Just as Airbnb became the perfect quarantine travel solution, gyms and in-person studios have earned consumer trust that they are COVID-safe.

Gyms are winning consumers back by leaning into the hybrid model: providing strong digital solutions while reminding consumers why they loved the in-person experience in the first place — a social experience + an outlet from home.

  • The Variis digital platform created by Equinox, which now has access to the entire Universal Music Group Catalog, features signature branded workouts that can be done from home and from the Equinox studios. Equinox set up their group fitness rooms with a tripod to support your phone plus all the equipment to have a superior digital experience than you would from home.

CEO Planet Fitness Chris Rondeau says their digital engagement skyrocketed then fell once their gyms started opening up again:“Everybody has a kitchen, but everyone goes out to eat because it’s a little bit more enjoyable.”

What did Planet Fitness do to get consumers to come back in?

  • New Year sale: $0 enrollment & $10/month
  • Digital experience to make you feel better about the in-person experience: Their in-app crowd meter enables you to see how many people are checked in at the gym at all times (since you have to check-in upon arrival).

Constant evolution is the key to keeping followers engaged through a balance of: functionality, information and entertainment.

  • Momentum for Peloton is surging from a low MFactor of 17 in November to a high of 34 this week. They’ve learned that continuous improvements to their app are key. The latest evolution Stacked helps consumers be more in control of their custom workout routine. The new feature enables consumers to add a variety of workout videos to a “queue” so they can switch seamlessly from a warm-up class to a bike ride to a core class instead of having to stop, find their next class and then get back to it. The benefit to Peloton? Now consumers are incentivized to use more classes across the Peloton platform beyond spinning.
Decode_M Proprietary MFactor Score
  • Lululemon’s acquisition of Mirror enables them to connect with guests (consumers) both physically and digitally. The Mirror was a genius investment. It’s a sleek / subtle product that creates the “invisible gym” consumers will want at home for the days they decide to work out at home. What Mirror was missing was the addicting and entertaining talent that keeps consumers coming back. Enter Lululemon to help them with their weak spot.
  • Fitness influencers and instructors learned that simply offering Zoom classes wasn’t enough to keep consumers engaged. Fitness influencers are now leaning into the power of entertainment. Working out is a “head and heart” experience. People show up with their heart (they love the personality of the instructor) and stay because their head tells them it’s good for them. The fitness instructors & influencers that continue to maintain a cult following are the ones that lead with entertainment and their unique personalities. Cough, cough… Alex Toussaint and Cody Rigsby.

If all goes well, the 2021 Olympics in Japan are on. But what about the rest of the fitness enthusiasts and hobby athletes who participate in weekend races, marathons and Iron Mans?

The tension is driving them to the extreme & experimentation…

IRONMAN’s 12 full-distance triathlons scheduled across the United States and Canada in 2021 were completely sold out because of the pent up energy from everyone who couldn’t race in 2020. With a sold out schedule, IRONMAN announced another full-distance triathlon in Muncie, Indiana where they will also be hosting their usual 70.3. The event could bring up to $12 million-$14 million into the local economy, especially for local restaurants and hotels that have been hurting since the start of the pandemic. The triathlon hosted here will offer qualifying slots to the 2022 IRONMAN World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.

The Marathon Project took on a grass-roots, bottom up approach and created an “unofficial” coach-organized race to ensure their athletes still had something to train for.

“As [the coaches] watched other sports and leagues return, they realized that if their athletes were going to have a chance to race before the end of the year, they were going to have to make it happen themselves,” which led them to put on their own race in December. “Athletes need to perform,” Ben Rosario, Head Coach of Northern Arizona Elite said. “When you take away the race piece, training is no longer fun.”

Diets that solely focus on food have typically been dismissed as fads. What will it take to make diets & healthy eating habits stick this year? Health and wellness experts are venturing into new lanes to create hybrid diets that integrate wellness components beyond just food.

Food + Fitness: Dr. Oz’s 2021 recommendation is his System 21 plan, a hybrid approach pairing a Mediterranean-inspired intermittent fasting plan with early morning workouts. He recommends starting your day with their celebrity trainers and fitness experts that lead live, customized classes to get you up and moving with both low-impact & high-intensity workouts. By going beyond food and integrating this fitness component, Dr. Oz believes the approach will connect your body and your mind to build strength from the inside out.

Food + Behavioral Psychology + Data: Noom is a mobile-based weight loss program known for being a sustainable weight loss & fitness plan. Noom focuses on psychology & data driven recommendations with the goal of getting you to think differently about food. All recommendations are strategically made by a team of nutritionists, personal trainers and behavioral psychologists.

  • Noom CEO Saeju Jeong says of their key differentiators from competitive weight loss programs: “We are using psychology, AI, and data to make sure that we deliver the most effective solution and service… we wanted to help our end users build healthy habits. By having a healthy habit, weight management is the outcome… the other great benefit: building better self-confidence and better relationships.”

Along with learning about history and science, kids have been missing out on the best part of grade school: recess.

The CDC recommends that children and adolescents ages 6 to 17 years do 60 minutes or more of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity daily. The absence of recess, team sports and the winter weather makes that difficult. As a result, parents are starting to worry about their kids’ pandemic weight gain.

There’s no denying “Play is a powerful catalyst for change,” and no one knows this better than Nike. According to them, this “generation is the least active. Ever. And that’s not OK.” Knowing that kids are Made to Play, Nike ramped up its commitment to get kids moving. Partnering with organizations like Girls Inc., Game Growers, Women Win and more to help kids stay active at home, Nike is breaking down barriers to play & helping make recess a priority.



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Mike Berland

Momentum Maker, Author of Maximum Momentum, Founder & CEO of Decode_M