Les Mills Asia Pacific’s Business Partnership Manager Miriam Cohen recently chatted with two of Melbourne’s leading fitness operators, Fiona Kriaris (YMCA Victoria) and Frank Lennard (Glen Eira Leisure) about the power of content for successfully engaging members and the wider community, during lockdown periods.


Combating digital fatigue

Fiona Kriaris is Health and Wellness Product Manager at YMCA Victoria (a not-for-profit organisation). The YMCA created a digital platform that was supported by the Victorian Government called ‘Virtual Y’, which is available for anyone – not just YMCA members – to access for free. Virtual Y is a full online wellness space for young people. It offers a fitness hub with live Les Mills classes as well as nutrition, wellness and family content; plus a ‘resource of the day’.

Fiona said, “In terms of the extended lockdown, we had set a strong foundation with Virtual Y in the previous 12 weeks, which meant we didn’t need to alter our digital platform to cater for the extended restrictions, we simply built upon it with fresh content that we know participants want.”

“Content selection and creation is important because ‘digital fatigue’ is starting to set in – meaning, there’s so much on offer at the moment, so we need to make our content meaningful for our customers and the broader community. That’s where our focus is now – getting customer data and responding to it. We’ve tracked our content and so far we’ve delivered more than 90,000 sessions with over 9,000 people registered in the last 12 weeks, across Australia and the world, actually.”


Motivating members to maintain training online

Frank Lennard is Group Fitness and Programs Team Leader at Glen Eira Leisure (a council-run facility). He agrees a challenge now lies in motivating members to continue to train online during this extended lockdown period, especially considering the issue of digital fatigue.

The whole COVID-19 experience is certainly making everyone stronger and more resilient, and we’re all learning to appreciate the opportunities to spend quality time with people. Similar to Fiona we had the groundwork sorted from the previous lockdown with our ‘GEL Anywhere’ program, already launched. Council saw the value in what we were doing, so it was a no-brainer for us to continue offering it even after lockdown was lifted” Frank said.

“We thought about what we could offer on top of what we were already doing (i.e., Facebook Live), and as such, we introduced social catch ups on Zoom, such as weekly coffee catch ups with members and anyone in the community who wants to join. We also deliver ‘GEL Bites’ with a nutritionist who jumps on and does cooking and talks about meal prep and healthy eating. We’ve have a psychologist who comes to discuss issues like home-schooling and other things that we’re all dealing with during lockdown. We also talk about how it’s okay not to be okay, and how to deal with those feelings in isolation.”

“We ask for feedback from the community about the content we deliver, and then try to integrate those suggestions in the next lot of content we produce. This helps us stay relevant by delivering what people want, which can help them avoid that digital fatigue.”

“This is a time to build your brand – whether you’re a council-run facility, the YMCA or a small business. What you do for and in your community now will have a huge impact when you come out of this. People see what we are offering and doing online; they see who you are and what you’re about, so it’s a real opportunity to position yourself. And whether you’re charging for what you’re delivering, or giving it away for free, people will come out of this and think ‘wow, look what they did that for the community’ and they’ll remember that and come back to the gym when they can” said Frank.


Virtual training, real-world sales

Some clubs that have offered relevant and accessible services and content to the wider community have actually managed to get new sales as a result. Interestingly, many of these people are those who would have been unlikely to have enquired previously.

Miriam Cohen, Les Mills Asia Pacific’s Business Partnership Manager, explained “Being able to take part in sessions that are streamed also enables these people to avoid the intimidation that often comes with trying something new. It also allows them to create connections with those who they follow or see online, which ultimately strengthens the loyalty and connection to the brand they’re following. Of course, this can then result in them eventually joining the gym as a paid member.”

“Even when we transition back to opening there will be members who don’t want to come back straight away,” said Frank. “And there’ll be a portion of the community who want to continue the online engagement even when facilities reopen. So it’s up to us to create a roadmap of how we can continue to deliver that high quality content. We’ve been really lucky that our content has been streamed all over the world – we were on the news in India who were reporting what we’ve been doing; and I’ve had messages from people in San Francisco and even Scotland who have been participating. You never know how great the impact can be, even if you’re teaching from a little spare room in your house!”

“In the states where clubs have been allowed to reopen,” added Miriam, “some clubs are reportedly seeing around 60 to 70% of their members back onsite. Of course, some clubs may not be able to offer the same services in-club that they used to, but if they consider additions to live classes like live-streaming or creating their own content to store on a hub that they can then offer as an extension to a membership, then it’s more likely that their members will get involved with the club again. It’s no longer about physically coming to the club; instead it’s about being connected to the gym in a way that suits the customer. The lesson we’ve learned is that the things that were difficult before COVID may now be easier to implement! Our commitment is to find a way to help our clubs maintain connections and remain successful.”

For information on creating powerful content and including Les Mills content in your club’s offering, go to



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