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Copyright 2013 Lancaster Newspapers, Inc.
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Intelligencer Journal/New Era (Lancaster, Pennsylvania)
October 28, 2013 Monday
D; Pg. 1
721 words
The Classes Are Virtual, But The Fitness Is Real;
On-Demand Classes, Whether At A Studio Or Fitness Center Or At Home, Can Ease Some Of The Time Crunch Of Working Out.
Mary Beth Schweigert
Lancaster, PA

Staff Writer

[email protected]

Kathy Allison stays fit with group fitness classes. But sometimes she wants to take a class that doesn't quite fit her schedule.

Now she has another option.

Local gyms and fitness centers are offering virtual or on-demand classes to help members stay fit on their own schedules - sometimes even in their own living rooms.

Earlier this month, Allison's gym, Universal Athletic Club, 2323 Oregon Pike, added a variety of virtual classes, delivered to the gym's group fitness studios by a company called "Fitness on Demand 247."

Allison, of Lititz, usually works out four days a week. The virtual classes are guaranteed to fit her schedule.

"That's a big advantage," says Allison, who recently took SH'BAM, a virtual cardio-dance class. "If you can't come at certain times, you still have that option there, which is very nice."

Meredith Poppler, spokeswoman for the Boston-based International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, says a growing number of gyms nationwide recognize the value of accommodating busy members.

"Virtual or on-demand fitness offerings have definitely increased over the past few years," she says.

Evolution Power Yoga, 398 Harrisburg Ave., takes another approach to making classes convenient. Students who can't come to the studio can watch live or archived classes from their computers anywhere, anytime.

At Universal, virtual classes are offered in three of four group fitness studios, during normal operating hours whenever live classes aren't being held.

"There are lots of questions and buzz (about the new virtual classes)," group fitness manager Sarah McBee says. "Members are excited and definitely wanting to give it a try."

A touch screen outside each studio offers a menu of prerecorded classes. Universal members pay nothing extra for the classes, which are streamed over an Internet connection and projected on a large screen.

"There are hundreds (of classes)," McBee says. "Everything from Pilates to equipment-based trainer programs, Jillian Michaels, Zumba and everything in between. You name it, and it's there."

Options also include popular Les Mills classes, such as Bodyjam, Bodyflow and Bodypump. New classes will be added regularly, she says.

Members can reserve a studio in advance on Universal's website, then use social media to invite friends. Or if members are at the club and see an unoccupied studio, they can "claim" it and begin a class on the spot.

Universal offers 112 live group fitness classes each week, McBee says. But even so, classes sometimes don't jive with members' schedules.

"Maybe they want to do Bodyflow at 12:15 in afternoon, and we just have Bodypump," she says. "Now if they can't come when we have our live classes scheduled ... they can do it when it's convenient for them."

Group fitness classes are a powerful member retention tool, McBee says. Universal hopes virtual classes will serve as a "gateway" to live classes.

Some people are intimidated by live classes or simply don't enjoy them, she says. Virtual offerings allow members to test-drive the class concept minus a crowd.

Stephanie Acaster, of Lancaster, is a big fan of Universal's live classes. She was pleasantly surprised to find the virtual SH'BAM class very motivating.

"I thought, If I wanted to do DVDs, I could sit at home and do them," she says. "I liked it better than I thought I would."

Virtual classes are an especially good option for people who work odd hours, Acaster says.

Evolution Power Yoga live-streams six classes each week from its Lancaster studio, general manager Suzi Hendler says. The classes are held between 7 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on five different days.

If students can't participate live, stores at least five past classes to watch anytime. Classes are currently offered to website visitors free of charge.

"You can just log on, watch and listen, and take a class in your living room," Hendler says.

EPY, which also has a studio in York, will soon introduce an iPhone app with the capacity to stream live classes, she says. The studio may charge for online classes in the future.

EPY has gotten positive feedback from students who log on while traveling, including one on a mission trip to Haiti, Hendler says.

"They can stay in touch with our studios and still take classes," she says. "There's nothing not to like about it."

Kristie Veitch Makes Workout Choices On Universal Athletic Club's Touchscreen.
Staff Photos At Universal Athletic Club In Lancaster, People Can Attend An Exercise Class "Led" By A Projected Example Of A Bodycombat Workout. The Virtual Classes Were Added In Universal's Group Fitness Studios Earlier This Month. Dan Marschka
October 28, 2013

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