Fitness studio keeps up with the times
When the latest coronavirus lockdown hit, fitness instructor Natalie Flood was already offering online classes.
She set up a virtual platform for her business, Shamana Circle, a month before the pandemic began, anticipating her studio at 99 Front Street would be closed for stair repairs.
“My clients probably thought we were really on the ball,” Ms Flood said. “But we were just really lucky. Within two days of the lockdown we had ten to 15 videos up on the platform.”
But a year later, the platform had grown stale.
“It seemed ugly and boxy,” Ms Flood said.
The platform needed a compete overhaul if her business was going to survive the latest wave of shutdowns and social distancing regulations.
“The second time hits harder,” she said. “We have been here before. There is so much déjà vu and we assume we know how things will be. There is probably less fear, but more frustration and disappointment.”
And she worried that her clients would feel discouraged and find it difficult to keep working towards their fitness goals.
“I said okay, what will inspire people,” she said.
She hired Lara Smith of LVS Multimedia to help her revamp the platform and create new content.
“She is an incredible videographer,” Ms Flood said. “She does a lot of fitness herself. She is very into fitness apps on her phone. She had the vision for me of how to shoot it properly and how to engage with people. The set design was lovely.”
In the brief lull between the most recent shelter in place order and lockdown, Shamana Circle recorded hours of new classes in vinyasa yoga, barre and Pilates.
Shamana Circle has been releasing new content every day since the new platform launched on April 12 offering live and pre-recorded classes.
Clients seem to like it. In the last week they completed 680 virtual sessions.
Their vinyasa yoga and barre classes are proving particularly popular.
“At least we are seeing that people are moving their bodies,” Ms Flood said.
In addition to the classes, Shamana Circle also offers time for members to interact with each other online.
Clients can log in and watch the videos any time.
“We can’t expect everyone to jump in to a live 12.30pm class,” she said. “Work demands have increased for a lot of people.”
And they have created fun activities to keep clients engaged. A week ago they held their first seven-day Instagram challenge. Participants had to record themselves in time-lapse doing a live or pre-recorded class with Shamana. The prize was a $100 gift certificate for ModBlu Boutique, and a Shamana Circle shirt.
Ms Flood is looking forward to the day when they can have people back in the studio. But even when that day comes, Shamana Circle will continue to offer online classes.
“Some people are asking, is this the beginning of the end for brick and mortar movement studios,” she said. “It is so challenging to be a gym right now.”
In good times, she can have as many as 40 people in the studio, but since the pandemic began she has never had more than 16, due to Covid-19 regulations.
"It doesn't take a mathematician to see the profit margin is non-existent,” she said. “How do you run a business like that? Doing it virtually, there is a whole lot less overhead. It is way more convenient. What is missing is the community experience.”
There have been some unexpected benefits from teaching virtually.
People from as far away as Toronto, Canada, have signed up for Shamana Circle’s online classes.
“People are hearing about it from friends,” she said. “Now people can connect with us anywhere in the world.”
Ms Flood feels blessed and grateful to be able to continue operating during the lockdown, in some capacity.
“I feel like we have been very lucky in comparison to other places,” she said. “I have friends in Canada who have lost their studios. They have not been open since September. For us it will be a month this week that we have been closed. Hopefully, we will be open by May 9, maybe. So it could be worse.”
Subscriptions for the platform are $50 a month. For more information see shamanaathome.com