Because of the pandemic-enforced ban on gyms and in-person training sessions, lockdown has seen an exponential growth in online workout classes and fitness apps, as personal trainers convert their face-to-face business model to the digital format.
As a result, numerous fitness vloggers have emerged across social media platforms, prompting fierce competition in an already crowded market. Alex Crockford is a 30-year-old fitness trainer and vlogger, based in Surrey, South East England. Six years ago, the limits on how many face-to-face sessions he could fit into a day drove his business online. In these challenging times, that early switch to digital working has helped him stand out.
Having graduated from Southampton Solent University with a fitness and personal training degree in 2011, Crockford worked as a personal trainer, then an online fitness trainer, before creating the Crock-FitApp, a platform providing training programs for those who like to train in the gym or at home.
Although Crockford has been in the industry for many years, vlogging and making workout videos, he said the pandemic has accelerated the boom in fitness influencers.
"When many personal trainers had to stop doing face-to-face personal training, a lot of them noticed the opportunity to be online, by either selling programs, doing workout videos or going live," he said, admitting that the increasingly crowded marketplace meant more competition.
But he sees rivals as a good thing, as they could help him stand out due to his "personal touch".
"My USP (unique selling point) has always been in regards to me as an individual," he said.
"I have seen so many people try to build big brands, but they lose the personality to it or their one-to-one touch, but I'm always stating that I'm available to support people as their trainer, and to make sure that they feel supported by not only the CrockFit community and me as an individual as well."
Nowadays, Crockford sees himself more of an overall fitness content creator than just a vlogger. "I used to vlog a lot more, but now what motivates me, and my content, really is what value I am giving to someone, and taking my ego and taking my interests out of it.
"This is not about showing what a great life I have or my routine just to make people jealous, but really what value I can bring to someone," he said. "Whether that's in the form of a workout, instruction or my nutrition, and how to help their nutrition."
Creating daily video content could be challenging, and Crockford said he takes inspiration from comments and questions he is asked every day, which he often includes in the next piece of content.
Over the past year, the tone has shifted significantly, adapting to efficient and quick home workouts for people with only limited equipment available, or sometimes none at all.
To remain competitive, Crockford said, content quality is vital, especially on platforms such as YouTube and Instagram.
"I have taken big steps this year to upgrade my whole production, from lighting to background, to microphone and graphics, to make sure that when people land on a workout, they feel like it's not just giving a good workout, but a professional feel as well," he added.
Post-lockdown, he thinks the fitness dynamic will evolve into a combination of online and in-person training.
"The whole world has seen the strength and power of online workouts and I think that will continue to grow, and some people will see that as their routine forever," he said. "But also, there'll be a huge proportion of people that loved their old routine, which means these fitness centers and gyms will of course bounce back, because there's nothing like being with people in a real face-to-face environment."