The Plank Macarena makes virtual fitness fun

Fitness is a maturing industry, but 2020 was an important reminder that the survival of physical fitness facilities will always be reliant on customers walking through the front door.

During the last calendar year, fitness industry revenue dropped by 58%, and more than 1 million employees lost their jobs. It was a tough experience, but there is a silver lining that should help insulate the industry from such devastation in the future: Virtual fitness is here to stay.

Before 2020, most fitness consumers used health clubs. They walked into a building, bought a membership, took classes with other members and used the equipment within the facility. It was a simple business model that provided customers and business owners with what appeared to be a sustainable trade.

But in a matter of a few months, it became painfully obvious that the industry was vulnerable, and members needed an alternative to a physical facility. Enter virtual fitness.

These days, any large fitness chain worth its salt should offer a virtual membership option. People are more comfortable than ever before with using services and buying products, and virtual fitness has truly become mainstream. This situation gives facilities an incredible opportunity to re-create the magic that happens inside a fitness center, through the screen.

Members can expect to see the same high-energy personalities they are accustomed to meeting inside fitness centers, and the best solutions will support some level of interaction between members and instructors.

The challenging part of virtual fitness is individual customization. It’s relatively easy to post a Zoom link and invite members to join a broadcast with a fitness instructor. But true behavior change requires a deeper dive — in terms of program customization, feedback and adjustment.

Individual personalization is the next frontier in virtual fitness, and members will demand it.

For now, members must figure out a way to watch an instructor on-screen while doing an exercise with them. It’s a little tricky at first to learn, but some exercises translate easily from a group class to a screen. This week’s movement, for example, is an easy way to challenge the core, and it has a fun “Simon Says” element to it.

The Plank Macarena is fun! Watch Sheffield Duke demonstrate at

1. Get into the “up” phase of a pushup with both arms fully extended.

2. Take your right hand and touch your left hip. Return the right hand to the starting position.

3. Touch your left hand on your right hip. Return the left hand to the starting position.

4. Touch your right hand to your left shoulder, then place it back to the starting position.

5. Finally, touch your left hand to the right shoulder and place it back down.

  1. Continue this pattern until you either break into song or have completed 16 total touches.

The cool part about this exercise is that it’s appropriate for almost any fitness level. After a few repetitions, it is easy to commit to memory and perform anywhere — without any equipment required. Enjoy!

Matt Parrott is glad to hear from readers. Send him questions or share a story about your pandemic workouts at

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