Denise Posnak, founder of MyBOD™ Wellness Online Pilates and Yoga, is taking an innovative approach to her business. Instead of limiting her customer base to those living in her immediate area, Posnak provides her classes via the web. Utilizing Skype and Google+, Posnak is able to offer one-on-one sessions that customers can take in their own living room.
Posnak doesn’t limit her classes to one-on-one instruction. Customers can host workout sessions with Posnak in their own homes. Like on-site trainers, Posnak provides a free 15-minute consultation with each client to determine individual needs.
Recently, Posnak spoke with SmallBizTechnology about her innovative approach to fitness. A former lecturer of dance at the University of Georgia, Posnak’s passion clearly shows through as she speaks about Pilates, yoga, and how technology is revolutionizing the world of fitness.
Q: The Internet has changed the way customers do everything, from communicating with friends to buying products. How do you feel online fitness training has met the needs of customers?
DP: Online fitness training (one-on-one, live) uses the Internet to help people get out of the tech loop and get back into their bodies. Our computer culture locks us into a hunching forward, static posture with eyes that blink only half as much as they should. By using Skype, Google+, or FaceTime we offer a ‘fitness life raft’ that saves them from back pain, weight gain, glazed-over eyes and is easier on the pocketbook than in-home personal training.
Customers who can’t get to the gym because they are over-worked, new moms, or those afraid of walking into a public space to work out have the opportunity to meet a motivating, expert trainer at home. Customers who travel and have a hard time keeping consistent in their health can see their trainers every week, no matter what. And customers who live in remote places have access to individual sessions with Pilates and Yoga teachers they would never have.
Q: What led you to choose an online business model, rather than a traditional bricks-and-mortar approach to working out?
DP: I have lived in several places–California, the Midwest, Europe, and the south–and have met incredible clients and teachers/colleagues who I wanted to continue to work with. When I moved to New York City three years ago, I decided that I would try out one of the many entrepreneurial ideas that were running around in my head (Skype-based Pilates being one of them) and found that teaching Pilates on Skype re-connected me with clients I missed and teachers I adored. From there, I began building the community and have been able to connect clients in New York, Georgia, and California to teachers in Boulder, Chicago, and Brooklyn. And since there is not the cost of high NYC commercial rent, I can keep our rates low and offer accessibility to those who may not be able to afford private sessions otherwise. (We’ve started experimenting with group classes where students are all over the map. Very exciting)
Q: What are the benefits to working out online vs. in a studio or gym?
DP: The benefits of working out online:
Convenience: 45-minutes is 45-minutes. No sitting in traffic, waiting for that 5:15 class to start, or even changing your clothes. (You could do this in your PJ’s.)
Consistency: If you are a traveler or have an erratic schedule, you will still have access to your teacher. Scheduling is more fluid because it’s easier for teachers to hop online to see you then to have to travel to the brick-and-mortar studio.
Control: Working out from your space allows you to control sound, temperature, smell (no more stinky feet or sweaty guy next to you), and aesthetics (hate that gym lighting). Students can mute their sound and play music if they like, work out with soft lighting or light candles during yoga, and spray lavender or eucalyptus in the room without affecting anyone else. It also inspires clients to create their in-home workout space that is dedicated to wellness and that reminds them to get on their mat, even when the teacher is not there.
Concentration: The buzz of a gym or studio can be inspiring, or it can be intimidating. When you work out at home, you concentrate on you. No distractions from others or thoughts about what they might think of your body or your coordination (or lack of ).
Calm: At the end of the day, I want to come home. I want to be in my space, with my collection of art, and hang out around my dog. (I actually don’t have a big collection of art or a dog, but you get my point). Practicing mind/body fitness at home helps you have more home in your life.
Q: Are Pilates and yoga more conducive to the online format than other types of personal training?
Pilates seems to be made for the online format. It is made for small spaces (you only need enough room for a mat) and it’s mostly done lying down (not a lot of movement around the room). In terms of the view from a teacher’s perspective, I can see the body completely without the client having to move the camera up and down. Yoga, similarly, doesn’t take up much space and is easy to teach online. Our teachers work to minimize the up and down of the yoga practice so students don’t have to move the camera too much.
Personal training that doesn’t take up much space could work as well, as could Barre method. Zumba might be a different story. But essentially, it’s important to be able to really see our clients so we can ensure they are working safely and in the best way for their body. Pilates and yoga are all about that, so in a way, yes they are a bit more conducive to the online format.
Q: What advice would you give other small business owners regarding using technology to engage customers?
My advice to small business owners who are not familiar with technology and want to utilize it more is:
1) Get help. Ask your tech friends or hire a consultant to give you a good education.
2) Use it, but know the rules. You can find these rules online or from your tech person.
3) Have fun with it! Technology can become very overwhelming once you enter its vast world. It’s very easy to get sucked into a constant, attached relationship to it. I believe you need to enjoy it, but keep your boundaries so it can be fun.
4) Keep your human-to-human, person-to-person, phone call-to-phone call (or video call to video call) relationships alive. We have to stay present and as 3D as possible, keeping technology in its place.
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Stephanie is a freelance writer and young adult/middle grade novelist, who worked in information systems for more than a decade. Her first book, 30 Days of No Gossip, will be released by Simon and Schuster in spring 2014. She lives in Nashville with her husband.