The future of working out following the outbreak of coronavirus will be a hybrid of at-gym and in-home fitness, with an increasing focus on digital offerings, predicts celebrity trainer Harley Pasternak.
Pasternak is a personal trainer and nutritionist from Canada, who made his name working with celebrities including Halle Berry, Orlando Bloom and Rachel Weisz. He also has a fitness facility design business and works as global fitness advisor for Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts.
“I think fitness providers will be okay,” he says, talking to Health Club Management, the sister publication to Spa Business. “Things will come back to very close to what they were before the pandemic, but there will be more of a focus on hygiene, ventilation and private spaces to work out. More home fitness will exist than before, but people will come back to gyms for the social aspect and for pieces of equipment that it doesn’t make sense to have at home.”
His advice to spas and wellness hotels with fitness spaces is to “think about who’s going to be using your facility. How you cater for them, how you prioritise function over form, create different spaces for different people with different goals and comfort levels.
“With COVID-19, the idea of creating personal pods where people can exercise in a very hygienic and private way is a new area we haven’t looked at yet. And whenever you can create an outdoor amenity, that’s also very helpful.”
He also advises operators to increase their use of digital workout offerings. “It’s the future and present,” he says. “From a staffing and financial perspective it makes so much sense. You’re able to personalise things even more digitally than you are with one person in a class. A machine can keep track more and knows way more exercises.”
Digital workouts underpin Pasternak’s work with Four Seasons. In 2019, they teamed up to create a comprehensive video series which has been designed to give Four Seasons’ guests help with five of the most common fitness challenges experienced by travellers – from fighting jet lag and getting beach body ready to simply trying to maintain regular exercise away from home.
The series consists of five easy and effective routines and each one of those is accompanied by a helpful ‘how-to’ video where Pasternak demonstrates the step-by-step form and correct technique for exercises.
Guests can then access the videos via the Four Seasons App on their mobiles as well as the Four Seasons YouTube channel. This enables them to workout in a hotel gym if they want to, outdoors on-property, or even in the comfort of their hotel room.
“We’re all time starved, and finding time to work out and stay active is often a huge challenge – especially when travelling,” says Pasternak. “But travel can be the best time to get active and when our bodies need it most, whether we’re exploring a new destination or shaking off that jet lag.”
Other hotel chains are taking similar approaches. In 2017 industry figure Ryan Crabbe, then senior director of wellness at Hilton, developed Hilton’s Five Feet to Fitness concept. Hilton charges US$45 (€37, £32) extra for a Five Feet to Fitness room which features a Wattbike, Gym Rax functional training station and a touch-screen Fitness Kiosk where guests can get equipment tutorials and follow guided workout routines.
In October 2020, Accor announced a partnership between Pullman hotels and group fitness leader Les Mills (see p34). Pullman Power Fitness will see more than 1,000 Les Mills On Demand and Virtual workouts available for 24/7 use in guestrooms, fitness studios or even back at home in some cases. The aim is to introduce the concept to 50 select Pullman properties throughout 2021.
Attracting new customers
With COVID-19 acting as an incentive for many to lose weight, Pasternak advises spas and wellness hotels with gyms to become more welcoming for people at the start of their fitness journey. Something that’s now particularly pertinent as spas are looking to engage more with local customers.
“Keep it simple,” he says. “Not all workouts have to be an hour and half long with 20 exercises. Having someone just feeling comfortable walking into the gym is important. Maybe giving them two simple moves to start with. I think people should start on free weights rather than machines – if machines are people’s first exposure to resistance exercise, they can actually create bad habits, but as they become more advanced, they can be great tools for variation and isolation.”
Pasternak is behind the design and development of several pieces of widely-used strength equipment, and is always on the lookout for the next big thing in fitness, he says. When he was asked to be chief fitness adviser for recently-launched Forme Life he was instantly keen. Forme Life is a smart mirror with a weight training system built into it for the home market. The full length mirror was designed by Yves Behar and users can access a wide range of live and on demand workouts via an embedded touch screen.
“When Trent Ward, the founder of Forme Life, approached me as they were developing this product, I thought, yes! I’m hitching my wagon to this horse,” he says. “It’s going to be a revolutionary product.”
Forme Life comes in two models: Full Studio and Screen-Only Studio. When turned off, it becomes a sleek full length mirror to blend into the surroundings.
“If the Mirror is an audio cassette and Tonal is a CD, Forme Life is today’s modern digital music,” he explains. “This is what I’ve been telling my clients to hold out for.”
Looking ahead, Pasternak’s gym design company has a range of new openings underway, including several for Four Seasons, and an updated version of his bestselling The Body Reset Diet book is due to come out early in early 2021.