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The pandemic made these popular—here’s what to know before you sign up.
Nothing quite matches the vibe of an in-person gym: the heart-pumping music, the IRL energy and direction from instructors, the camaraderie of a group class. At the same time, nothing beats the convenience of a virtual workout, which allows you to break a sweat whenever and wherever works best for you.
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Hybrid gyms—essentially, gyms that offer in-person and online services—promise the best of both worlds. And thanks to a pandemic-induced shift, a growing number of facilities fall into the hybrid gyms category. As of December 2021, 54 percent of fitness studios and gyms on the scheduling platform Mindbody offered hybrid services. That means there’s a pretty good chance you can find a hybrid gym near you.
But how exactly do hybrid gyms work? And what benefits do they provide? We tapped three hybrid gym fitness professionals for answers. Here’s everything you need to know.
As mentioned, a hybrid gym is one that offers both in-person and online workouts. That means members can exercise at a physical gym and also access digital workouts that they can do at home, while traveling, or really in any space that’s safe and conducive for exercise.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of a hybrid gym: It allows for a ton of flexibility. “You have so many options to be able to get in a good workout,” says Bobby Gallant, New York City-based instructor at Barry’s, a boutique fitness chain that offers hybrid services.
Say, for example, you like to exercise at home during the week for convenience’s sake, but crave the energy of an in-person class on the weekends—hybrid gyms cater to both preferences. Or, as another example, imagine you were planning to attend an in-person high-intensity interval training (or HIIT) class after work, but then your last meeting ran late and you couldn’t get to the gym on time. With a hybrid gym membership, you could still tune into a virtual session from home. Hybrid gyms also let you continue your usual in-person exercise routine while traveling, allowing you to tune in and follow along from your hotel.
“Rather than everyone has to meet up on Saturday morning at the same exact time, or join a Thursday afternoon running group, now you have this flexibility to interact with a program that allows you to be coached at any time,” says Frankie Ruiz, running coach and chief running officer at Life Time, a health club chain that offers hybrid services.
This flexibility and convenience can help you stay consistent with your fitness goals. (Consistency is key when it comes to making progress!) And it also introduces variety into your routine that can help you feel more engaged with your exercise program.
One more benefit of hybrid gyms: They make fitness more inclusive and accessible to a wider audience, says Vonn Page, owner and master trainer at Armada CrossTraining in Buffalo, New York. By combining a brick-and-mortar fitness facility with an online component, more people can participate in fitness programming, including first-timers who may find a traditional in-person gym intimidating, or those who don’t have the means to travel far to get to a studio.
There’s not one set model for a hybrid gym as the details vary from facility to facility. Some, for example, offer hybrid services as part of a basic gym membership, while others provide them as an optional add-on. The specific type of online services offered within a hybrid program can vary, too—some gyms offer on-demand workouts and live virtual sessions, while others focus more on online personal training.
At Life Time, all in-person club members receive free access to Life Time Digital, an app that has pre-recorded classes, live stream classes, guided meditations, and both group classes and personal training programs. The app also includes on-demand programming, like a 60-day 5K training program managed by Ruiz.
At Armada CrossTraining, people who pay for in-person services automatically get access to the gym’s online services, and people who sign-up for online services get a 50 percent discount on in-person services. Online services include access to a coach who programs a schedule of weekly workouts and does FaceTime check-ins to hold athletes accountable. Vonn is also currently developing a library of brief on-demand workout videos to add to the online offerings.
With Barry’s, members can buy in-person classes either à la carte or as part of a class package, and then add on an unlimited membership to Barry’s X, the brand’s online platform, for an additional $40 per month. Barry’s X offers a mix of on-demand, live classes, and previously live classes that closely resemble their in-person classes. For instance, on Mondays, Gallant teaches essentially the same program to an in-person class in NYC and then again to a live audience on Barry’s X.
The bottom line: There’s not a standard model for hybrid gym, since membership models and services offered vary gym to gym. But they all will have both an in-person and online offering.
Hybrid gyms offer legit perks, but does that mean you should join one? Well, that all depends on your lifestyle, budget, and fitness goals. If you’re someone who just can’t get motivated by a virtual workout, or conversely, if you’re someone who hates stepping foot into a physical gym (perhaps you’re a year-round outdoor runner), then a hybrid gym membership probably isn’t worth your while.
But if you’re looking to expand your workout options and introduce more flexibility and convenience into your fitness routine, then a hybrid gym is probably right up your alley.
Curious to try a hybrid gym? Here are some national fitness chains that offer hybrid services: