Relatively unknown fitness guru becomes the 'Joe Wicks of Pilates' in just 12 weeks. Is The future of fitness is virtual?
When lockdown began, Chris Richardson - co-founder of Zero Gravity Pilates, a boutique chain of five Reformer Pilates studios popular with celebrities, dancers and athletes for its corrective functional exercise classes (and serious results) - had to shut up shop and work out a solution. The results have been stellar as his 99p virtual pilates classes have captured thousands of followers, reports the Telegraph.
Like many trainers unable to offer classes in person, Richardson has taken to Instagram live with some of his celebrity clients, who include Rio and Kate Ferdinand, Dame Kelly Holmes and a host of 'Strictly' dancers, to demonstrate his Ultra Mat Pilates method. Indeed, Pilates was developed in the first half of the twentieth century by Joseph Pilates, from Germany, with dancers specifically in mind. His idea was to develop an exercise that strengthened the body with long, lean, toned muscles.
Richardson's on-demand virtual Pilates subscription works out at a no-brainer 99p per week (£3.96 per month). No wonder it's grown the zerogravitypilates Instagram account by over 40,000 in a matter of weeks.
So what's so special about Richardson's Ultra Mat Pilates that makes it so popular with the celebrity set and public alike (aside from its ludicrously low price tag, of course)?
"Our methods are simple yet super effective. We micro-isolate the muscle we would like to work, activate it so the muscle is correctly firing up, fatigue each body part by working to a high number of reps, then its important to stretch and elongate the muscle to increase the length and range of movement within the body, giving you a long, lean and youthful appearance. The long, lean, toned muscles you create with this method are different to any other form of training you will do."
According to Richardson, these 'long, lean muscles' come in just 14 days.
He says, "the virtual classes were originally a stop-gap for our studio based members until we re-opened after lockdown. The success of our virtual classes and endorsements from our celebrity fans in the UK and US has pivoted our focus towards these virtual sessions that are accessible to everyone."
Indeed, market analysts agree that virtual fitness platforms, like Ultra Mat Pilates, is here to stay. Lauren Ryan, Mintel Leisure Analyst, says: "our research shows a third of Brits have taken part in more home workouts since the closure of gyms and fitness venues. The platforms with the greatest lockdown surges were free workouts through social media channels such as YouTube and Instagram. While some consumers intend to ditch digital platforms once gyms reopen, those that used them throughout lockdown are significantly more likely to continue using them in the long term."
She adds, "competition is heating up in the digital fitness market as brands across technology, media and wider exercise sectors look to gain share. The expected downturn in the economy will impact consumer spending for non-essential purchases, such as gym memberships. Fitness venues will need to convince consumers that their services represent good value compared to (often cheaper) online alternatives."
If working from home is set to be part of the new normal, presumably virtual yoga, fitness and pilates classes will be too. For more info, take a look at the Ultra Mat Pilates website.
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