Coming Around Again
It's been a long, strange 3 years
By Mark Grevelding
Greetings aqua friends. It has been a long time since the last newsletter. You are probably wondering what happened given that we used to email newsletters regularly. Obviously, videos have been consistently posting and I haven't gone anywhere...physically at least. Mentally? Well that is a different story. Like countless others, I have been drop-kicking, passing, pivoting and slugging my way through the past three years. But I'm back and ready to resume regular correspondence with the Aqua Nation faithful again.
Below is a brief recap of the last three years and what the future holds for Fitmotivation. Much has happened, including a massive revamp of the Fitmotivation website in 2022. This newsletter also includes a brief Winter 2023 survey to let us know if there are still any navigation issues with the new site and if you have any suggestions for new features or content.
2020 The Year the Pools Closed
Soaring high after five years of non-stop growth, the good times came crashing down in March 2020 due to a deadly global pandemic. Lockdowns closed pools and instructors were out of work all around the world. Naturally, Fitmotivation took a big hit with subscription cancellations. We attempted to pivot towards more land fitness videos in March and April as the assumption was that we just needed to “flatten the curve” for a month or so. (Remember that?) Filming in the studio in late March, I recall showing up armed with Lysol and petrified of touching anything.
The Mark Show
The lockdowns and travel restrictions made it impossible to fly instructors in for filming. Fitmotivation largely became “The Mark Show” for several months as I attempted to dip deep into the well of creativity to film a variety of content on my own. Fortunately, subscriber favorite, Stephanie Newberry and her AquaGym Fitness team based in the Jacksonville area were able make the 5-hour drive a few times to help out with filming.
Finding a Pool
COVID turned our filming world upside down as the condo pools we had been using closed to outsiders. During the spring we were relegated to renting Airbnb’s with pools for filming. This was not fun or easy. By summer I was in full panic mode as the condo I was renting was put up for sale. Now I needed a place to live and a pool to film in. The Florida housing market was descending into madness and buying was simply not an option. Thankfully the universe responded by putting me in the right place at the right time in regards to an opportunity to rent a nearby house with a pool.
Given that Fitmotivation’s income was plummeting, we pivoted our attention towards Poolfit, our other platform. Poolfit was launched in 2019 so that water exercise enthusiasts could have their own site, ensuring that Fitmotivation would be for instructors only. However, it quickly became apparent that a website wasn’t going to cut it for Poolfit. People needed an app so that they could download videos and then prop up their device poolside and exercise without the need of Wi-Fi. The amount of time, energy and money that went into the development of the app and the subsequent support issues was utterly mind-boggling. However, the Poolfit IOS App launched in May 2020 and the timing could not have been better as people were looking for ways to participate in socially-distanced exercise.
2021 – Desperately Seeking Normal
The COVID malaise continued to be a drag on business in the first five months of 2021 as the Delta variant took hold. However, by June the lockdowns and restrictions started easing up as more people got vaccinated. The subscriber count started a slow rebound after bottoming out in April 2021. Thanks to instructor favorites, such as Jenni Lynn, Chris and Jackie returning to film, as well as the continued support of AquaGym Fitness, it finally felt like Fitmotivation was returning to a semblance of normal. Katy Coffey also made her Fitmotivation filming debut. Poolfit continued to consume much of the time and attention as the team and myself became consumed with the relaunch of a new and improved video-on-demand platform and the development of the Poolfit android app.
2022 – Fitmotivation Re-imagined
The strategy during 2020 - 2021 was to invest in Poolfit and grow the consumer base in an effort to offset Fitmotivation's losses. Now it was time to turn all attention back to Fitmotivation. The site had largely gone untouched since it was launched in 2014 and it desperately needed an update. In Winter 2022, plans were hatched to embark on the biggest project the team had ever tackled. We needed to create a new front-end that befitted an on-demand streaming platform that had over 300 videos. The site desperately needed new categorizing, filtering and search functions. Aside from an updated front end, the back end, the application programming interface (API) badly needed an update to bring the site up to current standards. The tech team warned that this “under the hood” work was a massive undertaking and that hiccups and glitches were likely. And that is exactly what happened. The updated Fitmotivation site launched in early September and I spent the rest of the year wearing my fire chief hat putting out fires caused by the updates.
2023 and beyond
Fortunately, January has been relatively free of support requests and it appears that most of the fires have been extinguished and subscribers are adapting to the changes. But I’ll let subscribers be the judge of that. If you are a current subscriber, please take this brief, open-ended survey to relay any feedback you have regarding the updated site – good or bad.
TAKE WINTER 2023 SURVEY
Online Education Revamp
The next big Fitmotivation update will roll out in the next couple months, but it will be confined to ONLINE EDUCATION. We are switching to a third-party online education platform that will allow us to get much more creative with AEA continuing education and online CEC quizzes. After that, we will turn our attention to revamping the notes feature. The web team is brainstorming some ideas of how we can dramatically up the game in providing a new and improved user interface with the notes.
Fitmotivation-Poolfit YouTube Channel
Our YOUTUBE CHANNEL has expanded and now includes some FREE full-length videos, short videos featuring exercise tips and some even shorter reels that are just fun to watch. We are approaching 30,000 channel subscribers! It is completely free to subscribe and you should if you want to be notified of the latest videos to post. Speaking of latest videos, if you have not been subscribed for a while, please check out some of the most RECENT VIDEOS to post.
The real story of the COVID years is the people who stayed on. Many of you kept your subscriptions going even though you weren’t teaching as a show of support. You will never know how grateful I am to each of you. The site survived a very difficult period because of your subscription support. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. We'll be back soon with another newsletter. I promise!
Author: Mark Grevelding is the founder of Fitmotivation. He is also a training specialist and consultant with the Aquatic Exercise Association’s (AEA). Mark has been active in the fitness industry for 22 years as a group fitness instructor, personal trainer, international presenter and a continuing education provider for AEA, AFAA & ACE.