Episode 38 – Keeping FIIT Online During Covid-19 with Dan and Sammi from FIIT
0:01:24 – More people are turning to Fiit because of COVID-19 restrictions
0:05:10 – The platform is built around four laws of habit formation
0:10:06 – Different class levels and other elements of Fiit
0:14:02 – The early days: from concept to growth
0:18:19 – What to expect when you sign up
0:25:30 – New features in the pipeline
0:30:54 – Five key actions to start your home fitness journey
0:35:26 – You can get a free trial and 25% off
- Get your Fiit discount
- Visit the Fitter Healthier Dad website
- Subscribe or leave a review on iTunes
Welcome to the Fitter Healthier Dad podcast where you can learn how to improve your diet, lose fat and get fitter in a sustainable and fun way, without spending hours in the gym. Here is your host, Darren Kirby.
Darren: Welcome back to the podcast, guys. This is the #1 podcast for dads in their 40s who want to improve their health and fitness. This is Episode 38 and joining me on today’s show are Sammi and Dan who are the founders of the online fitness platform, Fiit.
Fiit is the number one rated workout app that gives you access to the most in demand personal trainers at home and in the gym. From HIIT workouts to yoga classes, take hundreds of classes, live leaderboard workouts and training plans that you can fit in around your schedule. Hi, Sammi. Hi, Dan. Thanks very much for joining me on the podcast today.
Dan: No worries. Thanks for having us.
Sammi: Hi, Darren. Pleased to be here.
Darren: In these strange times that we’re living in, I know you guys are very busy and your platform has experienced some huge demand. In these difficult times, guys, can you explain to us and the listeners what kind of things you’ve experienced with the platform and how you’ve managed to cope under these strange times?
Dan: Go ahead, Sammi.
Sammi: Yeah, sure. Like you said, it is a really unprecedented time. I don’t think anyone could have foreseen this. I know some people sort of predicted this happening but the general population probably not. And I think what’s happened is with this enforced isolation which is critical to bringing things under control, a lot of people or pretty much everyone is now focused on keeping themselves fit and healthy. And I think that also means keeping themselves sane in a sense. A lot of people are saying that it’s really, really critical for both physical health and mental health.
So what was sort of a peripheral part of the fitness industry… we saw this trend happening three years ago, that’s why we started the business. We could see that the benefits of working out at home, convenience and flexibility, and the ability to bring real variety through a digital platform. And though the industry was growing–probably in the next three to five years it would have become a much bigger part of that industry–but I think we’re going to see a huge acceleration in consumer behaviour. Because all of those people who probably were sceptical, didn’t really want to understand the benefits of it, your 10 and a half million gym goers in the UK, all the gyms now closed which is an unbelievable situation for all of those customers, they’re having to turn to at-home fitness.
Even if you just take those 10 and a half million gym goers, they’re all motivated people trying to exercise and they all need a different solution. And then on the other hand, all of those people who either exercise in clubs and outside or people who don’t really do any exercise at all, they realised, being confined at home, they need to move. Even if you commute every day, I think I read somewhere the average number of steps for, say, office workers and different types of workers and that would range from anything from sort of 4,000 to 7,000 as an average. As soon as you take that away, people are losing a huge amount of movement and even just losing those steps has a real impact on your health.
We’ve seen a huge spike in demand, a huge spike in active users, so people taking classes, and lots and lots of positive feedback from people going, “Wow, that was actually really good.” You know, a lot of our friends–my friends and Dan’s friends who haven’t done Fiit before–messaging us saying, “That’s actually pretty good.” So, yeah, we feel privileged in a way to be able to help people during this time.
Darren: It’s obviously an amazing platform to have and an amazing variety, I think more than anything, of classes and courses that you have on there. But I just want to take a step back a bit, guys, and ask you the whole concept around Fiit. I know you said that you could see that the trend was changing more towards home fitness, but actually to encompass that and create a product which people can use is not easy. Because a lot of people go to the gym for that community feel. So when you were thinking about creating Fiit as a platform, what was your process? How did you go through it in order to develop the platform that you have today?
Dan: The core of the platform is all built around habit formation techniques. We follow the Four Laws of habit formation, which is: it’s got to be easy, so the platform needs to be easily accessible, it needs to fit around somebody’s life. The fact that you can just download it and access those classes instantaneously and do those classes wherever, is a core component.
The second is it’s got to be obvious and the law of obvious is all geared around community. So if you’re in communities that are doing exercise and keeping healthy, you’re way more likely to be hearing about exercise and so get involved. And so an important part of our platform was to be able to create those communities so that you’re not just feeling like you’re working out alone at home. One of the features we have is what we call Fiit Club where we can all join a class together. If we’re competitive types, we can compete in a real time leaderboard; if not, we can just know that we’re all logged in together, you can see each other’s names, and try and build that into the product.
The third element is about making it attractive, so trying to pair fitness with things that people love. We had to spend a lot of time on the music that goes with the classes so we have a team of in house DJs that mix the music perfect to the beat of the class. The quality of the trainers, we have the variety, the gamification and the leaderboard elements.
And then the final piece is making it satisfying, which is all around when you’ve completed a class, you collect points. We’re just about to launch a feature where every week you complete a certain number of tasks, you then get that reinforcement by getting certain rewards. And so it is all about habit formation, it’s not just watching a YouTube video, there’s a lot of features built into the platform to make sure people keep coming back.
Dan: The business is built on data, ultimately, so we know how long people have taken that class for, whether they stopped halfway through or whether they went all the way through to the end. After every single class, we get our users to rate the quality of the class, the quality of the trainer and how good the music was. And so Sammi’s team spends a lot of time interpreting that data to ensure that every class we release is what consumers are asking for and demanding for so we can kind of iterate almost in real time. We’ve got a studio where we film this content; we can iterate based on the feedback and the data that we’re receiving from the users.
Darren: Amazing. And in terms of the actual equipment, that is with classes, are all of the classes completely equipment-free, you don’t need anything?
Dan: There’s a combination of bodyweight and equipment classes. So I think when we first launched the product, we just launched with bodyweight because we wanted it to be the easiest thing that you can pick up and start. But what we’ve seen over time is more, I suppose, gym goers pick up the app. People who had a little bit of home equipment at home saying: Look, can we put weights into these class to be really more effective? It’s really critical that you do have equipment because the issue with bodyweight is generally you’re missing some critical things around pulling motion. You end up doing a lot of pushes with squats and push ups but pulling motions are really critical, so we introduced resistance bands, we have kettlebell classes and we have dumbbell classes.
And we try to keep it simple. You have a few optional pieces of equipment in the Rebalance Studio. So for example, in yoga and Pilates, you have yoga blocks or Pilates board, but they’re optional. The majority of the platform is very, very simple to use. For probably under £100, you get all the equipment you needed, or you can just do bodyweight and you don’t need to spend a penny, so apart from the internet, that’s probably really all you need.
Darren: And within the classes on the app itself, do you have classes based on age range as well? Because you can reach everyone at home, so there’s going to be young people, there’s going to be older people and it could even be people in their 70s who are getting involved. Do you categorise your classes on age range basis?
Sammi: I’ll answer that, Dan, shall I? What we have in the app at the moment is five different class levels. When we first launched the app, we had what we call beginner, intermediate and advanced so we were catering for these different ranges and abilities. What we realised through that feedback system that Dan spoke about just before, is that actually the beginner classes were a bit too difficult for some people and we introduced another level called entry level. Then more recently, with Fiit Club and with a number of other classes, we introduce what’s called an All Levels class: it has two trainers and Trainer One will do a beginner to an intermediate level and Trainer Two will do like an intermediate to an advanced, so the Trainer One is showing regressions and Trainer Two is showing progressions.
So it’s not age range categorised right now, but our mission as a business is to make exercise a habit for everybody and that’s really, really important. To exercise, we’re all about moving and everybody is very much about tackling the different demographics, different age ranges, as they come in. You cannot do everything on day one and our focus as a business is: how do we start to tackle the next person and the next person.
We introduced things around low impact classes, so people who have problems with their knees or who live in flats, they don’t want to make too much noise. And a lot of the rebalance classes in that–so that’s yoga Pilates, mobility and stretching–they are pretty suitable for everyone. My mother does probably three or four Pilates classes a week on the app. I spoke to her this morning, she says, “Look, we’re going to go and do our exercise,” and she’s over 70. So we do have a broad range, but over time we’ll address those different ages as we go.
Darren: That’s cool. That’s really cool. In terms of, it’s not just about fitness is it? There’s lots of other stuff. You’ve obviously mentioned in there about Pilates but I know you’ve got people like Richie Bostock on there, Richie Norton as well. Can you give us an insight as to the other elements of Fiit and classes that are in there?
Dan: Yeah, we try and have a really well-rounded platform. I think one of the dangers with high intensity interval training is that if you just do that every day, then your body’s going to get pretty beaten up. It’s got a lot of benefits, but you have to balance it with stretching and mobility. So we have the studio which we call Rebalance, which is a collection of different exercise regimes that will complement the kind of high intensity interval training, so Richie Norton, The Strength Temple, he’s a great trainer for taking classes once you’ve done a lot of HIIT and loosened the body up.
We introduced Richie Bostock breathwork classes as well because it’s also a great complement to a lot of the high intensity stuff to focus on breath and its impact on our overall physical and mental wellbeing. And so that Studio Rebalance is all designed to be a complement to ensure people are building healthy habits because if they just do HIIT every day, you’re going to get injured and you’re not going to build any healthy habits. So it was an important component of the application from the word go.
Darren: Right. Okay. And in terms of when you were setting out with a platform and you were looking at what you’re going to provide, is it a case of you guys knew what was in the industry and you decided to provide classes on that basis or did you have an extensive amount of market research to really understand what it is people want from this kind of home-based fitness?
Sammi: I suppose that at the beginning, we spent a number of months going to every single exercise class in London and sort of getting an understanding of what’s happening, what the workouts are like. It’s very, very difficult… You cannot reinvent the wheel in fitness; there are only so many things that you can actually do. I think a lot of things are just sort of made to seem really, really attractive through brighter lights or louder music. I think what we were looking at is what are the most popular things in the industry right now and who are the best trainers to give us guidance on that?
Our background, although we love fitness and we do it ourselves every day, we are not leading fitness instructors and we had to hire the best that we could find and that’s really what we did. We recruited a master trainer, we recruited 10 of the leading trainers in the industry from day one, and we really consult with them. We actually used some very high level advisors as well in the early part of the product, just to make sure that we were really creating the right workouts for people.
I think Joe Wicks, one of the biggest selling authors over the last few years, it’s a relatively simple exercise system at home. And I think to start with, most people just want a little bit of simplicity. So I think people know HIIT, they know yoga, and they know strength bodyweight, so that’s really where we started out and now we’ve added a lot of exciting new disciplines around mobility and…
Darren: That’s fascinating. So, obviously now, you’ve had a big increase in uptake in people using the platform, but what kind of things did you struggle with in the early days of Fiit in terms of the adoption of the platform? Was it people were too sceptical about doing stuff from home because of this preconceived idea of it being a bit of a YouTube video? How did you manage to get momentum and persuade people that this is something different?
Dan: Definitely, it’s a slow burn we built up over time and it’s about adding new subscribers every week and gradually building up. Started day one, I think when we launched we had 300 paying subscribers and then you just gradually build on. And I think, for us, the way we got the word out there initially was through our trainers. Most of them have a lot of credibility on Instagram and they would advertise to their audience that they’re now a trainer on Fiit.
And then when people would come and try it out, that’s where the power of the platform kicks in and people then start referring friends. So we see about 30-35% of new subscribers come from friend referrals, which is a really high percentage for a business like ours. And so you kind of let the product do the do the talking once you get that initial batch in and then everyone that comes is bringing their friends and slowly and slowly that snowballs.
Darren: There’s nothing like referrals, is there? And people recommending… they tend to trust their friends and their family more than they trust anything else, I think, so that’s a great endorsement for the platform. In terms of people that are listening to this now, guys, and they perhaps haven’t used the platform before or come across the platform, what would you suggest would be the first and the best place for them to start? Obviously, downloading the app is the first thing, but how would you suggest people get involved?
Sammi: The majority of people would start with a training plan. What we’ve done, we’ve got around 20 training plans in total, ranging from about two weeks up to 10 weeks. And what we’ve done is create a number of two-week training plans for each level, so if you’re entry level beginner, intermediate, advanced, there’s an option for you. And that’s probably the best place to start if you really don’t know what you’re doing. There are some tutorials in there, there is guidance within the app as well and I think that’s probably the best place to start. That’s how we’ve created that onboarding journey for users; they get offered a training plan when they start.
If you know what you’re doing then you can go into the browse section, you can search by discipline. A lot of people come in on a trainer, they might have been referred by one of their favourite trainers, and I suppose trying out one of their classes first is a first port of call for a lot of people as well.
Darren: Okay. On the actual training programmes, then, is there any functionality or features that enable you, if you’ve got a specific goal, for then Fiit to recommend certain classes to you or how does that work?
Dan: It’s exactly that so as you’re onboarding, you get asked what your goal is. Whether you’re wanting to improve your flexibility, general health, lose weight, etc., and then we will recommend the right training plan for you based on that goal. And also Sammi mentioned your fitness level. You can kind of choose whether you want to do something short term to get started, whether that’s the two-week training plan or you want to do something for a slightly longer period. We’ve got up to 10-week training plans.
Darren: Okay. And what do you see in terms of people’s consistency once they get onto the platform? Because of the community that you’re creating and you’ve got a little bit of gamification in there in terms of leaderboards and things like that, do you find that that’s what keeps people sticking to the platform? Are there any challenges around consistency?
Dan: I think one thing we’re really proud of is the return rates that we see. On average, active users are taking three classes a week and to think the average gym goer goes 13 times in a year, we’re really proud of the fact that people do keep coming back. And I think it’s not just one feature that keeps people coming back. As we spoke at the start, there’s a whole host of features that we’ve built, designed to build those habits and the community is a big part of it. But there’s also making sure we’ve got the best content, the music, the trainers, the kind of features that allow you to get rewards. There’s a whole host of things that go in there to try and build those habits.
Darren: And in terms of people’s overall fitness, is there something that they can track on the app? So for example, if they start off at baseline zero and their heart rate is at whatever beats per minute when they’re doing it, can they see historical tracking of their progress over a period of time?
Sammi: The way the platform works is, like we said, it is built on data so the key piece to get the best experience out of the product is to buy what is called the Fiit device which is a heart rate monitor with an accelerometer inside so it also tracks your reps in the strengths you do as well as your heart rate. And actually we’ve integrated into that another 25 different heartrate monitors and chest straps and what that allows the user to do is that in the Cardio Studio, you score what are called Fiit points and those Fiit points are based upon your heart rate and your heart rate zoning. The harder you work, the more Fiit points you get.
The Strength Studio is a rep based system, so we have personal bests in each section. Say, for example, you’re doing the simple squat and you have a 30 second time period, and you get 10. Then on the screen, it will say PB 10 so you’ve got this opportunity to try and beat that score. And then you’ll get a total score for each class, so you might get a total number of reps in a strength class and a total number of Fiit points.
So you’ve got a benchmark and we are constantly developing new ways to track your progress. We have what we call benchmark classes which are very binary, so they’re rep based and we see a lot of people posting on our Facebook community, The Fiit Challenges group, “I got 150 reps in week one” and six weeks later, they’re getting 200 reps and really being proud of how they’ve progressed.
I think, apart from… the whole industry uses the visual transformations… We do that as well, but that’s more user generated themselves. A lot of people like to post how they have transformed their body but there’s a big focus on using those data pieces to actually say, Yeah, I have actually got more reps or I have actually got more Fiit points now.
Darren: I think it all just goes to help in terms of if people feel like they’re actually making progress and then they’ve got the data to back it up, it just kind of helps motivate them, doesn’t it? Because everybody hits a plateau when they’re doing their training or whatever it is, but it’s almost like it’s a psychological push when they’ve got stuff to back it up and they can actually see that they’re making progress. I would actually argue that’s probably more than what you would get in a local gym.
Sammi: I think one other thing on a very simple level is we have very visibly, in the app, what we call streaks. So it’s a daily streak and a weekly streak, and it tells you: I’ve done a class every day or I’ve done a class every week. And people really don’t want to lose those streaks or break those streaks. Just those simple things are cues to keep people on track. My mum was devastated when she thought she logged out and lost her data; she just logged in with the wrong email address. Because of the whole 10,000 steps really changing the world in terms of how they’re thinking about hitting daily metrics, people have the same passion for that with the Fiit points and the reps and it really keeps them going.
Darren: Yeah, I can see that. It’s interesting how we’re driven by stuff like that and we measure our progress based on metrics and things like that. That’s quite fascinating. Guys, you mentioned that obviously now with the uptake of the platform, you’ve got a lot more features that you’re bringing. What are some of the features that you can share with us today that are coming towards the platform over the next few months?
Dan: We are constantly getting feature requests from the community, which has been great. We’re looking at working on private classes. At the moment, there’s a kind of schedule and a timetable when people join the Fiit Club classes, but we’re working on a feature where you could WhatsApp to your friends a private class and just your friends would join that class and if you want to compete with your friends, you can do that.
We are looking at how do we get ourselves onto TVs so we’re looking at different TV applications that we’re going to be building; so at the moment it’s on the phone and then you have to cast it onto a TV, but we’re working on some TV apps as well. In this time where we can’t access our studio, we’re looking at potentially doing some audio based workouts as well, potentially looking at some outdoor based stuff, so there’s a lot going on in the pipeline.
Darren: That sounds really interesting. That was going to be one of my questions, actually, regarding the outdoor stuff, because being outdoors and getting fresh air is beneficial for us in lots of different ways. Developing stuff like that so you can take it outside, I think, particularly with the weather, is really beneficial. Where do you see the industry moving now, in terms of home-based workouts? Do you see it just becoming ever more popular or do you actually see products being created? I’ve seen some of these things like big screens that they put in the house, almost like a mirror where you’re kind of working out in front of a mirror with an instructor on the other side. Do you see any developments like that coming down the line?
Dan: Yeah, it was interesting that mirror technology, I think a lot of that technology is getting built into the modern day TV, so we will definitely look to leverage the technologies coming out the new hardware. I think our approach is we believe in this concept of multi-channel fitness so we don’t believe the future of fitness is in the home; we believe that the home is an important part of somebody’s fitness toolkit. And so a lot of stuff that we’re working on beyond the feature of the app, we are looking at how do we get into physical spaces as well, setting up Fiit in gyms, allowing people to easily access Fiit workouts, whether they’re at home, in the gym or outdoors.
So, yeah, I think we are just a big believer that the consumer that will come out the back of this current situation that we’re in will just want loads of flexibility in how they consume fitness and so if we can provide a solution that connects the dots between at home, in the gym and outdoors, I think we’ll be in a strong position.
Darren: I’d agree with that. I think you know… Sorry, go on.
Sammi: I was going to say I think you were talking about where does the industry go? I think we touched on it right at the beginning, which is the acceleration, the adoption of at-home fitness is probably going to end up being three to five years ahead of time. Most of the retailers have all sold out of home fitness equipment, of dumbbells, of kettlebells. More people than ever are going to be set up at home and I think once the doors of the gyms open again, there’ll definitely be this user who understands that they can have a great workout at home, but there’s always going to be people who really do want to go to the gym. So I think, as Dan said, you’re going to get more and more people with probably subscriptions that are in the range of £20 of gym membership and £20 at home gym membership. Running app and combined all that, they’ve got all the fitness that they need for probably under £50 a month.
Darren: Yeah, I’d agree with that. I think the flexibility element of fitness is key. I don’t think it’s one or the other, like you said, and I’ve even seen in some gyms now that the Peloton bikes are starting to show up and you wouldn’t have necessarily associated that with a gym. You guys bring in maybe Fiit into gyms and having an enhancement to a gym, I can see that as being complementary as opposed to being in competition.
Dan: Yeah, absolutely, that’s our approach. We’re not trying to rob Peter to pay Paul here; we want to try and grow the industry with the physical providers as well. And so we’ve had a lot of really interesting conversations with different gym chains and they’re definitely embracing at-home fitness and not trying to fight it. I think Fiit will definitely be coming to a lot of gyms very soon.
Darren: All right, guys. To summarise, what would you say are five key actions that people could take away from this podcast today to start on their home fitness journey?
Sammi: I would say that if we’re talking about right now when everyone is at home and people’s routines have changed dramatically, I think first and foremost is to create a routine. That means whatever you need to do on a daily basis, put your fitness into a particular time slot if you can and if you’re a parent, then just prepare to be flexible. But I think creating a routine is something that’s very important.
Secondly, I would say try and do something every day; habits are built up from frequency and not from total time spent. I think it’s better to do something shorter and more frequently to start building that habit and we’ve all got more time right now. So there couldn’t really be a better time to start.
I think if you are going to download Fiit and you’re going to use Fiit as your home solution, then start a plan because that will give you some structure to kick things off. You don’t have to think about who am I going to train with? Which class should I do? I would start a plan.
And I think also I would say, fourth, mix it up. I think variety is the spice of life and it will keep you focused. I think once you’ve completed a plan, maybe do something different. If you started with strength, maybe do cardio. If you started with cardio, try and do some yoga and I think having variety in your routine is going to keep you on track.
I think finally, more importantly than ever, as the laws still currently allow you to get outside to walk or run as part of your exercise, I would say get outside and get some fresh air and get out of the house as often as you can. I think those would be my five important things for the current climate.
Darren: I think they are very simple but very effective and ones which I think we overlook. You know, we always try to overcomplicate things as humans, but obviously, a lot of the simple stuff works. So yeah, I think there are some great tips there. One thing that just came to mind as you were talking, Sammi, it’s around the children’s side of fitness. That’s obviously starting to gain a bit of momentum with Joe Wicks doing what he’s doing. What’s your views on that and do you see that coming into Fiit?
Dan: I think as Sammi mentioned earlier, it’s important that we can’t be everything for everyone right away and I think at the moment, we’re trying to focus on a couple of different segments in the workouts that we’re building. I think kids is definitely a giant opportunity, I think Joe is doing an amazing job of getting people active. His live workouts, his doing PE classes at 9 a.m. is an amazing thing and I think that’s the kind of area of the market where he’s put a lot of time and attention. I think he’s probably best placed right now to look after that segment of users but it’s definitely something at some point we will look at and how we can incorporate that into what we do.
Darren: Awesome. All right then, guys, thank you very much for your time today, I really appreciate it. Like I said, I know you guys are extremely busy, given the current climate and I appreciate you coming on. Is there anything that I didn’t ask you that you feel I should have asked you, which would benefit the listeners?
Dan: I think it was a pretty thorough conversation. Sammi outlined some good points to get people started on their journeys but, as I said, it’s very straightforward to get started in fitness. A two-week free trial, so there’s no commitment but it’s just about creating those good routines and habits and getting that structure in your day when we’re in some difficult times.
Darren: Yeah, absolutely. I completely agree. For people that are listening that want to try Fiit out, guys, where’s the best place for them to go and to connect with you?
Sammi: They can go to the website which is just Fiit.tv. You can also check us out on Instagram, which is just @Fiit and there’s a two-week, 14-day free trial, so you can check out the complete premium product and we’ve also got a discount code for your listeners for 25% off. If they go to GetFiit.tv/FHD, then they can get 25% off, so go check it out and give us some feedback. We’d love to hear what you think.
Darren: Fantastic. All right, guys, thank you very much for your time. I appreciate you coming on today and I’ll look forward to speaking to you again in the future.
Dan: Fantastic. Thanks for having us. Keeps safe.
Darren: Thanks for listening to the Fitter Healthier Dad podcast. If you enjoyed today’s episode, please hit subscribe and I would really appreciate it if you could leave a review on iTunes. All the links mentioned in the episode will be in the show notes and a full transcription is over at FitterHealthierDad.com.