SINGAPORE - Hybrid fitness training programmes are now commonplace in the Covid-19 era but when Breakaway Triathlon Club started offering such services in 2018, co-founders Eugene Lee, Aw Yizhong and Jacob Low remember how the reception was lukewarm at best.
Only about half of their members then signed up as most felt sessions had to be in-person, recounted Lee, 43. "But with the pandemic, it accelerated the growth of this strategy for us."
After last year's two-month circuit breaker, Breakaway has seen its local clientele grow three-fold, while the number of overseas members has remained stable during this period.
The company, which opened its first physical facility at Henderson Road in May, has about 60 Singapore-based and 400 international members. Fees start from $150 a month and rates for the hybrid program is the same as the in-person ones.
Lee said: "The technology we're using isn't some new artificial intelligence or invention, the software is already out there.
"Digital disruption is a strategy, it's not just about using a particular software, so the business and the approach needs to have a direction and needs to implement the tech to fit that direction."
Members now have access to both on-site and remote training sessions thanks to Breakaway's virtual platform and data metrics which is partly funded by Sport Singapore under the national agency's 'Blended' initiative.
The pilot, which saw its first round run from last October to April, was set up to encourage event management companies and organisers, as well as private academies and clubs to adopt digitalisation as a core strategy. Projects approved receive up to $30,000 (Tier 2) or $50,000 (Tier 1) in grants.
One area Breakaway has focused on is making the onboarding process a seamless one.
For example, now when someone signs up with the club, they will receive an automated e-mail with a video that teaches them to connect to the TrainingPeaks platform, which Breakaway uses to plan training programmes and monitor athletes' performances.
Each athletes' training programme is delivered on the TrainingPeaks software and the data and metrics recorded on their smart watches from their runs, swims and bike rides are transferred to the platform for the coaches to review and add their input.
Virtual cycling sessions are carried out on Zwift, a home cycling virtual training app in which an athlete's pedalling drives an avatar around a virtual course.
To maintain the social element of a training session, athletes and coaches communicate using video game chat app Discord.
Acknowledging that it was a tough time for those in the sport and fitness industry, Lee stressed the importance of thinking out of the box and innovating to deal with the challenges brought about by the pandemic while also seizing opportunities where possible.
He said: "The reality is, what do we need to do as industry to pivot? Everyone is pretty much on the same level because in this last century, nothing like this has ever happened.
"Now the goal is to integrate this new approach when Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) ends and the country starts reopening (when less stringent measures are in place) and reach out to the region."