Think about the people you used to see every day: the bleary-eyed employees on the bus in the morning, the smiling barista at your local cafe, the hard-working colleagues at your office or coworking space. Suddenly, we were forced to stay home — and a whole host of familiar faces became missing from our lives.
Humans are social creatures. We seek and crave connection, to the point where loneliness (or perceived social isolation) can be detrimental to our health.
Catherine Chan, Founder of FitIn and one of CSI’s Online Community Members, knew we had to maintain our sense of community. So she launched FitIn Live, which started off as a virtual gym that sources local instructors to provide all-day fitness and mental health programming.
Since her introduction email to the CSI Listserv in March, Catherine has adapted her products to meet the needs of the community.
Now, individuals can book virtual classes with their friends on the FitIn app. It’s just like going to the gym with your workout buddies.
FitIn Live has been transformed into a platform where small-to-medium businesses can curate custom fitness and wellness programs for their employees. Proceeds will subsidize free classes for individuals who would normally face barriers to fitness and wellness professionals through the Feel Good, Do Good program.
A lot has happened. We caught up with this solopreneur to see what this process was like, from that initial jarring moment in the spring.
More than just a workout
“Suddenly, the gyms were all shutting down. […] My thought immediately went to ‘what will people do?’” recalled Catherine. “Gyms are a huge source of community. Your personal trainer knows your history, your story. They’re there to support you and pep you up. And then you have your crew that you work out with, that you see a couple of times a week. And it’s just like ‘oh no, what’s going to happen to that sense of community? We’re going to lose so much.’”
On the other hand, instructors were left in limbo. Some began teaching classes online, uploading videos on YouTube or doing live sessions on Instagram. But working out alone in your living room is very different from being in the gym, surrounded by like-minded people with similar goals.
“Instagram sessions are very one-sided. You have a hard time conversing, so you’ve lost that sense of community already. And the instructor can’t interact with the client. They can’t help them correct their posture; they can’t pep them up.” explained Catherine. “So that’s what we can do with FitIn. Because they’re right there in the same virtual classroom, [instructors] can go up to the camera and say ‘hey, fix your posture in this way’ and ‘make sure you’re drinking your water.’ They’re able to take care of their viewers better.”
One of Catherine’s goals with FitIn is to support instructors. Many of them, like herself, are solopreneurs, which means that they’re juggling finances, marketing, logistics, and service delivery all on their own! FitIn alleviates the stress of transitioning to a new medium, and provides instructors with a platform to connect with other instructors and build a client base.
Making health and wellness more accessible to everyone
The Feel Good, Do Good program provides free access to fitness and mental wellness classes to underserved communities and frontline workers.
Instructors have generously donated their time to teach these classes, and administrative costs will be offset by proceeds from sales of custom corporate programs. It’s a cycle that works, explained Catherine, because more and more organizations are recognizing the importance of employee wellness:
“Some of those businesses have put aside some money for employee wellness during COVID-19, or they’ve realized that they’ve put this off for a while, and now’s the right time to action this plan! There’s a lot of interest in getting some mental wellness content out to their employees, because everyone is still reeling. Mental health [awareness] is at an all-time high.”
FitIn has partnered with Big Brothers Big Sisters and Building Roots Toronto to bring this program to life. Anyone involved with one of these partners can now sign up through their organization or online on the FitIn Live website.
Catherine hopes her work will empower people to prioritize their health by removing barriers to health and wellness professionals.
“We have such an amazing array of classes and instructors out there. […] I think people know what they want and need, but they struggle to find it. So if I present them with a massive menu board, they can cherry pick [based on their needs],” she said. “It’s giving people power over their health and wellness.”
If you miss that sense of belonging you get at the gym, check out the FitIn app.
If you’re a business who wants to support your employee’s health (literally) and give back to the community, consider creating a custom fitness and wellness plan on FitIn Live.
Last but not least, if you want to join Catherine and a host of other like-minded social entrepreneurs, our Online Community Membership!
Header Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels