DeakinACTIVE fighting fit after record-setting Melbourne lockdown

Melbourne’s leisure and fitness providers went through one of the longest lockdowns in the world following an outbreak of Covid-19 in July. For three and a half months, 5 million Melbourne residents were confined to their homes, limited to an hour of outdoor exercise a day. We spoke with Jonas Leisure customer Sam Weston, from Deakin University’s leisure business DeakinACTIVE, to find out how the university’s recreation infrastructure has been bouncing back.

When gym doors were forced to close last year, DeakinACTIVE worked hard on bringing extra online services to their members to keep them engaged as part of their fitness community. By using an app, social media platforms and Zoom, DeakinACTIVE was able to help members maintain their health and stay connected through online group fitness and social media chat groups.

“We endeavoured to maintain high levels of engagement with our members to keep them active and to help look after their mental health and wellbeing during those challenging times,” says Mr Weston.

Burwood and Waurn Ponds facilities used their DeakinMOVES app to give members access to free online group fitness classes, daily home workouts and monthly challenges, and indoor and outdoor training programmes. The fitness tracker proved to be a good motivator to keep members active, and healthy recipes provided inspiration for then-essential home cooking.

Facebook and Instagram were also invaluable in giving members a sense of community. DeakinACTIVE regularly updated its social media pages with health tips and livestreamed classes, including yoga, Pilates and meditation. Personal trainers were also offering their services via Zoom.

“We have found that online services are quite successful in engaging students and members around Australia.”

Waurn Ponds and the new facility at Burwood have been open for nearly three months post-lockdown, and they are both in good shape. Deakin students, staff and community members are back into the swing of gym workouts, with about 400 people using the recreation centres each day. But after a disruptive year, things look a little different in a post-Covid world.

DeakinACTIVE adapted well to lockdown, and the sudden digital shift has given the centres some new tools they plan to continue using to keep people engaged.

Envibe leisure software allowed the Burwood and Waurn Ponds centres to easily suspend all memberships during the lockdown period and send text message updates to members about reopening dates. It now works as an effective form of contact tracing, as members sign in and out of the facilities using the Envibe scanner. After seeing the effectiveness of the software, Warrnambool will switch to Envibe on 1 February.

Mr Weston says DeakinACTIVE will continue to offer online services after a surge in demand for the option to mix in-gym and at-home workouts. Centres will continue to share workout videos, livestream classes and provide health tips on their Facebook page, and encourage people to download their app to engage in the online community.

“We will also look to increase our outdoor personal training and group fitness options to encourage more individuals to return to exercise, and aid in the concern of Covid-19.

“With so many students and staff still working and studying offsite, we have had reduced visits. However, we are confident that when trimester 1 of the university study period starts, we will have an influx of new and existing members as students and staff return to being on campus once again,” Mr Weston says.

To keep gym-goers safe, DeakinACTIVE has some new rules in place. Members must wear a mask when social distancing is not possible, some equipment has been cordoned off to keep people separated, and more hand sanitiser and equipment-cleaning wipes are available. All members also use the DeakinMOVES app to book into classes so numbers can be monitored, and additional information is on file should track and tracing be required.

The lockdown emphasised to Mr Weston that open and ongoing communication is key. By keeping in contact with its members and supporting them through the challenging times, DeakinACTIVE has maintained loyal customers and gone from strength to strength.

“Communication and engagement were also key for our staff during lockdown. We undertook trivia nights and catch-ups via Zoom to allow staff to interact with management and each other.”

It may take some time for things to go back to a kind of normal, but Deakin University’s fitness centres have managed to bounce back from the lockdown and pick up some new solutions to keep the business thriving.