BY Fast Company 2 MINUTE READ

Gyms and fitness centres around the world have been forced to close indefinitely, resulting in unprecedented job losses for millions of health and fitness professionals. Even as South Africa enters Level 3 of lockdown and people are free to exercise outside at any time of the day, playing sports or attending a physical gym is still prohibited.

However, this has in turn reinvigorated a whole new surge in the arena of online workout classes. Amid the pandemic, most gyms across the country have attempted to offer some form of ‘virtual classes’ to a varying level of success. But with the need to support large overheads, solely focusing on online videos is not a sustainable business model for traditional bricks and mortar gyms. 

Enter JEFF Fitness. At the start of lockdown, the company took a different approach. JEFF Fitness launched their live daily workouts to help people connect and stay fit and healthy in the face of the global pandemic. Within a few short weeks, the JEFF Together Facebook group has grown to over 40 000 people from over 99 countries.

The tight-knit community provide constant support to each other, sharing their progress and cheering each other on. “This is unique in the fitness industry and something I’ve never seen before. It’s incredible,” says founder Johno Meintjies. 

Meintjes explains what he believes to be the secret to their success: “We have managed to build a virtual gym, based on the power of true, authentic connection. We exercise in order to get fitter, stronger and healthier, in order to see results. But everything associated with those results comes down to connection.” 

The live classes on offer include daily HIIT classes, Yoga, Kids classes, guided runs and even cooking sessions. Members can take part in live sessions or complete any workout whenever it suits them. There is a monthly subscription of R200 per month and all classes are streamed from the JEFF Together Facebook group and are free to take part in before committing to the subscription. 

“What makes this all worthwhile are the heartwarming and vulnerable stories that our community share with us, be it a weight, fitness or mental issue that they have overcome. The messages of positivity, hope and strength have overwhelmed us and this is what keeps us going,” says Johno. 

The company also hosted South Africa’s Biggest Online Workout on 13 April, where over 17 000 people from around the country tuned in live, to sweat it out from the comfort of their own homes. With over 300 000 workout views later, JEFF Fitness is redefining the ‘new normal’ of the fitness industry. 

“The results our community has shared with us are unbelievable” says Johno. “Not only are they telling us about how they are reaching their health and fitness goals, but how we are helping them place routine, structure and connection at the centre of their lives.”