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Interview: Lindsay Cook, FitOn

The founder of FitOn, a fitness app that’s completely free to use, talks to Steph Eaves about democratising the fitness experience, and how the app’s social features are making home fitness more engaging

Published in Fit Tech 2020 issue 2

What’s your background?
I was lucky to have started my career at Microsoft where I found a love for the intersection of technology and consumer products. I joined Fitbit in 2012 as one of the first marketers on the team and went on to become the head of devices and vice president of product marketing.

During my time at Fitbit, I was responsible for launching many of their award-winning hardware and software products and contributed to driving Fitbit to emerge as a globally recognised brand with over US$2bn in revenue. Fitbit got me excited about the world of health and fitness, and as I immersed myself in user trends and dynamics there, I began to see an opportunity for a company like FitOn.

How did you come up with the idea for FitOn?
Working out and being active is an integral part of what helps us feel good and stay healthy. But so many of us are too busy nowadays to work out, and I was no different. Between my long hours as an executive at Fitbit and having young kids at home, it was almost impossible for me to carve out time for my favorite classes at the gym. I tried to find workout videos on other apps or online that would keep me motivated, but I either got lost in the depths of YouTube, or felt like I was watching content right out of the 80s, or I just got bored following simple moves and GIFs of someone doing a pushup. I couldn’t find premium workouts that were super motivating and I kept asking myself how in the world this didn’t already exist.

I founded FitOn because I wanted to give us all a reason to stop putting ourselves last on the to-do list. I understood that not everyone can afford an expensive piece of fitness equipment or personal trainers, but that they do have smartphones. Our focus has been on producing insanely premium fitness content that’s easily accessible, and with a social experience that helps people find motivation.

In the past 18 months since launch, we’re proudly now the number one free fitness app, and so far in 2020 we have driven more downloads than all our direct competitors, including Peloton and Nike.

What’s the main point of difference between FitOn and the many fitness apps already on the market?
FitOn offers completely free instant access to premium fitness classes – from HIIT to strength to cardio – all led by world class trainers. We’re excited to be working with amazing celebrities like Gabrielle Union, Julianne Hough and Jonathan Van Ness, and world-class trainers like Cassey Ho, Jeanette Jenkins and more, to create motivating workouts you can do anytime, anywhere.

We differentiate ourselves by filming really high-quality guided workouts across an exceptionally wide variety of workout types, that are optimised for your smartphone. We also give our members a really addictive social fitness experience where they can work out with friends and family, wherever they may be.

With FitOn, we’ve essentially given everyone access to a gym in their pockets, equipping them with the accessibility and convenience that will help them reach their health and fitness goals.

When did you launch?
We launched FitOn in January of 2019. I had left Fitbit and was taking a much-needed break from work travelling with my kids, when I began to really reflect on my life and the lack of work-life balance I’d had.

I’ve often said that I began FitOn by doing what many founders do, trying to solve my own problem. This break gave me the time I needed to build the concept of FitOn – to make a product that would help busy people, like me, to get fit.

I was looking for a co-founder to go after this dream of mine and after searching, I suddenly realised that the perfect person was actually right beside me. My husband Russell founded AllTrails, the number one outdoors app and had 20 years’ experience building digital subscriptions businesses.

We set out to design the app, talking with consumers, and went from concept, to design, to version 1.0 of the product in the App Store in just a few short months. Being a really small company at the time, gave us the ability to be nimble, making extremely fast decisions and iterating quickly. We have been running at full speed ever since and the product has come so far thanks to all of the amazing feedback from our members.

How often is new content added?
We add new workouts just about every week and are constantly introducing new ideas in every shoot to help keep our members engaged and excited about coming back. One of our newest additions is our recent launch with dancer Julianne Hough of KINRGY x FitOn.

Why did you decide to make the app completely free?
Our core belief is that everyone should have the freedom to get fit. And so, from the very beginning, it was extremely important to me to make sure everyone had access to the platform. This is why all of our workouts are free on FitOn.

Where does your revenue come from?
Earlier this year, we introduced FitOn PRO, a premium subscription service that offers a suite of additional features to our members.
With FitOn PRO, you get premium music from top artists, personalised meal plans, 500+ exclusive recipes, group video calls with friends, unlimited offline downloads, real-time heart rate from your Fitbit, Garmin, Samsung, etc., and more.

How many regular users do you have?
As of July 2020, we have 4M+ members. We’re excited to have just passed 250 million workout minutes with 60 million workout minutes recorded in June alone.

Who is your target audience?
We designed FitOn to be an experience for everyone. We have a diverse offering of classes from beginner to advanced levels across a wide variety of workouts like HIIT, strength, Pilates, yoga, dance and more. We have workouts tailored for people who are just starting out, to those who are active athletes and regular gym goers.

Tell us more about FitOn’s focus on social experience
At FitOn, we strive to create a sense of community with our workouts. Working out alone at home can be less exciting than at a studio fitness class, so we gave a lot of thought to how we could create that feeling and experience at home.

We set up live leaderboards where you can compete with friends using real-time heart rate monitoring from Apple Watch and other devices. We also allow you to invite your friends to classes and see their progress in the app, so you can cheer them on, or maybe push yourself a little harder with some friendly competition.

We’re definitely seeing a movement of more people working out at home and FitOn is there to help with that extra motivation.

What other features are designed to keep users motivated?
We just launched a feature called FitOn Party that allows users to do live video calls with their friends while they’re taking FitOn classes. They can have a video and audio conversation with their friends and motivate each other throughout their workouts while getting a more social experience from home.

In addition to classes, we provide an advice section of the app that shares articles and tips based on people’s personal fitness goals.

Tell us about your celebrity collaborations
We’re thrilled to be working with Queer Eye’s Jonathan Van Ness, actress Gabrielle Union, and dancer Julianne Hough. All of these celebrities truly represent and believe in what FitOn is all about – using fitness as a vehicle for self-care. While they all have very different styles and bring different workout aspects to the platform, they’re all dedicated to making fitness accessible to everyone.

How has COVID19 impacted your following?
As people try to find a sense of normalcy during this incredibly unsettling time, there has been even more accelerated growth in the digital fitness industry. With mandated closures and many people working from home, we have seen a significant growth in our business these last few months for workouts (260 per cent increase), signups (200 per cent increase), and friends working out together (a 3X increase).

Now more than ever, FitOn is helping people stay active, healthy and less stressed during this difficult period, and it has shown people that home fitness can be an amazing experience.

Did you adapt the content at all to suit these new lockdown users?
FitOn has always had workouts that were intended for people to do at home, but with the lockdown, we’ve added workouts designed specifically for quarantine, where you might not necessarily be able to access exercise equipment. For example, Gabrielle Union and her husband, Dwyane Wade, filmed workouts that require no equipment, using their household items as props.

We have also filmed more content to include the type of equipment most people use at home, such as resistance bands.

How has the app evolved since you launched?
Today, FitOn is a totally different experience from when we launched at the beginning of 2019. That is the beauty of software. It’s so easy to improve and constantly change to meet your members’ needs and demands. When I was at Fitbit, every time we launched a piece of hardware it took at least 12 months to develop. But with software, we’re launching new updates of the app every week.

What are your plans for FitOn?
We started FitOn believing in the opportunity to democratise digital fitness with an innovative, technology driven solution that eliminated any barriers for users. Our focus moving forward will be leveraging the ubiquity of the smartphone and improving video streaming capabilities to provide every single person across the world with an invaluable social fitness experience.

What is the future of digital fitness?
Having seen the impact COVID-19 has had on the fitness industry, it’s clear the importance of digital fitness will only increase over the coming years. These last few months have shown that digital platforms like FitOn can be a great alternative to more traditional in-person sessions.

In the near future, I think traditional retail gyms will be looking to partner with companies like FitOn as they quickly move to become more capital efficient and create more digital solutions for their members.

Beyond the more immediate shift to digital fitness we’re very excited about leveraging new technologies in AR/VR.

I’d also like to see the fitness industry focus more on wellness and self-care than on shaping the ‘perfect body’. Through FitOn, I’m hoping we’re creating a platform that allows people to take time for themselves and not feel stressed or guilty about doing it.

Sign up here to get Fit Tech's weekly ezine and every issue of Fit Tech magazine free on digital.
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Interview: Lindsay Cook, FitOn

The founder of FitOn, a fitness app that’s completely free to use, talks to Steph Eaves about democratising the fitness experience, and how the app’s social features are making home fitness more engaging

Published in Fit Tech 2020 issue 2

What’s your background?
I was lucky to have started my career at Microsoft where I found a love for the intersection of technology and consumer products. I joined Fitbit in 2012 as one of the first marketers on the team and went on to become the head of devices and vice president of product marketing.

During my time at Fitbit, I was responsible for launching many of their award-winning hardware and software products and contributed to driving Fitbit to emerge as a globally recognised brand with over US$2bn in revenue. Fitbit got me excited about the world of health and fitness, and as I immersed myself in user trends and dynamics there, I began to see an opportunity for a company like FitOn.

How did you come up with the idea for FitOn?
Working out and being active is an integral part of what helps us feel good and stay healthy. But so many of us are too busy nowadays to work out, and I was no different. Between my long hours as an executive at Fitbit and having young kids at home, it was almost impossible for me to carve out time for my favorite classes at the gym. I tried to find workout videos on other apps or online that would keep me motivated, but I either got lost in the depths of YouTube, or felt like I was watching content right out of the 80s, or I just got bored following simple moves and GIFs of someone doing a pushup. I couldn’t find premium workouts that were super motivating and I kept asking myself how in the world this didn’t already exist.

I founded FitOn because I wanted to give us all a reason to stop putting ourselves last on the to-do list. I understood that not everyone can afford an expensive piece of fitness equipment or personal trainers, but that they do have smartphones. Our focus has been on producing insanely premium fitness content that’s easily accessible, and with a social experience that helps people find motivation.

In the past 18 months since launch, we’re proudly now the number one free fitness app, and so far in 2020 we have driven more downloads than all our direct competitors, including Peloton and Nike.

What’s the main point of difference between FitOn and the many fitness apps already on the market?
FitOn offers completely free instant access to premium fitness classes – from HIIT to strength to cardio – all led by world class trainers. We’re excited to be working with amazing celebrities like Gabrielle Union, Julianne Hough and Jonathan Van Ness, and world-class trainers like Cassey Ho, Jeanette Jenkins and more, to create motivating workouts you can do anytime, anywhere.

We differentiate ourselves by filming really high-quality guided workouts across an exceptionally wide variety of workout types, that are optimised for your smartphone. We also give our members a really addictive social fitness experience where they can work out with friends and family, wherever they may be.

With FitOn, we’ve essentially given everyone access to a gym in their pockets, equipping them with the accessibility and convenience that will help them reach their health and fitness goals.

When did you launch?
We launched FitOn in January of 2019. I had left Fitbit and was taking a much-needed break from work travelling with my kids, when I began to really reflect on my life and the lack of work-life balance I’d had.

I’ve often said that I began FitOn by doing what many founders do, trying to solve my own problem. This break gave me the time I needed to build the concept of FitOn – to make a product that would help busy people, like me, to get fit.

I was looking for a co-founder to go after this dream of mine and after searching, I suddenly realised that the perfect person was actually right beside me. My husband Russell founded AllTrails, the number one outdoors app and had 20 years’ experience building digital subscriptions businesses.

We set out to design the app, talking with consumers, and went from concept, to design, to version 1.0 of the product in the App Store in just a few short months. Being a really small company at the time, gave us the ability to be nimble, making extremely fast decisions and iterating quickly. We have been running at full speed ever since and the product has come so far thanks to all of the amazing feedback from our members.

How often is new content added?
We add new workouts just about every week and are constantly introducing new ideas in every shoot to help keep our members engaged and excited about coming back. One of our newest additions is our recent launch with dancer Julianne Hough of KINRGY x FitOn.

Why did you decide to make the app completely free?
Our core belief is that everyone should have the freedom to get fit. And so, from the very beginning, it was extremely important to me to make sure everyone had access to the platform. This is why all of our workouts are free on FitOn.

Where does your revenue come from?
Earlier this year, we introduced FitOn PRO, a premium subscription service that offers a suite of additional features to our members.
With FitOn PRO, you get premium music from top artists, personalised meal plans, 500+ exclusive recipes, group video calls with friends, unlimited offline downloads, real-time heart rate from your Fitbit, Garmin, Samsung, etc., and more.

How many regular users do you have?
As of July 2020, we have 4M+ members. We’re excited to have just passed 250 million workout minutes with 60 million workout minutes recorded in June alone.

Who is your target audience?
We designed FitOn to be an experience for everyone. We have a diverse offering of classes from beginner to advanced levels across a wide variety of workouts like HIIT, strength, Pilates, yoga, dance and more. We have workouts tailored for people who are just starting out, to those who are active athletes and regular gym goers.

Tell us more about FitOn’s focus on social experience
At FitOn, we strive to create a sense of community with our workouts. Working out alone at home can be less exciting than at a studio fitness class, so we gave a lot of thought to how we could create that feeling and experience at home.

We set up live leaderboards where you can compete with friends using real-time heart rate monitoring from Apple Watch and other devices. We also allow you to invite your friends to classes and see their progress in the app, so you can cheer them on, or maybe push yourself a little harder with some friendly competition.

We’re definitely seeing a movement of more people working out at home and FitOn is there to help with that extra motivation.

What other features are designed to keep users motivated?
We just launched a feature called FitOn Party that allows users to do live video calls with their friends while they’re taking FitOn classes. They can have a video and audio conversation with their friends and motivate each other throughout their workouts while getting a more social experience from home.

In addition to classes, we provide an advice section of the app that shares articles and tips based on people’s personal fitness goals.

Tell us about your celebrity collaborations
We’re thrilled to be working with Queer Eye’s Jonathan Van Ness, actress Gabrielle Union, and dancer Julianne Hough. All of these celebrities truly represent and believe in what FitOn is all about – using fitness as a vehicle for self-care. While they all have very different styles and bring different workout aspects to the platform, they’re all dedicated to making fitness accessible to everyone.

How has COVID19 impacted your following?
As people try to find a sense of normalcy during this incredibly unsettling time, there has been even more accelerated growth in the digital fitness industry. With mandated closures and many people working from home, we have seen a significant growth in our business these last few months for workouts (260 per cent increase), signups (200 per cent increase), and friends working out together (a 3X increase).

Now more than ever, FitOn is helping people stay active, healthy and less stressed during this difficult period, and it has shown people that home fitness can be an amazing experience.

Did you adapt the content at all to suit these new lockdown users?
FitOn has always had workouts that were intended for people to do at home, but with the lockdown, we’ve added workouts designed specifically for quarantine, where you might not necessarily be able to access exercise equipment. For example, Gabrielle Union and her husband, Dwyane Wade, filmed workouts that require no equipment, using their household items as props.

We have also filmed more content to include the type of equipment most people use at home, such as resistance bands.

How has the app evolved since you launched?
Today, FitOn is a totally different experience from when we launched at the beginning of 2019. That is the beauty of software. It’s so easy to improve and constantly change to meet your members’ needs and demands. When I was at Fitbit, every time we launched a piece of hardware it took at least 12 months to develop. But with software, we’re launching new updates of the app every week.

What are your plans for FitOn?
We started FitOn believing in the opportunity to democratise digital fitness with an innovative, technology driven solution that eliminated any barriers for users. Our focus moving forward will be leveraging the ubiquity of the smartphone and improving video streaming capabilities to provide every single person across the world with an invaluable social fitness experience.

What is the future of digital fitness?
Having seen the impact COVID-19 has had on the fitness industry, it’s clear the importance of digital fitness will only increase over the coming years. These last few months have shown that digital platforms like FitOn can be a great alternative to more traditional in-person sessions.

In the near future, I think traditional retail gyms will be looking to partner with companies like FitOn as they quickly move to become more capital efficient and create more digital solutions for their members.

Beyond the more immediate shift to digital fitness we’re very excited about leveraging new technologies in AR/VR.

I’d also like to see the fitness industry focus more on wellness and self-care than on shaping the ‘perfect body’. Through FitOn, I’m hoping we’re creating a platform that allows people to take time for themselves and not feel stressed or guilty about doing it.

Sign up here to get Fit Tech's weekly ezine and every issue of Fit Tech magazine free on digital.
Gallery
More features
interview

Blurring the lines

Les Mills has launched a suite of digital solutions to help gyms future-proof by expanding their reach in the booming online fitness space, while complementing their live offerings. Steph Eaves talks to Les Mills International’s CMO Anna Henwood to find out more

Sky x Fiit

Fiit has secured a deal with TV giant Sky, to make its virtual workout platform available through the subscription-based Sky Q service. With 20 per cent of Fiit users now accessing the app through Sky, Fit Tech speaks to Fraser Stirling and Daniel Shellard to find out more

Fit Tech Leadership Report

Fit tech is a growing, competitive sector. Executive search firm, Stronger Talent, recently analysed the backgrounds of more than 300 fit tech executives to provide insights into recruiting strategies, as Pete Leibman explains
interview

Robotic muscles

We identified the need to step beyond the current approaches to muscle weakness, and move instead to placing robotic muscles exactly where they’re needed – inside the body

Funxtion: A brand new app

FunXtion and GoodLife Fitness are collaborating to help Canadians stay fit in the gym and at home
people

Devi Mahadevia

Facebook director of sports and fitness partnerships
With Facebook paid online events, publishers can charge viewers to attend a video livestream on their Facebook pages or a third party video service
interview

Preston Lewis, Black Box VR

We’ve had to create training experiences that show users how to grab handles in the virtual world that are mapped to our real-world machine
Editor's letter

Big (fit) tech

We’re entering the age of the wellness mega-corp, with the ultimate goal for investors being to dominate health and wellness markets in every channel. Prepare to expect the unexpected in this convergence of health, fitness and wellness

Staying sticky

Bob Lawson explains how digital fitness platforms and apps can maximise retention and prevent churn

Digital retention top performers

Three digital fitness platforms tell Fit Tech how they work to achieve higher levels of customer retention
people

Kevin Dawidowicz

President, CoachMePlus
Fitness apps are designed to train clients, without a trainer on the other side. We give coaches a tool for connection
people

Andy Etches

Founder and sports director, Rezzil
Rezzil was able to have an injured player learning his new manager's philosophy, positioning and playing style – all from a seated position
FreeMotion Fitness
FreeMotion Fitness