Starting An Online Fitness Business During The COVID-19 Pandemic

Donn Thompson photo
Sifa Rachid

Online dance and fitness classes have exploded amid the coronavirus pandemic, capturing not only domestic audiences, but also audiences worldwide. Even before the Coronavirus outbreak, industry researchers were predicting tremendous growth in the virtual fitness market. One report says the global market will reach $2.6 billion in 2022, up from $850 million in 2017. No doubt, some of those new to working out will continue to choose online programs as their way of staying fit, fabulous, and stress-free even after the pandemic wanes.

Professional dancer, choreographer, and fitness instructor Sifa Rachid recently began to offer virtual classes for adults, children and teenagers at her YouTube channel, Movement Graffiti (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC4JaqInig2D0PoY72eaoa8Q?view_as=subscriber), and at her website, https://www.themovementgraffiti.com. Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo to Congolese and Caribbean parents, Rachid is a graduate of Hunter College (City University of New York)’s dance program. She also studied dance at the National Dance Theatre of Jamaica, and in New York at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Broadway Dance Center, and Dance Theater of Harlem. She holds certifications in personal training, Mat and Reformer Pilates, Zumba, and CPR.

I caught up with Rachid one evening as she was preparing playlists for her classes.

TNJ: How did you begin a career in fitness?

Rachid: Before I graduated from Hunter, I took a Pilates class at Broadway Dance Center, which is a training hub for world-class, professional and aspiring dancers. I wanted to further strengthen my core for the specific dance movements I planned to develop. After that class, I became certified as a Pilates instructor because I intended to go into business for myself. That first certification opened the door to others.

TNJ: When did you start teaching?

Rachid: I began teaching dance more than 15 years ago, starting out at a daycare center teaching creative movement and ballet to three-year-olds. I’ve taught at Peridance in New York City, and I still teach at reputable Pilates studios in the City. I launched my own company in 2006 as Zifadanz, a dance troupe. I changed the name to Movement Graffiti two years later and added fitness training in 2009.

TNJ: Why did you decide to offer classes online?

Rachid: The Coronavirus was spreading and people weren’t going to classes as before. I knew there were certain platforms for virtual meetings or gatherings because I had interviewed for fitness jobs through one of those platforms, which is Zoom. When the stay-at-home and quarantine orders came, I thought it was a good time to go all out online. People would be at home and might still want to work out or release stress.

TNJ: What clientele do you cater to?

Rachid: Every age group and fitness level for private and group classes. I have class options with or without weights, and I offer modifications—for example, for those who are physically challenged, who are senior citizens. As with any workout program, people should consult with their doctor before they start.

TNJ: Talk about the technical aspects of teaching online. How does one set up?

Rachid: I found that using the Zoom app in connection with all of my devices is a great way to run by business. I set up a studio space at home where I pre-record classes as well as teach live sessions.

TNJ: What types of workouts do most people seem to want?

Rachid: High interval impact training (HIIT) and cardio. People like to burn fat and get their heart rate up.

TNJ: How do you promote your classes?

Rachid: By word of mouth and social media.

TNJ: How can people access your classes?

Rachid: They can schedule and book classes at my website. They can also access all of my social media by clicking on the links on my website.

TNJ: Any last bits of advice for someone thinking of teaching fitness online?

Rachid: Get to know your clientele. Stay connected with them through email and encourage them to stay with you and the other class members as a community that helps to build up each other’s positivity and energy.