On-demand fitness videos fill service need during pandemic

Timing is everything. It certainly was for recreation services.

Staff discussed offering on-demand fitness videos before the pandemic began to match trends in the fitness world. The pandemic just sped everything up.

Originally designed to supplement the in-person experience, on-demand videos became vital for many in the ISU community when gathering indoors was not possible and people left their homes less frequently.

"We had started making videos pre-pandemic and then just ramped it up," said Ashley Artist, senior assistant director of wellness programs. "This was a really important service at that point. Because we had been thinking about it, we were prepared to do it."

The subscription service launched in November 2020 and is available to anyone with a Net-ID.

"We have seen interest from both students and employees, with the most use right after we launched," Artist said. "We had some more this summer, but we are back to fully in-person options."

Now, the videos are used more for their original purpose of getting in a workout after hours or with a preferred instructor.

The videos

There are 36 videos encompassing six types of fitness -- strength training, barre, yoga, core strength, high intensity interval training and Pilates -- with two videos each at three intensity levels. Instruction progresses from beginner to intermediate to challenging as users advance at their own pace.

Artist said each course was selected because it is accessible to people working out at home with limited equipment.

"With each of these you can use dumbbells or just body weight," she said.

On-demand subscriptions run the length of a semester -- fall, spring or summer -- and cost $25 per semester for rec services members and $50 for non-members. Summer rates are $20 and $30, respectfully. The first level of each exercise is available for trial at no cost. Rec services also will offer a half-price promotion at the midterm of the semester for those interested.

Users access the videos through Panopto, an app that provides recording, streaming and other video options used by instructors on campus. The app can be downloaded to a device, added to an Okta page or accessed through a web browser.

"Once you purchase the on-demand option, we grant you access to the folder on Panopto that houses all of the videos," Artist said. "You just log in with your Net-ID."

Student teachers

Students were the driving force in front of and behind the camera for all of the videos. Each is led by a student instructor and lasts about 30 minutes. It allowed them to customize instruction for people as they advanced through the different levels.

The experience proved beneficial on several levels.

"If some of our graduates were interviewing for a position that involved teaching a fitness class, a lot of times they weren't doing in-person interviews and the company asked for a video demonstration," Artist said. "So they had a professional 30-minute example to send them."

Ray Schmidt, communications and marketing specialist for rec services, used his student staff team behind the camera. The design and marketing majors also gained valuable experience in helping shape the look of the offerings.

Looking ahead

As users increase, more video options will be added to keep workouts fresh, Artist said. Some new content already has been recorded but not released.

There also are opportunities to expand the offerings past fitness. Videos focused on stretching and recovery are planned, and Artist sees a chance to partner with other departments on campus, for example on topics such as meditation.