Anne Iarchy might be one of the few people in Britain glad to see Joe Wicks dial down his daily exercise classes.
She specialises in helping self-employed women prioritise their health and run their firms more efficiently. But as her clients’ income dried up in lockdown, so did hers.
Simultaneously, the Wicks effect ramped up competition online. “Lots of people suddenly started offering free exercise classes online,” Ms Iarchy said.
“There’s Joe Wicks of course, and there’s other trainers in the industry who are doing one class a week for free and the rest paid for, but people are happy to do the same class three times then move on to the next free one.
“Initially I thought, ‘Oh my God how am I going to survive?’ I was up and down mood-wise, I had good days and bad days. Some days I was crying thinking everything I’d worked for had gone to pot but then I got to grips with it.”
Ms Iarchy, who lives in Finchley, left her job as an IT sales director to set up her new venture in 2010. Before the lockdown, she spent her days training clients face to face and running a small online slimming club.
After coronavirus struck, she persuaded most of her clients to move their personal training sessions onto Zoom. Tapping into concerns about the impact of lockdown on weight, she has enlisted more clients into her Slimmer U Club and is launching a complimentary 12-week online programme called Beat the Eat which kicks off next month.
Taking advantage of the free marketing potential of social media has been vital for attracting new clients, while she also worked hard to keep her existing ones in the move to Zoom, saying: “For my existing clients, it was all about communication and understanding what their barriers were to move online.”
A couple of podcast appearances also helped spread the word. She managed to launch her self-help book — 5 Simple Steps To Releasing The Real You — in the spring, mailing out copies herself as Amazon temporarily stopped taking new books.
She said her clients’ needs had changed because of the pandemic: “Before lockdown it was usually the excuse of too much work to take time to exercise and improve your mental health, now with people looking after the kids as well, it’s easy for the time to get squeezed out.”