Updated: Jul 6
In a recent discussion during Club Industry‘s Future of Fitness, panel member James Fitzsimmons, past Director of Fitness and Rec. Sports at Univ. of Nevada, Reno (UNR) made two great remarks. When asked, “Is outdoor training a must?” Jim chuckled, “It always has been. When has it NOT been a thing?” Later describing the opening of UNR’s brand new, modern rec and athletic facility where new outdoor training was planned but not yet installed (an extensive outdoor training area was now half a mile away) the only complaint Jim was getting from gym-goers was, “But we can’t go outside.” As a facility that had dedicated outdoor training, then lost it (and established it again) the UNR rec. team discovered it was a very important component of their health and wellness offering, more than they’d anticipated.
Many rec. centers, health clubs, and studios are fortunate to have at least some ground area where they can offer members the chance to train outside. Those who adapted their parking lots and side yards during this past year learned quickly, what worked (heavy-duty tents, individual outdoor training pods that could be reserved, and outdoor heaters) and what didn’t – often this was simply tied to the weather.
It’s not too late for a gym to begin planning an outdoor fitness solution. And, it is most definitely part of the Future of Fitness.
Other considerations for outdoor training centers:
Members love the increased level of Covid safety, fresh air, and vitamin D.
Consider seasonality as it impacts your chosen outdoor space. Will you need heaters or natural or purchased shade cover?
What is the best equipment location (relative to sun or other weather)?
Find ways to work with or around the weather, by changing up training methods and class offerings.
- UNR made an event out of shoveling snow and had people lined up
These and several other small details like wifi, drinking water, and cleaning stations can help ensure the best setup and experience.
Look for solutions that are accessible, adaptive, and inclusive. Beautiful solutions exist to meet budget, space, and training requirements.
There is a learning curve and uncertainty that often comes with new outdoor rigs and unfamiliar equipment. Take care to address the first-timer jitters;
- Show members how to use unique training tools through group fitness classes
- Offer “Intro. to Outdoor Training…bring a friend” sessions
- Incorporate proper gear technique and safe equipment handling
- Explain what is expected with gear usage and storage
- Share images of equipment in-use via social media and club communications
Outdoor events previously reserved for fundraisers and “cash-grabs” are now used as a valuable part of member retention. Look for ways to create outdoor training challenges (combine it with a pool party, bbq, or happy hour). Your beautiful space can work for you!
One last, yet very important note:
Be sure the instructor team tasked with outdoor training is interested in that role. Not every staff person or club member wants to train or be trained outdoors. As trainers and staff are some of your most valuable assets, do not put that relationship in jeopardy.
Most operators agree that outdoor fitness is a healthy, safe option for the commercial fitness industry and is here to stay. Summed up nicely by Eric Schmitz, President of California Athletic Clubs, “Out of 10 it’s an 11 for the members.…You’ve got to plan for it, at least seasonally. ... I can’t recommend it enough to any fitness facility to figure out how to have that in your offerings.” and “All your competition will have it.”
The Foundation Fitness team of Sales + Design Consultants has created athletic training rooms, studios, and fitness centers of all shapes and sizes. Our extensive experience and broad manufacturer portfolio give us the tools to create innovative workout spaces both indoors and out.
Please reach out to learn more about how to incorporate outdoor training into your club offering. Sales@Foundationfitness.net
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Written for Foundation Fitness LLC by Sarah Sager, edited June 2022
1 - Club Industry Future of Fitness Panel Discussion, Get Outside, Is Outdoor Training Now a Must? March 10, 2021
2 – Conversations with team members from Beaver Fit Outdoor, Escape Fitness, Kompan, and StayFit Outdoor.
3- Thank you to The Bay Club for submitting some images.