There are plenty of good reasons to coax your health club members outside – autumn weather is perfect, they can benefit from the shot of vitamin D, and their participation supports their favorite gym as it regains footing after the COVID-19 shutdown.
Regardless of the motivations, creating this “gym without a roof” concept is an excellent option for every club at this time. These impulsive opportunities to pack in 10 pushups or swing across extra-wide monkey bars build stamina, muscle endurance, strength, and agility – all in a few moments’ time. In many ways it’s because exercising in the fresh air feels like play – even if the equipment is at their gym.
For you, though, this model offers a padding to your bottom line and an extra cushion should another pandemic take hold of the industry.
Planning to Train in the Open Air
Experts who plan community gyms suggest the following when installing exercise equipment outdoors: – When designing and buying equipment, think of the outdoor gym as an indoor fitness center. Cluster like exercises together, mimicking similar use patterns as when clients are exercising indoors. – Most people weight-train separately from their cardio, unless it is a training program such as HIIT. As such, organizing the strength equipment together, but near opportunities for cardiovascular exercise, allows individuals to do what they would normally do: lift and then walk or run. So, placing outdoor equipment near a trail, even one that allows members to run simply around the main building, encourages full workouts.- Place outdoor equipment near parking lots or other highly visible spots to reduce chances of vandalism and theft. – Bring along a training expert when planning equipment purchases – every piece should have a legitimate exercise value. Today’s extra-tough outdoor equipment allows individuals to do everything from chest presses to stationary bicycling, but there is still a lot of equipment that does nothing but frustrate users. An expert eye can target the best pieces for your business.- Provide good instructional signage for each piece of equipment.
What’s the Newest Thing?
If there is one advantage to taking your clients outside, it is the chance to create an entirely new offering. Outdoor training runs the gamut from traditional classes to functional fitness play yards replete with oversized tires, sleds, climbing walls, and endurance courses. For obstacle course enthusiasts or boot camp lovers, your addition may be the extra kick they need to take training to the next level.
Whether the new design is built to accommodate a specific training program or created as a fully functional outdoor gym, blending a new service into an established location has worked well for gyms.
This kind of innovative thinking expanded Equinox in Los Angeles by 27,000 square-feet as they repurposed a rooftop and covered parking into state-of-the-art training centers. Equinox tented their cardio areas, added rubber flooring tiles, and installed their signature surround-sound speaker systems. They even branded their space Equinox + In The Wild, giving members the opportunity to experience the full club without sacrificing personal health or well-being.
Other companies have taken over parking lots and even instigated “pop-up” classes held at local parks and marketed through social media.
For many gyms, instructor-led exercise classes are their bread and butter. A strong fitness class lineup pays the bills. These classes, which have bloomed in variety and creativity in recent years, draw individuals of a range of ages, many of whom, unfortunately, are reluctant to exercise indoors again.
As reported in the Washington Post this summer, for one club,investing in an outdoor fitness deck brought in more clients than simply opening up their doors. These clients feel safer practicing yoga outside, as it is easier to maintain distances of six feet or more and not accidentally breathe the same air. Additionally, enjoying the cool weather and, if possible, beautiful surroundings provides an additional sense of peace and serenity. In fact, research shows individuals who exercise outdoors spend more time training than those who only sweat in the air-conditioning.
As the familiar adage goes, “necessity is the mother of invention,” and this past year certainly has proved that true. Growing your club can mean opening the backdoor and reinventing a storage area, but it also may involve rethinking what service means to your company.
With a little planning – and perhaps a discussion with your insurance agent – instructors can hold classes at local parks, sports fields, even tennis courts.
Or, your club could develop an outdoor fitness program where members explore local hiking trails, kayak regional rivers, stride beaches or cross-country ski. The comradery, sense of adventure and chance to live outside the box – literally – will bring new clients in and keep old ones involved. The plan starts with hiring the right recreational leader: an individual who can motivate, lead, and plan outdoor, off-site activities for individuals of all fitness levels.
Although it’s been a tough year, never have there been so many interesting ways to approach your business model and so many clients willing to try out new ideas. People want to exercise again – together – they just need direction from you as to howto make that happen.