fitness centers, gyms

How to make outdoor fitness classes part of your gym’s offerings

The gym industry has changed a lot in the last 12 months. 

Even when taking the pandemic and lockdown into consideration, some may argue that the rise of fit-tech was bound to change the way we look at and use fitness facilities. 

The shutting down of the traditional gym forced owners to innovate. 

Virtual group workouts became ‘the new norm’. Gyms started their own clothing lines offering a full unboxing experience for a pair of leggings. Influencers became central to global fitness communities. Online fitness businesses were born. 

The local gym went from a facility to an online brand overnight. 

But it was outdoor group classes that had a massive surge in popularity and helped keep many facilities afloat. Coupled with a social media driven focus on holistic health, gyms now have new revenue streams to tap into.

Outdoor classes mean a lack of doors and walls, implying more space and fresh air. Wide-open spaces mean less likelihood of any disease being spread amongst participants while still fostering that vital sense of community within your gym—a massive incentive for business owners who have had to close or limit numbers in their indoor facility. 

However, this innovation came a little over 12 months ago. With life returning to some form of normality, or ‘the new normal’, outdoor classes aren’t dropping in popularity. 

In fact, many facilities continue to operate outdoor classes and will do so well after lockdown ends. It’s an easy service to offer to members, cheap to set up, great for spreading brand awareness, and quite profitable


Benefits of outdoor fitness classes

There are a host of benefits to running an outdoor fitness class for your gym. 

It goes without saying that outdoor classes provide the ability to work out safely during times of social distancing. 

Outdoor group workout

There are a host of other benefits that are also prevalent, social distancing or not. 


1. Being outdoors is itself a benefit

The sedentary lifestyle has wreaked havoc on our bodies. Whether it’s at the office or ‘remote’, sitting at a desk has destroyed the postures of many of us. Being inside with recycled air doesn’t do the body harm, but it doesn’t do any good either. 

Being outdoors, whether you’re working out or not, has its benefits. Exposure to the sun generates the best kind of Vitamin D – the real type. Fresh air, mixed with sunshine (weather permitting) and a good solid workout creates a good amount of dopamine and endorphins, neurochemicals that are linked to our mental wellbeing. 

Outdoor beach workout

Outdoor gym classes are the way that your business can deliver such feelings to its members. 


2. Keep costs in check

There’s no need to expand your existing facility or heavily alter timetables. You’re simply using publicly available space. There’s no impact on rental or staffing costs. 


3. Little to no equipment needed

Many exercises can be done with nothing more than a yoga mat and a timer. Throw in some free weights, a skipping rope, and some resistance bands, and you’ve got a recipe for an intense, full-body workout for just about any body type. 


4. Easy to set up & execute

There’s no need to retrain staff or entirely overhaul employees’ schedules to implement outdoor fitness classes. Set a time and a location that suits those interested in your classes, and your trainers simply hold the same indoor session but outdoors in a public area. 


5. Free marketing

And because it’s in a public area, more eyes are on you. Dog walkers, joggers, passers-by – all see your group in the park working out. Some simple signage in the form of a banner or small flag gets more eyes on your business – a great way to build your brand’s name in the local community by activating the oldest marketing channel- the word-of-mouth


Getting your outdoor classes started

While it is simple and straightforward to start offering outdoor fitness classes, there are some things to consider. 

Outdoor yoga

1. Insurance & liability

Double-check the insurance and liability policy of your business. There’s every chance that you may be covered for a paying member that has any type of injury, as long as it’s on your premises. 

Speak with your insurer and see if you’re covered for holding outdoor group classes in a public area. You may need to pay an extra premium to ensure that you and your members are protected.


2. Local laws

Know what you can and can’t – and must – do in local parks. Depending on your location, a different government department or entirely different level of government may be responsible for what can and can’t happen in a local park. Check with the local authorities to ensure that you can hold group classes there and any form of licensing or approval that needs to happen beforehand. 


3. Bookings & ‘housekeeping’

Outdoor classes are simply indoor classes held outside, but unless your facility is right next to the ideal public space, there will have to be adequate communication between your fitness scheduling software and the location of your group class—more on how to solve this problem later. 


4. Existing & new restrictions

We’ve heard it all before – ‘COVID-19 is an ongoing situation that can change at a moment’s notice.’

But just because we’re all sick of hearing it doesn’t make it any less true. 

It’s great that you’ve set up outdoor group classes, but what happens if there’s a sudden outbreak of the virus in your community and restrictions prevent double-digit gatherings? It’s unlikely to happen, but it’s still a possibility. 

It’s also essential to have a plan in place should one of your participants test positive after being at one of your classes. The best contingency plan is the one that’s planned for but never used.


Ideas for outdoor fitness

Just about any form of training that you do indoors can be done outside in a public area. This is true of both group classes and individual training. 

Consider the following:

  • HIIT
  • Pilates
  • Yoga
  • Bootcamps
  • Callisthenics
  • Circuit classes

Classes like HIIT work well outside, as there is air and space to perform at your hardest. 

Skipping and shadow boxing are great examples of HIIT activities that can be run outdoors with minimal equipment. 

Circuit classes that incorporate free weights, resistance bands, and body-weight exercises can be great additions to your outdoor fitness ideas. 

Pilates, which is only growing in popularity, can also be done outdoors, as can Yoga. 


Organizing outdoor classes

Once you’ve laid the foundations of your outdoor class, it’s time to get them integrated into your schedule. 

Using your gym booking software, add in as much information as possible, such as the trainer, location, the time and length of the session, and a description of the type of workout it will be and who it’s ideal for. 

This will help members see which outdoor gym session is best for them.


Checking and measuring attendance

Using your booking software, you’ll need your trainers to keep track of class attendees. This not only ensures that you get the relevant data as to how popular your classes are, but you can also see who attended and ensure that they’ve paid accordingly. 

What’s more, being able to trace who was at an outdoor class makes it easier to mitigate risks should one of your members get sick – whether it’s coronavirus or a simple cold. 


Marketing and promoting your outdoor classes 

The adage ‘build it and they will come doesn’t really work in the digital world. Getting eyeballs onto your outdoor class is the difference between good and below-average uptake. That’s where modern fitness marketing takes over. 

Take a look at the workout habits of your existing members. Is a powerlifter going to be interested in an outdoor pilates class? Probably not. 

Those who are getting involved in fitness activities are more than likely to be interested in an outdoor HIIT class. Tailor your messaging about the type of outdoor class to the demographic, and send an email to your members. 

Also, consider gym members that have stopped visiting since the start of the pandemic. While it was a year ago, they may have lapsed since they have to train in a compromised environment with restrictions. An outdoor class is a way around that and may be of interest to them. 


Over to you

Several months ago, we thought of outdoor classes as a solution to a problem. But they’ve now cemented themselves as a feature that’s offered by forward-thinking facilities to keep their members fit, regardless of anything that a global pandemic can throw at them.

Outdoor classes help keep your members active – both in a physical sense and within your gym community. They’re easy and cheap to set up and execute and add another dimension to your brand, and its offerings. 


About Appointy

We at Appointy, help business owners grow and run their businesses with our online scheduling software. This blog was a part of our ‘Manage your Business’ category, where we provide expert tips, resources, or simply talk about the challenges that small and medium businesses face every day. 

If you have any thoughts on this blog, or would like to chat about your business struggles and achievements, let us know in the comments below. 

We love a good talk!