Take Your Training Outdoors

by Peter Twist, MSc and Dean Shiels, MBA on May 01, 2011

Profit Center

Ignite clients’ physical confidence and boost your business at the same time.

In our fast-paced, technology-filled lives, spending time outdoors has become a luxury. Ask most clients to reflect on their average day and they say, “Wake up, drive to the gym, drive to work, work all day, drive home, eat dinner, relax, work some more, sleep and start again.” Their greatest outdoor adventure comes from walking to and from their cars. It’s time for a change! Now is a great time for you to start an outdoor training program. Give clients a new challenge, a chance to benefit from fresh air and an opportunity to revitalize their spirit.

At the Twist Sport Conditioning Centre in North Vancouver, British Columbia, we have experienced tremendous success with a conditioning class for adult clients called West Coast Outdoors. If you live on the West Coast of the United States, you probably share our attitude—rain or shine, it’s time to get outside. No excuses—just dress for the weather and get out there. We’ve taken that philosophy to heart and have created a 12-week program that has become a best-seller. It’s so popular that we offer five sessions a week in fall, spring and summer. Lack of adequate daylight is the only limitation in our winter programming session. Of course, an outdoor training program is not limited to any region. Getting outside is great for everyone, and exercise in the cold (snow is fun!) simply requires more layers of clothing.

Discover why an outdoor program can benefit your clients, and learn how our successful model works.

How Clients Benefit

Providing clients with a structured outdoor training program gives them the opportunity to break out of a regular indoor routine. Here are some benefits clients will experience:

They Exercise on Uneven Terrain. Exercising on a natural surface outdoors requires more body control and activates more joints and muscles than working out on a flat surface indoors.

They Engage the Mind. Attention shifts moment by moment as clients focus on dodging tree roots and rocks, smelling flowers, hearing birds, seeing the beauty of the changing scenery, and feeling the rain, sun or wind on their faces.

They Boost Their Mood. Stress, anxiety and frustration from the daily grind simply evaporate when clients are immersed in the positive energy of nature and the awe of the earth’s natural wonders.

They Challenge Themselves. This type of workout cranks up the metabolic demand. The physical demands of an unpredictable environment combined with the mental focus required to negotiate it helps clients burn more calories, work at higher intensities and take on greater challenges. All in all, they net bigger results.

They Go Green. Not only is outdoor exercise friendly to the environment, but being in the “green” has a healing and rejuvenating effect on the body, mind and spirit.

It’s in the Attitude!

The philosophy behind the West Coast Outdoors program is to help clients develop a positive attitude about training outdoors and to create opportunities for them to successfully overcome various physical challenges. Providing clients with a safe opportunity to attempt and conquer difficult terrain at higher intensities improves their physical confidence. A strong sense of confidence enhances well-being and physical performance.

This “I can do it” attitude means challenging tasks are there to be mastered, goals are set and committed to and setbacks inspire greater effort and focus. In general, individuals with less physical confidence tend to have low aspirations, make weak commitments, give up easily, focus on the things they cannot do and are easily discouraged by failure. Helping clients of all ages and abilities amplify their physical confidence can significantly affect their adherence to a training plan, their performance gains and ultimately how they tackle the challenges of day-to-day life.

Physical confidence also affects the types of activities people choose to pursue. Success in this style of training motivates clients to attempt hiking, mountain biking, downhill skiing, golfing, cycling, triathlons and trail running with confidence! Working with others of similar ages or abilities in a group or small-group setting builds recognition of personal capability and inspires improvements in performance.

Program Framework

The West Coast Outdoors program is offered 5 days a week—Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 6:00 am and Tuesday and Thursday at 6:00 pm—for 12 weeks. Each workout lasts 75 minutes. Clients register for one, two or three sessions a week for the full 12 weeks and are able to combine this outdoor workout with their indoor training sessions to create a customized training plan. The cost per workout ranges from $20 to $30, depending on the number of sessions booked in a week. Registration for specific days and times is required so that we can manage group sizes and appropriately allocate trainers (we call them “coaches”). To maintain a safe and effective workout for everyone, we assign one trainer for every eight group members.

When 16 adults register for two sessions per week, the program brings in approximately $5,000 in total revenue over the 12-week time frame. Once trainer costs have been factored into the expenses, the profit for one 12-week program is approximately $3,500. Offering the program in both the mornings and evenings on all 5 days can double your profit margins.

Each workout is developed for multiple ability levels, allowing fitter clients to attempt bigger challenges than less fit members. For the first few weeks, the group is kept unified as trainers observe ability levels and provide appropriate modifications for each individual. As participants gain more experience with the workout format, they are coached to push themselves and those of equal ability. This strategy allows trainers to spend more time with less able team members. In most cases trainers keep the group in a manageable space so they can interact with all group members throughout the workout.

Our Training Plan

From a training perspective, the goal of the program is to incorporate a mix of anaerobic and aerobic conditioning drills in the beautiful outdoor terrain surrounding our facility. Workouts are developed 4 weeks in advance, and each trainer makes on-the-spot modifications based on weather or group dynamics. The workout challenge grows on a weekly basis. We use harder interval times (changing the work-to-rest ratios), increase repetitions, exercise on more challenging terrain or cover greater distances. Within each workout, athletes of all abilities are encouraged to work at a self-directed pace that meets their personal needs and aspirations. Only portable equipment is used, and we keep equipment requirements to a minimum. Our clients’ favorite tools include speed parachutes, slingshots and breakaway harnesses that overload and confuse the body with speed and resistance challenges.

Marketing Plan

The West Coast Outdoors program was an overnight success. Word-of-mouth referrals grew quickly, and clients congregating outside the front door before and after workouts created a buzz. The smiling faces, crazy stories, muddy clothes and personal success stories drove program demand to greater levels.

How else did we promote the program? The description posted on marketing materials and our website provided an all-inclusive challenge that was inviting:

“Take advantage of everything the West Coast has to offer with the West Coast Outdoor Conditioning Class. This program will challenge you with exercises, drills and training tools that you don’t typically see in [other classes]. The Twist Team will use safe and effective training techniques to give you a full-body strength and conditioning workout that will focus on increasing your aerobic and anaerobic energy systems plus improving your core and full-body strength. Get fit and athletic in one of the best training environments in the world. Sessions take place in the fields, trails and mountains near the Twist Centre. Participants of all levels are welcome, as you will train at your own pace.”

A Profit Center for Your Business

The West Coast Outdoors program helps clients ignite the physical confidence needed to overcome the unexpected challenges of everyday life. People learn to trust that the body will comply instantly with the mind’s commands. The sheer enjoyment of sport and recreational pursuits occurs when adrenaline is pumping, the focus is on the present and the mind is free of doubt or anxiety about injury risk.

You can develop your own outdoor program to help a wide range of clientele build their physical and mental assets. This kind of program creates an additional profit center for your training business while helping your clients succeed. Clients benefit and so do you.

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© 2011 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.

About the Authors

Peter Twist, MSc

Peter Twist, MSc IDEA Author/Presenter

Peter Twist, MSc, is the president and CEO of Twist Conditioning, Inc. He is an exercise physiologist with a specialization in coaching science. Having coached in the NHL for 11 years, Peter has worked with over 700 professional athletes. Peter received the National Strength and Conditioning Association's 1998 President's Award and the Can-Fit-Pro 2003 Specialty Presenter of the Year award. Certifications: NSCA

Dean  Shiels, MBA

Dean Shiels, MBA IDEA Author/Presenter