Do you want your fitness business to shower you with people and profits? Would you like your brand to be synonymous with fun and adventure? Then take your clients into the great outdoors. Discover how to implement a specialty program to keep your current clients active and engaged, and to attract new clients who will see your business in action and will be clamoring to join the tribe.

Before you explore further, consider this question: Does outdoor adventure fit you and your training business? Do you want to run, paddle, bike, climb, hike and crawl your way to success? If yes, read on!

Real-Life Examples

At my businesses—the Bay Athletic Club and Bay Urban Fitness in Alpena, Michigan—we began outdoor training 9 years ago. We started by hosting winter snowshoeing excursions and spring hikes on local trails, followed by healthy lunches. We called it the “Adventure Club.” It was our entry into helping clients enjoy the beauty of our region, along the shores of Lake Huron. Our programs have grown, but connecting people to nature has always been at the core.

Kari Woodall, owner of Woodall Training in Middleton, Wisconsin, has
also embraced outdoor training programs. She has been training her clients for “gritty, edgy hardcore adventure” for years, and she has a track record of success in combining fitness with the outdoors. Woodall’s clients are fitness enthusiasts who are hungry for more. They want to be pushed outside their comfort zone to try things they likely would not do on their own.

Important Questions

If this type of program sounds appealing, review what others are doing in the small group arena in outdoor fitness. Then consider what would work well for your clients—and your business.

Client overview. Ask yourself:

  • Who are my existing clients?
  • What are their hobbies?
  • What keeps them motivated to work
  • What kind of results are they looking
  • Do they like to work out alone? In
    small groups? In big groups?
  • Do they like to travel?
  • Do they have weekend commitments
    with their kids?
  • Are they in good health?

Here is why these questions matter: You can’t build a training program and
hope they will come. You have to build something around the likes, hobbies and desires of your base. If you are just starting, serve your existing clientele rather than branching out to attract a new audience.

If you are known for senior fitness or mind-body training, consider how you can tailor outdoor adventures to fit the needs of your base. For example, a wildflower walk and a picnic would fit these groups better than a hill run would. But both activities use the outdoors!

Business overview. After you have figured out what type of program would appeal to your clients, consider what will make sense for your business. Ask yourself:

  • What time of year does our business slow down?
  • When do we have less participation and revenue?
  • When does our clients’ commitment wane?
  • What times of day do we have open to add a specialty program?
  • How much time do I have in my schedule to plan and execute a program?
  • Who, if anyone, do I have on my team who is qualified and interested in helping?

Why ask these questions? It is smart to weave in new programming that enhances your current business model and adds value without becoming a distraction or a drain on your time. Be smart by growing during a slower time and recruiting help in advance.

Why Offer an Outdoor Group Program?

Now that you’ve analyzed your existing business, decide on your business goals. They can be a combination of many things, but it’s important to set them if you want a successful program that meets your desired targets. Ask yourself:

  • Do I want to entertain my existing clients?
  • Do I want to promote client retention and good public relations?
  • Do I want to cover my costs or donate proceeds to a charity?
  • Do I want to add new revenue to my business?
  • Do I want to attract a new demographic?
  • Do I want to create strategic partnerships with other area businesses, such as outfitters or race organizers?
  • Do I want to expose people to my current workout offerings, or create a whole new training?

Once you’ve answered these questions, you’re ready to start. Here are the nuts and bolts of two different outdoor adventure programs. You can adjust the times, pricing and camp names to fit your business and market—or create a new adventure training of your own!

Train to Run and Train to Paddle

These two programs have been successful at our business.

Overview. As long as the weather allows, we lead 3-week Train to Run and Train to Paddle programs. The cost is $50 for members and $75 for nonmembers. The programs include all equipment. For example, for Train to Paddle we partnered with a local paddleboard outfitter to rent boards, paddles and personal flotation devices for our participants at a reduced rate. We traded out some costs and paid other costs out of pocket. We cross-marketed with the local outfitter and formed a great relationship for referrals.

Training times and activities. Our groups meet twice a week at 5:30 pm for a total of six sessions. Participants are training for a local 5K run or for a Stand Up Paddle (SUP) race on the river, both sponsored by local nonprofits. Each camp has two trainers in charge of programming and leading. We take a minimum of 10 people and a max of 30 for each camp to keep a good ratio of participants to leader. We break the camp into smaller groups and assign the groups timeslots for their runs and paddles. For example, for Train to Paddle we have people meet us at the river in 30-minute increments, six people at a time. We divide the Train to Run participants by level and experience, and we assign different trainers to accompany them on the route.

For Train to Run, the training includes 1 day per week of core training, strength and flexibility work. The other day is the group run, which starts with a short lesson on topics such as proper breathing, hydration and foot placement.

For Train to Paddle, we are not certifying people for the activity; rather, we are educating them and helping them discover a new hobby. The training includes 1 day of land activity a week, including core training and balance work. We provide an overview of on-the-water safety and the suggested SUP routes in our area. The other training day is spent on the water, in small groups, gliding and enjoying nature. Participants often comment that it is the most serene part of their day.

Day of the event. Both camps finish on race day. We provide exclusive, bright-red race jerseys with our logo displayed. We meet with participants before the race to rally their pride, warm them up and prepare them mentally. We complete the race and gather for a celebration. We take lots of great pictures, collect testimonials, hand out our own certificates and provide fun treats like chocolate-covered berry cups from a local caterer.

Outcomes. We cover the costs of our rentals, T-shirts, catering and trainer payroll, and we end up with about $500 per camp in revenue. Our goal is not camp revenue. If it were, we would charge more and cut costs. Our goals are to keep our clients engaged, to challenge our trainers and to support community races. Others see us in the community and eventually join us, leading to future revenues. We also change lives. One participant, Rose S., has lost nearly 100 pounds and discovered running as a new hobby and a way to feel empowered.

Destination: The Great Outdoors

In conclusion, outdoor adventure training adds excitement to your business, and it helps your clients connect physical fitness with enjoyment and recreation. Outdoor adventure can fuel any training business.


Woodall Training in Middleton, Wisconsin, got a jumpstart on obstacle training 4 years ago when Tough Mudder® first hit the scene in the United States. If you have not ventured into this area, here is owner Kari Woodall’s plan of action:

Overview. To ignite buzz and make one event last for 8 months, in January Woodall invited clients to commit to an August race. In a business of about 150 total clients, she had 40 people enroll in the training. This number included 20 committed clients, 15 clients who got reengaged and five new clients who were friends or family of current clients. She created small teams of eight within the large team of 40 to promote camaraderie throughout the training and on race day.

The program required participants to invest in a package costing $125 per month, which included access to eight workouts. This drove clients from $16 drop-in workouts to monthly packages. There was no additional program fee.

Times and activities. Training started during the winter months. Videos posted on a Facebook group gave home-based fitness challenges, based on the actual obstacles. For example, people were asked to crawl on their forearms around the outside of their homes twice (in the snow!) and then run their deck stairs.

Spring training included twice-a-month weekend workouts, including hill runs with each team carrying a log. The team that completed the challenge first was given recognition, praise and often a prize, such as a gift card for local laser tag. The goal of these Sunday afternoon trainings was to help participants learn to problem-solve, develop a deep connection with fellow team members and physically condition themselves for race day.

Day of the event. The event finished on race day, when the group supported each other from start to finish, captured a lot of pictures, and made some lifelong memories.

Outcomes. Woodall’s only costs were the time she spent planning and delivering the workouts. Race day T-shirts were paid for by local sponsors, a running shoe store, and a law firm of one of her clients.

The program was a big boost to her monthly revenue, considering that only half of the participants were currently on a package. The new packages added $2,500 a month. The program created a strong sense of community within the business, and it drove a lot of positive word of mouth. One racer, Shaun E., changed his body and his life. He lost 30 pounds over the course of training, became a better leader and went on to organize his own teams in subsequent years.

Trina Gray

"Trina Gray is recognized worldwide as a passionate leader in the fitness industry. She is a successful health club owner, business mentor and IDEA presenter. Trina has owned Bay Athletic Club, a medical-based health club, and Bay Urban Fitness, a large group training studio, for more than a decade. She also founded Team Rockstar Fit, an online coaching team of thousands of fitness professionals who partner with Beachbody®. She is the recipient of the first-ever IDEA Fitness Leader of the Year award, the Top 10 Small Business of the Year award in Michigan, the CEO Award from Beachbody and the Outstanding Community Service Award from IHRSA. She is a savvy entrepreneur who loves sharing business and life lessons with fitness professionals."

Leave a Comment

When you buy something using the retail links in our content, we may earn a small commission. IDEA Health and Fitness Association does not accept money for editorial reviews. Read more about our Terms & Conditions and our Privacy Policy.