Vacation. For most, the word evokes images of sunny beaches, ski slopes and drinks with tiny umbrellas in them. However, for personal trainers, it conjures images of bills piling up because of income loss. Whether you or your clients take a trip, the result for you is the same: diminished finances. Many trainers simply adjust their spending habits or even get second jobs during such “slow” periods, but, while in Mexico during a slow period about 8 years ago, I stumbled upon a much better alternative.

How It Started

I was working out in a local gym when a German couple there on a business vacation approached me and asked me to show them some abdominal exercises. Asking a trainer that is like dropping blood into a shark tank; of course, I obliged. Within minutes, I had not only shown them a few exercises but also gained valuable information: what company they worked for, how many people were in their group, when they were leaving and whether or not any of their associates shared their interest in working out.

Before they left the gym, I made a deal with them: If they persuaded 10 or more of their coworkers to come to the gym for a group workout the next day, their workout would be free. The next day, I walked into the gym and met with 15 smiling German vacationers. I introduced myself and told them that I was giving them a group rate. That was the beginning of a new revenue source for me: fitness getaways. I could hardly wait to get back to Chicago to put a game plan together.

Do Your Homework

My first fitness getaway to Mexico generated a total of three sign-ups, so I had to cancel the trip and refund the money. (One thing that I learned was not to start advertising in December a trip that I had scheduled for January.) After that failure, which affected both my pocketbook and my pride, I corrected numerous errors that I had made and came up with a formula for success.

Before choosing a fitness getaway destination, you must learn all that you can about the places that you are considering. There are many places to visit, including not only tropical foreign countries (such as the Bahamas, Jamaica and Costa Rica) but also popular locations in and around the United States (such as Aspen, Colorado; Baja California; and the Florida Keys). I go to Mexico often, not only because I like the country but also because people in the Midwest love to go somewhere hot during brutal winters. Poll your clients, friends and family on where they would want to go on vacation. Have them ask their friends where they would want to go, what activities they would enjoy, what kinds of food they would prefer and what airlines they would want to fly. Make different categories for different genders, age ranges, activities and locations.

Your travel agent may be another strong resource. Ask him what the most popular destinations and vacation times of the year are for people in your area. Also ask about hotels, gyms, restaurants and nightlife in each area of interest and about the local weather and seasons. The better all of these components, the more value you can build for your getaway.

Inquire about discounts based on the number of travelers in your group. Most travel agents have access to special deals for groups traveling together. For instance, on some deals, if you have 10 or more people flying together, you get two free tickets or some other incentive to use a particular carrier. All of the businesses and services that you will need—including the travel agency, restaurants, gyms and activity coordinators—need your business, too. The more people you have in your party, the more money they stand to make, so they are usually willing to negotiate. In addition, you can call a restaurant owner or facility manager directly and arrange to bring your group there to eat or work out in return for a certain number of free meals or certain amount of free floor time.

As you research, pay attention to the different personality types within your group as well. Take note of the high-energy, low-energy, gregarious and introverted people. On any getaway, it’s important to try to put similar personalities together. Rooms are normally based on double occupancy, and there is nothing worse than pairing a tidy person with a slob. You would be nothing more than a peacekeeper for the majority of your stay.

Flesh Out the Details

Once you have decided where you will go on your fitness getaway, you must decide what the theme of your trip will be and what you will offer. Will the trip be for everyone or a special group? How many activities will you arrange during the day? How long will the workouts be? Will meals be included?

Through the years, I’ve held five fitness getaways with different themes:

  • January-Pride Excursion (alternative lifestyles)
  • March-Female Fitness Getaway (women only)
  • May-Nihongo Fitness Trip (Japanese peole)
  • November-Elite Fitness Experience (workout enthusiasts)
  • December-Pre-New Year Fitness Kick-Off (everyone)

I’ve marketed each of these fitness getaways differently and altered their activities and curricula to suit the various needs of my clientele. For example, I market the Elite Fitness Experience as a completely unique, hardcore workout excursion that entails daily workouts followed by nutritional counseling. I allow only 10 people to sign up for it, and I conduct mandatory interviews before they can invest.

Each fitness getaway always lasts 5 days; we leave on a Wednesday and return on a Sunday. Those days are mostly for travel; the real value of the trip is packed into the Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Every excursion is different, but a typical day might begin with a buffet-style breakfast at the hotel from 6:30 AM to 7:30 AM and continue with a workout from 8 AM to 10 AM. At 1 PM, there might be a group activity such as volleyball, kayaking, parasailing or horseback riding, and, at 8 PM, I might have a selected nightspot to visit. I hold a dinner bash at a popular local restaurant the first night and provide every breakfast after that; the participants
pay for their lunches and the rest of their dinners. This structure should give you an idea of what your fitness getaway could be, but don’t base your trip on my format. Follow your guests’ preferences.

Figure Out Your Investment

In figuring out what your investment should be, you must consider the two perceptions of your trip’s value: yours and your participants’. Your view involves making a profit; their concern is getting the best value for their investment. On average, the fee that I charge for my fitness trips to Mexico is approximately $1,600 per person. To build the value and sell it convincingly, I simply add to the actual costs the profit that I would earn if I stayed home and trained during that time:

This breakdown simply gives you
an idea of how to determine what to charge your participants. Depending on the activities you choose, your activity fees can vary. Depending on your base rate, so can your profit loss. Totaling your expenses and emphasizing all of the tangible and intangible benefits of the getaway make it easier to create an investment structure that sells. Of course, taking along at least two or three trainers and an activities coordinator to help me has cut into my profit margin. Fortunately, I’ve been able to recover that money from people who were already at the resorts and pay to join the workouts.

Market Your Fitness Getaway

Now you have to let people know about your fabulous fitness getaway. To enable people to make a down payment and final payment with plenty of time to spare, start marketing your getaway at least 3 months before the actual trip. Before anything can be executed, you have to pay the travel agent and provide the names of the participants, so your ability to collect payments is essential.

Start advertising by putting together an eye-catching flyer that provides all of the pertinent information: what and where the trip is, what it offers and whom to contact. However, do not mention the fee. The purpose of the flyer is to get phone calls so you can promote the value of the trip. If people see the fee, they may not call. Consequently, you may lose potential income.

Post your flyer in places frequented by the kinds of people that you want to attract. For instance, if you want women to sign up, post it in lingerie stores, bridal stores and even baby stores. Moreover, befriend the people in charge of places where you wish to advertise your getaway. Managers and owners who consider you a friend will be more apt to help you distribute your flyers.

In addition to your flyer, use the Internet. If you have a Web site, mention the fitness getaway there and set up the site
so people can register on it. Furthermore, link your Web site to others that draw people who may be interested in your trip.

Have others sell your getaway for you. Give your clients an incentive such as a 50 percent discount for referring three people who sign up or a free trip for referring five people who sign up. Suggest that they tell their friends who have shown an interest in training. However, although the bulk of your sign-ups should be your present clients, friends and family and their acquaintances, don’t depend on them exclusively. Use your getaway to attract people who have always wanted to start working out but haven’t taken the plunge.

When you actually start talking to prospective participants about the trip, use the word investment instead of fee or cost: Whereas the latter terms imply that you don’t get anything in return, the former implies that you do. On the trip itself, you may want to take pictures and, if you have a camcorder, film your getaway to make videotapes to sell. I’ve marketed my fitness getaways so successfully that the average attendance for each (except the Elite trip) has been 20 to 30 people.

Make the Best
of a Bad Situation

Following these guidelines will increase your chances of a successful and profitable fitness getaway. These getaways not only make your slow periods lucrative but also enable you to make money and help people while taking “free” vacations. I hope to see you working and vacationing somewhere exotic in the near future. Send me a flyer. I will pass it along.