This is the second in our series on how to run a better bootcamp/ outdoor group fitness business.

To read the first bootcamp article, click here.

It is quite common for participants in bootcamps and outdoor group fitness programs to be left standing around inactive while the instructor describes or demonstrates the lesson or exercise.

Further, after the activity has been explained, how often do we as instructors stand around and yell out directions to motivate the participants…. Does this really work?

This article aims to assist you in maintaining the intensity of your programs and provides some ideas to maximise motivation and competition during your lessons.

Keeping up the intensity

For complex drills or activities that do involve a number of moving parts like circuits (in particular shuttle/ agility activities), we suggest that your demonstration and explanation can occur simultaneously.

By this we mean after an initial overview of the concept, demonstrate the drills by having the participants also walk through as you demonstrate the activity.

This way you are combining the demonstration and practise as part of a familiarisation round, rather than explaining a long dialogue where the participants are standing around and not actively engaged.

Unlike one-on-one training, in outdoor group fitness programs when the explanations and demonstrations are long (say greater than 30 seconds for a single drill or exercise) monologues detract from the overall flow and intensity of the program.

It is very common to see participants standing around for up to five minutes while an instructor provides a thorough explanation and demonstration or an activity. This is not best practice.

In outdoor group programs, it is recommended to keep the DEP as quick and concise as possible.

If necessary, you can have your participants undertaking a light jog on the spot during the longer explanations.

A general rule, if it takes more than 30 seconds to explain then it is recommended to get the class jogging on the spot and then get them to practice any activities (i.e. 2-3 reps of the actual exercise with you). Having them active keeps their heart rate up, keeps their muscles warm and will increase the overall intensity of your lesson.

A group of adults doing  a bootcamp
 and outdoor fitness training

Getting personally involved

After the initial DEP we would recommend that you participate as much as possible without compromising safety. This could be a simple as joining a participant on the run and challenging them to run faster, or teaming up with a participant during the static activities.

By joining in, you will build additional competition between the participants and yourself which will lead to increased motivation and overall intensity of the programs you run.

This will also give the participants the impression that they have been given personal one-on-one time which they do not usually get (or often expect) in group programs.

An idea that also works well with group circuit programs, is calling one individual out from the circuit for one-on-one time using a set of exercise cards (details of the cards’ activities is explained in Level 1 and Level 2 Bootcamp and Outdoor Group Fitness Instructors Course).

The participant picks a card completes one activity (for example a couple of rounds of boxercise, or as simple as 10 push ups and 10 sit-ups) with you, then you get them to call out the next participant. The participants then swap and slowly throughout the session you get one-on-one time with everyone.

And if you want to know what a modern day army recruit bootcamp entails, see here.

Getting team commitment

January is a perfect time to get commitment from your clients. Whilst a bootcamp can allow casual attendance, gene rally a bootcamp thrives in an environment of teamwork, competition and hard work (which produces results).

This virtuous circle, of course, requires team members to be committed.

In January people have grand plans to get fit, therefore you need to harness this spirit and give participants the training, support and challenge to achieve this. This is particularly true here in Australia where it is summer time and there is a desire to both be outside and a desire to be ‘beach ready’.

So obtain participant commitment. Sign your clients up for a period of time, not just a casual fling.

Ideally, obtain commitment for three months or longer, but if you can’t then at least get commitment beyond just casual attendance.

In getting this commitment, you may find that people are risk adverse. That is, they are not too sure whether the money invested is the right thing.

Although this risk aversion is at its lowest in January it is still there, so what can you do about it?

  • Insist your clients pay via a direct debit, rather than an upfront payment. This is easier to accomplish if you discount the normal rate as a reward for their long-term commitment. This discount is conditional on the client completing the agreed period; otherwise they face cancellation fees.
  • Offer a money back guarantee. Note that this is different to a free trial period. It is a quid pro quo whereby the the client commits payment upfront and you agree to refund their money if they are unhappy with, say, their first three bootcamp sessions. I prefer this to a free trial because you are not working (training) for nothing!
  • Alternatively, offer a grace period for new clients whereby they can cancel their commitment for whatever reason if family, work or health issues prevent ongoing attendance. Remember, people have commitments in their day-to-day routine that they’ll need to consider in order to train with you (eg. childcare arrangements). Some will be anxious about changes to their usual routine, and may need an opt-out option to commit to a long-term relationship.

So you now simply need a plant to keep them interested!

One way is to ensure your team has goals. And by this, I don’t mean simple fitness test goals. I mean have clear, unambiguous achievement goals that will require focus and commitment to achieve.

There are plenty of events out there: Tough Mudder, Warrior Dash, Stampede, City To Surf, half- and full-marathons, etc.

Inform your team of your plan to compete in one and get buy-in from them – ‘we are all aiming for this‘, ‘we are doing it as a team and I’m going to take you there! But…you need to be committed and I need your buy-in‘, ‘don’t let commitment issues hold you back from achieving your goals‘.

Finally, of course, train hard but smart. Train hard but safe. Train hard but professional. Train hard and take every single one of your clients on their committed journey.

An example bootcamp lesson plan

Easter Egg Hunt

Aim: Team Competition

Length: Approx 45 minutes

This works perfectly if you have access to a large parkland. Get yourself a bunch of cheap tennis balls (preferably multi-coloured) or something similar. Print a map of the parkland and mark where you place the tennis balls.

The Challenge

Print off several maps with the tennis ball locations marked, and laminate them for ease (or draw their location on the map).

After your warm up, pair everyone up and give them a map, and give them the rules.

For example:

Rule 1) There are two (or three) rounds of 10 minutes to get as many tennis balls as possible. Blue balls are worth 5 points, red are worth 3 and green are worth 1. Every time you find two balls, run back to this spot and place them in your bucket.

Rule 2) For every second you are beyond the 10 minutes, you will lose a point.

Rule 3) You must stay together as pairs.

Rule 4) There is no need to cross any roads – stay within the parkland.

“Everyone ready? Set your stopwatch, 3,2,1…..Go!!!”

Remember: You can easily modify this drill by extending the time, or the amount of tennis balls they are allowed to carry at once. 

Key points: Make sure the area you have chosen is confined, everyone knows not to cross any road, and that you have time controls in place!

The evil twist – At the end of the two rounds (or however many you choose) get them to tally up their scores and multiply it by 5 (as an example), and then inform them that is the amount of reps they must do! Eg. Team 1 gets 10 points, then they do 50 push ups! 

Related: To read part one of our bootcamp for trainers feature, click here.