Cert. no 9701
With figures suggesting that 8.7 million adults in the UK currently hold a gym membership equating to only 17% of the population, it poses two key questions; where are many people getting their exercise fix and for instructors, is their market for clients narrowing?
Perhaps the answer to the former lays within the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) top 20 fitness trends for 2012, with both outdoor fitness and boot camp classes featuring in this list. Furthermore, according to a poll of 1000 physically active women, commissioned by sports bra company Shock Absorber, the numbers opting for training outdoors has risen by half in five years. So with this in mind, what is the appeal of training in the great outdoors?
For many, gym memberships require a great deal of commitment. They are often requiring you to sign up to extended contracts at no small cost. The Office of Fair Trading has recently looked into the legality of some lengthy gym contracts to see if they have appropriate release clauses for members. In these times of austerity where people are unsure about what they will be doing in three months let alone a year, an increasing number of people seem more cautious when committing to lengthy contracts. Many people are working out how often they visit a gym per month and whether there are alternatives which are more cost-effective. This drive is leading people towards either paying for individual sessions in private studios or joining the merry band of exercisers who are working out outdoors.
Fun way to exercise
One of the main beneficiaries of this gradual swift to outdoor exercising is the ‘boot camp’ specialists, British Military Fitness. Active in over 100 parks across the UK, an array of serving or ex-armed forces exercise professionals are leading classes full of willing victims. For instructors, the fun aspect of these classes makes it very appealing as Dave Bolas, Regional Manager for British Military Fitness explains: “You will not find another job in the industry that will give you as much of a buzz. All the instructors have great fun instructing. Each of our instructors is different but all have a strong, dynamic personality and genuinely enjoy working with their clients. This rubs off on those taking part, and their enjoyment is evident too.”
For personal trainers who are newly setting up their business, training clients outdoors often forms the basis of their business. Peter Bradley of PB Fitness explains the benefits to his business of outdoor sessions: “By using the environment, not only do you keep the costs down of buying expensive equipment, but you can also make the session different and fun for your clients each time. The outdoors is so vast, that you can take a large number of exercisers which increases your income.”
Breaking down barriers
In addition to the benefits of the class itself, Peter recognises the wider impact of these classes on both his business and the health of those taking part, surmising: “Some of my class attendees have told me that they dislike the gym, and without doing my classes, they wouldn’t be exercising at all. This demonstrates how important it is to show people that exercising isn’t all about slaving away on a treadmill. I’ve also been able to gain some personal training clients from my classes, as they have seen how I teach and what I am like, and this breaks down a major barrier that certain people have. The prospect of using a PT can be scary as the perception is that they are all big, strong and intimidating, but the reality is different and through attending classes, I was able to change their mind-set.”
So the benefits for the exerciser and the instructor seem clear. However, of late, some councils in London have started charging instructors to use their parks. The Register of Exercise Professionals reported its ‘disappointment’ with the findings, but will this stop the rise of outdoor instructors and exercisers?
Justin Bailly, YMCAfit Tutor and Instructor doesn’t think so, viewing: “The charges are not ideal, but I don’t think it will impact too heavily on the industry. If it means that each exerciser has to pay a small amount more per class, hopefully it shouldn’t put off too many. I think the main issue is the message the charges send. It seems that getting the country healthy and taking a little bit of strain off the NHS doesn’t seem a concern, it is quite short-sighted.”
It seems that with the summer of sport approaching, the appeal of going out into the local park for a workout is high on the agenda for many. For instructors, the profitability of these sessions is clear and for the exercisers, the classes offer a commitment-free workout where you can breathe in fresh air, have fun with a group of like-minded exercisers, and most importantly, get fit and healthy.
Darren O’Toole is a Personal Trainer and an Assessor on YMCAfit’s Outdoor Fitness course. The Outdoor Fitness course is part of the Advanced Diploma in Personal Training. For more information about these courses, please contact 0207 343 1850 or email email@example.com.