Fit for summer – outside the gym
How gyms can leverage the outdoor trend
Summer’s here. Warm temperatures, long and sunny nights, and more and more outdoor activities are tempting athletes to get out of their homes and gyms to exercise outdoors. It’s not always about the workout itself. The outdoor trend also represents the desire for deceleration and direct contact with the elements. It’s about enjoying nature – and exhausting yourself physically. At first glance, this would appear to be competition for fitness studios, but at second glance, it’s a great way for fitness studios to expand their roster of classes, reach new target groups and rekindle their members’ passion for exercise. But which sports are suitable, and how can the selections be implemented?
Outdoor training is popular. Boot camps and community training sessions are proliferating in city parks. Fitness runners meet up in impromptu running clubs. Personal trainers chase their charges along the Isar, Rhine, Alster or Spree rivers, while dynamic walking is suddenly called speed hiking or trail running. Because that simply does sound fitter, after all. Outdoor sports has lots of benefits, which can be easily summarised: that feeling of freedom, wet and cold air filling your lungs right after a rain shower, the feeling of sunshine on your skin, consciously perceiving your own body without having to compare it to your fellow exercisers, and the unique experience of nature and the elements.
Outdoor and indoor: Together or against each other?
If you think the outdoor exercise trend is about to crowd out the demand for gyms, you’re mistaken. It’s usually difficult to compare the approaches, goals and mindsets of exercisers. Outdoor workouts are often more about slowing down, mindfulness and the experience itself – alone or with others. Outdoor training sharpens the senses while training the body and mind. Nevertheless, gyms still make sense in this environment. The outdoor training trend even goes hand in hand with the fitness industry boom. Everyone wants to be faster, stronger and more flexible – but healthier, too. There is a growing motivation to lead an active lifestyle. And that includes equal parts indoor and outdoor training. It’s a chance for fitness studios and healthcare providers such as physiotherapists: on their own or together with partners, they can develop attractive new exercise choices – for a holistic training mindset.
Just go outside
Probably the easiest way is to transfer existing classes from the studio to outdoor locations: city parks, fitness trails, forests and meadows instead of gyms. Similar to outdoor boot camps or personal training sessions, people can bring their own lightweight exercise equipment. Many trainers appreciate the rich variety that’s available when working out outdoors. Be it a park bench, a tree or a curb, nearly everything can be repurposed – when combined with a few tools. Outdoor fitness providers such as EISBACH FIT in Munich, for example, work with weights like kettlebells, balls or vests and use tools such as TRX bands and training mats. Fitness studios and physiotherapists alike can do things like work with existing providers and design cooperation packages to gain new customers, among other things. Because winter will surely come again.
A flexible team of trainers
Studios should also consider working with their own team of trainers. Yoga trainers who offer not just traditional classes at yoga and fitness studios but also outdoor yoga in the park or SUP yoga on a nearby lake are no longer a rarity. You might even find certified running coaches among the existing fitness trainers at your gym, making it possible for members to meet up for regular running sessions. It goes without saying that they’ll meet at the gym – and anyone who feels like it can add an indoor workout after running outdoors. Depending on the surrounding environment of each studio, an individual summer outdoor exercise programme is created together with the trainer team and offered to members as an included perk or for a nominal fee.
Joint experiences – after work
Just like group workshops and fee-based guest classes, outdoor excursions can be integrated into everyday gym life, too. Joint experiences bind members – to each other and to the fitness studio. A recent recreational trend fits the theme: the so-called “microadventure”. Participants meet during the week after work to get out into nature, and they don’t return until late at night or the next morning, just in time to head back to the office in the city. Activates include hikes with overnight tent camping, and kayak and SUP tours. Allowed is anything that’s fun and presses the “reset button”. Pure and simple, the goal is to escape the everyday drudgery of the “9-to-5 job” and use the time between 5 in the evening and 9 in the morning to experience something special. When organising “microadventures”, it’s smart to work with existing online and offline communities. In Munich, for example, some 3,500 sports-loving women have organised as the MUNICH MOUNTAIN GIRLS, a Facebook Group that ventures out together on action-packed trips in areas surrounding the Bavarian capital. In Hamburg, the SUP CLUB HAMBURG offers after-work tours for connoisseurs as well as so-called Sundowner Tours.
Outdoor equipment and product testing
Not every outdoor adventure can be conquered without equipment. Here, too, cooperation and partnerships can help. The first stop is your local sports retailer. In Germany, the likes of Sport Scheck and Globetrotter are very interested in getting their customers in contact with their products. They organise – often in collaboration with manufacturers – product tests and rental stations. Trained personnel is on hand to provide instructions on the proper use of the equipment, and customers – in this case gym members – can thoroughly test products such as bicycles, surfboards, kayaks and inline skates. How about an organised joint skates test for gym members at “skate by night” in Berlin, “Roll Night“ in Düsseldorf or “K2 Blade Night” in Munich?
Get together for a holistic exercise experience
Cardio, strength training, group fitness, yoga, bodyweight and boot camps – training at the gym today is as varied as ever. And still, outdoor training has its very own special fascination, especially in summer. In cooperation with existing providers, a flexible trainer team, equipment manufacturers and distributors, it’s easy to put together a great outdoor and indoor exercise programme for gym members. All you need is the desire for combination and cooperation. Not being afraid of working with partners from different corners and sides of the exercise industry pays off, because the target audience is the same.
Image: Eisbachfit_Markus Büttner