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Fitness Boot Camp – Brick & Mortar vs. Dirt & Grass

Tire jumping during outdoor fitness boot camp event

Let’s have a look at two completely different scenarios.

Scenario one:

You have been running a boot camp outside for the summer and have built up a fantastic group of regulars. However, now that the colder weather is here, not many clients are participating. The indoor boot camp is looking more and more promising. But is it really the way to go?

Scenario two:

You have an indoor boot camp with a room of raving fans that love your energy and everything seems great…until the first of each month when you write that huge check to the landlord. Monthly rent and sunny weather makes the outdoor boot camp look more promising. But again, is it really?

The explosion of boot camps has created a debate among participants and instructors as to which is best: the indoor or outdoor. Both have strong arguments that we will explore to help you make this decision. Remember, there is no right or wrong choice here: only what is best for your fitness business and the target demographic you want.

This is, and always should be, why you make your decision. We will look at 4 key factors that your fitness business will need to consider when making this important decision.

Fitness Boot Camp Factor 1: Cost to Operate

The first thought here is that an outdoor boot camp should win hands down. However, that is not always the case.You will need to do some research here before you make this decision for your fitness business. Many cities and regions require permits to use park or field spaces for commercial purposes. These fees can be high in some areas. Where I live, it is $20 per class. If you are running the usual 4-6 classes a day, then that is $90.00-$120.00 per day fee.

A 1,000 sq. /ft. space is typically $2,500-$3,500 per month. That comes out to $85-$115 per day. You would also need power and utilities for the indoor space, but the outdoor space requires a van or truck for transport. The huge savings may not be there. Another factor is that outdoor fitness boot camps require additional insurance coverage in most states and provinces, so please check this out before you start.

Overall winner: If no park fees are required, outdoor boot camps will win; otherwise it is a tie.

Fitness Boot Camp Factor 2: Climate

This is one that indoor fitness enthusiasts will champion because of not wanting to work out in the snow and excessive heat. However, I know some people that have successful boot camps in harshly cold and hot climates. The catch is that these classes are specialized. This gives them a unique demographic that is not weather dependent. If you are running an indoor space, you need temperature and air quality control. Climate control can add to the cost of the space per month, but it will keep the gym smelling better and the temperature where it is comfortable for the masses.

Overall winner: Since the masses are what most of us market to, indoor wins.

Fitness Boot Camp Factor 3: Atmosphere

Outdoor camps always have nature on its side. This could be beaches, mountains, beautiful parks, or wooded forests. All have the fresh air and natural stimulus that people love. Indoors has music and multiple tailored or branded surroundings. You can logo walls, keep it a brick or garage feeling, or soften it for a specific demographic. While indoors, you can have access to facilities like bathrooms and showers. Easy access to these staple facilities gives you a powerful argument for the indoors.

Outdoors will build a better connection to getting your people active outside of the boot camps, and this may build long-term success for your campers that some forget to take into consideration.

Overall winner: I am going to call this a tie as I think that both offer many pros and too few cons to make it a deciding factor.

Fitness Boot Camp Factor 4: Equipment

This is also a deceptive one. At first glance, most people will say that the indoor boot camp will have greater access to equipment. This may be true, but I have never seen this as a limiting factor for the fitness boot camp operator. After talking with hundreds of operators and campers, it appears that almost all indoor and outdoor providers use the same tools; BOSUs, TRX straps, med balls, ladders, ropes and various other dynamic exercise pieces that are easy to set up and portable.

Rarely do I see or hear of fitness boot camps using free weights, benches and machines, so I do not see this as a huge advantage for the indoor people. However, access to other amenities such as toilets, change rooms, and showers is a huge plus. Also, the indoor camps can easily upsell additional products that they keep ready, such as bands, nutritional products, or training gear.

Overall Winner: Just for the access to amenities, the victory is the indoor camp.

After everything is tallied up, the indoor fitness boot camps win in two key categories: climate and equipment, both of which will allow the fitness business to have a much wider target demographic. I really like that part. With a tie going to atmosphere, it leaves the outdoor fitness boot camp with the big win of cost to operate.

Before the outdoor people all run off to sign a new lease, there is one more factor that I need to mention. Do not ever sign a lease on a space if you have not built up that much-needed group of campers. Before you move your fitness business to the great indoors, test things outdoors. Then find a nice cheap space close to where you have been doing your outdoor camps.

The bottom line is that outdoors is where you should start and then move to a nice indoor space once you have established a great following.