For most people, a sunny day is greeted with open arms. If you’re a fitness professional, this is the time to head outdoors and get members sweating in the sun. We've worked with the fitness industry for a few decades now, so we thought we'd pull together our top tips to ensuring your next outdoor activity is as good as it can be.
We'll be talking about:
Why should you take your class outdoors?
Before we tackle the how, let's answer the why. Sure, it provides a great excuse to go outside on a sunny day, but there just might be a few added perks.
Some studies* suggest that outdoor exercise carries psychological as well as physiological benefits over indoor exercise. These are linked to both the primal sense of being outdoors, as well as the impact of clean air and nature on the human body during exercise.
Post-2020, many members might be somewhat skittish when it comes to entering confined spaces with large groups of strangers. Bringing the class outdoors alleviates this pressure immensely. Fresh air and the ability to spread out to a safe personal distance encourages safe exercise.
You might just be looking to add some variety to your class schedule, or you have a limited amount of space available indoors for group exercise. If you lack studio space for group-ex, the outdoors is a great way of exploring new types of exercise at times of the day your customers may not have been able to book before.
You'll be limited on how many fitness products you can bring outside with you, so it's a great prompt to flex that creative thinking muscle and give your members a great workout without the usual kit (more on this later).
Weatherproofing your workout
A morning of sun doesn't guarantee a warm afternoon workout. In the UK in particular, we would always recommend you prepare for the worst-case scenario, because well, it often plays out that way. There are a few things to check before you set up your outdoor studio:
How far away from shelter are you? If it's more than a 2-minute walk away, consider how many products you're bringing, and how many trips it would potentially take to bring it back to your transport/indoors.
To keep that number low, try to plan your workouts around high repetition and bodyweight exercises, rather than heavy weights. Can that 12kg kettlebell swing be replaced by a 4kg one if you drive up the reps and superset it with burpees?
If you're teaching a large group of members, or there's just no way of avoiding heavy products, a good saving grace is to activate your league of fitness enthusiasts to help you carry the goods back to safety.
Rubber, plastics, synthetics
Generally, avoid bringing equipment that absorbs water or can rust. Anything synthetic is usually a great option for parks with trees: suspension trainers, rubber resistance bands, speed ropes, battle ropes - all of those will give you lots of options without adding bulk. If you're bringing audio systems (more on why you definitely should later on), make sure to bring a waterproof cover. If the whole setup fits into a duffel bag, it's easy to carry and easy to protect - double win.
Improving the customer experience
If you're further away from shelter, it might be a nice idea to bulk-buy some waterproof ponchos. They can be bought inexpensively, and provide a great personal touch to your member experience.
Equally, it's a nice gesture to offer sunscreen and bottles of water to your members. Remember to bring a first aid kit as well.
What equipment to bring for a great outdoor workout?
If you're reading this, we'd like to give you a heads up that we won't be talking in-depth about workout equipment in this section.
There are no limits to the type of training you can offer outdoors, and we're certainly not qualified to give you an exhaustive exercise list. Instead, we'll talk about our expertise; the AV that will enhance your outdoor class experience.
Portable, quality sound
Good quality music will always make for a better experience. This mostly comes down to your speaker system and how far you can push it before it starts to lose quality. We recommend that for an outdoor portable speaker, you look for a rechargeable speaker with dual inputs to allow for music and microphones to play at the same time. Portable speakers like the Bose S1 Pro System are a great investment, as they offer an incredible frequency response providing full-sounding music to high volumes with complete control over the individual channels.
Getting the volume right is vital. Play your music too low, and it loses the driving impact of a good track. Play it too loudly and it can overwhelm any instructions you might be giving the class. Even worse, it might cause excessive noise pollution to passers-by, giving your class, and potentially your gym, a negative rep in the local community.
A good, portable headset microphone and belt-pack are a great way to ensure your instructions are clearly heard by all participants. Using a headset microphone, like the Active Pro Headmic, keeps your hands free to fully demonstrate exercises or correct form as you're walking around. Always opt for a headset over a handheld microphone. A good headset mic will also avoid speaker feedback, picking up only your voice and canceling out background noise.
A quick note on how to get the most out of your headset microphones: make sure you position the microphone 1-2 fingers away from your mouth to avoid unwanted plosives and use the foam windshields to protect the mic from moisture and wind-rush. Also remember how far you're walking away from the receiver, as you might lose connection by walking too far, causing audio stutter.
All of the above applies to both high-intensity style classes as well as low-impact, more holistic style group exercises. Your yoga or pilates class will be quickly derailed by someone shouting to be heard, or music crackling through underpowered speakers. It might take a small investment, but good quality products last a long time and truly elevate your classes above the average experience.
Use available tech
It could be worth investing in a timed workout music app. These allow you to pre-programme periods of work and rest and mix suitable music throughout. That way, you have your timer covered, you don't have to worry about the next track in the playlist, freeing you up to walk around to give one-on-one support.
Consider your environment, and make the most of it.
Hosting outdoor fitness classes can be a great opportunity for some free PR for your gym and personal training services. Therefore, it's important that your class and participants express the very best of your services.
If you're training in a public park, make sure you don't take up all available space, restricting other people from using the park. Keep your music and noise level at a functional maximum without enforcing your tunes on the rest of the space.
Do a little walk around with the music playing at the intended volume to double-check you're not causing noise pollution. Having two speakers facing inwards at a lower volume can be a great way of ensuring your entire class has music coverage without sound spilling too far out.
It might be worth investing in a small portable flag or display that advertises your services or directs people to an online platform to book a class.
If you're using a parking lot or industrial estate for your outdoor workout, you'll likely have fewer passers-by to deal with, but there might be businesses trying to function normally next door, so remain careful with noise pollution. Always be mindful of cars. Make sure you don't block any entrances or take up required parking spaces.
You may have walls to work with in a space like this, which could be used to project logos, workout data, or motivational graphics from a portable projector for that extra wow-factor. If you're right next to your gym, having a mobile screen for HR data like MyZone can ensure you're offering that studio experience outdoors.
As it's 2021, we can't ignore the possibility of you hosting a virtual outdoors class. You'll likely have built a bodyweight-only workout or ensured your members have the right kit at home to follow the workout remotely.
The most important thing now is for you to be heard and seen clearly. Again, a good microphone and decent camera set-up here will make or break your customer experience. AV companies like Hutchison Technologies have built live-streaming packages for fitness professionals for this exact purpose. An added bonus is that you'll be able to record the workout and make it available later as an on-demand workout. Win!
In summary, hosting outdoor classes can bring great benefits to your members, as long as they are executed well. Make sure you have enough space, remain conscious of your environment and other people you might be sharing that space with, and make use of available technology to be heard, motivate and manage the class from start to finish. Enjoy your workout!
Of course, we've used our experience within the fitness industry to build our own range of fitness-specific headset microphones. If you'd like to find out more about those, check out the Active Pro Series or browse all our headsets here.
*National Library of Medicine, Does participating in physical activity in outdoor natural environments have a greater effect on physical and mental wellbeing than physical activity indoors? A systematic review & The great outdoors: how a green exercise environment can benefit all