Around 30,000 BC, a woman named Rebecca Bootcampicus created the first ever bootcamp.
Wanting to be different to the group fitness classes held in caves and primitive huts, she decided to run her workouts outdoors. Rain, hail or shine her clients got to experience the elements.
In fact, that’s why they came to her. No more working out under false lighting and with the smell of stale sweat. They would leave her sessions feeling refreshed and ready for their day.
Rebecca did notice something though, during the colder and wetter months less people were coming to her sessions.
And despite it being 32,000 years later, trainers are still facing the same conundrum. How do I keep my clients training during winter?
I experienced this problem too. My first winter of outdoor bootcamp I went from 20 to just 3 clients.
I swore I wouldn’t let that happen again. Running a session with just 3 people is not fun for me or myself.
By getting prepared, the following year I was able to keep my sessions at 12-15 participants all through winter.
Here’s what worked for me:
The Challenges Trainers Face During Winter
During summer the sun is out and the air is warm and it feels very natural to be outside exercising.
During winter however, the idea of going out to exercise can be just about as appealing as putting on wet clothes straight out of the washing machine.
Here are some of the common issues trainers face during winter:
- Clients say: ‘It’s too cold and wet for me and/or my kids.’
- Clients also say: ‘It’s too dark!’
- Often because of the two reasons above, clients disappear and go missing.
- Finding new clients and participants seems impossible.
- Sessions get repetitive due to limitations of space, light and equipment.
But you’re not alone in this. It’s something we all face and struggle with during this time of the year.
I’m going to go through each of the situations above and share with you what I and other trainers have done to overcome them. I’ll cover keeping clients coming to offering discounts to hiring indoor spaces.
Let’s dive in.
How To Keep Clients Attending Sessions During Winter
Finding an indoor space to run your bootcamp seems like an obvious solution. It give you light, it gets you out of the wet and it’s probably a little warmer.
But there are a lot of cons to moving inside too. Firstly, you’re turning your outdoor bootcamp into an indoor group fitness class which puts you into direct competition with other indoor classes like the one your local gym, F45 and Orangetheory run.
A lot of clients come to you because they don’t want that stale indoor experience. They like the fresh air.
Instead of moving indoors I recommend finding more of these clients. The one’s that shun indoor classes.
Secondly, indoor spaces can be hard to find and can be expensive. I’ve spoken to multiple trainers who merely break even financially during winter because all of the money clients pay goes to paying rent.
This is ludicrous.
It’s much better to have 3 amazing clients who will turn up rain, hail or shine than it is to make $0 (or worse lose money) putting your bootcamp indoors over winter.
Other Ways to Get Light, Warm and Dry
When clients complain about the dark, wet and cold what they’re really saying is ‘I want to be comfortable.’
Exercise is inherently uncomfortable. It’s okay for your clients to feel uncomfortable. We could all probably do with being more okay with bring uncomfortable. Keep the focus on how they’ll feel afterwards.
(And also know that there are trainers in the Bootcamp Ideas community who run sessions in the snow… even sessions where kids attend.)
It is worth keeping things safe though, so make sure you invest in some portable lights (like this) and recommend clients waterproof their shoes. Theresa has some good tips for clients here.
My rule for wet weather was always:
‘If it’s raining when the session starts we’ll meet under cover. If it’s not raining, we’ll train out from undercover and if it starts raining, just keep going.
One last tip: Get better clients. Rather than bending over backwards for your existing high maintenance clients, get clear about who you want to train. What qualities do they have? And how can you get in front of them?
Make Following Up Part of Your Routine
It’s inevitable over winter that a few clients will go missing. But there are ways to keep this number small.
The first is really obvious, but often overlooked. Follow up.
Follow up with missing clients via text or call. Make this part of your weekly routine to follow up with anyone who went missing in the last week.
Remember, we said exercising during winter is a little extra uncomfortable so people might just need a little pick-me-up or encouragement.
The other thing you should definitely be doing is sending a weekly or monthly newsletter. Let your clients know that you’re still open for business. Share pictures and videos. Give shout outs to the clients that do come. Create a culture where exercising outdoors during winter is normal.
Bring In New Equipment
When it rained there was a tiny undercover area next to the rowing club that we would crowd under. The concrete there would get slippery with the wet and so we really were limited with what we could do.
Inevitably my rainy day sessions ended up bring very similar. Until another trainer gave me this tip: Save new equipment purchases for winter.
Bringing in new pieces of equipment on a rainy day is like how I keep all the noisy, talking, music-playing toys that family by for my daughter in the cupboard to only be brought out when we’re stuck inside.
Bringing in new equipment was a great way to freshen up what we were doing and give clients something to look forward to on those wet, dreary training sessions.
Reward Clients For Committing
Let’s clear something up really quickly:
Your clients do want to train through winter.
It’s just that the reality of training through winter makes it challenging to do. So rather than be super flexible during this time, do the opposite. Set up some ways to help them keep committed.
This is, after all, why they are coming to you and not exercising on their own. They want and need this accountability.
Every year I would offer a 3 month deal to those who paid up front for the whole winter. They would save 11% off the usual price.
Tip: You don’t need to offer a huge discount with this. Around 10% is plenty.
Only 10 or 11 clients would take me up on it, but that was okay. That was 10 or 11 clients that I was guaranteed to have at my sessions.
Another way you could experiment with committing is by running some kind of attendance or ‘streak’ challenge through winter.
Shout Outs and Spreading The Word
Further up the page I mentioned that if your clients shy away at the thought of training in the cold, then maybe it’s time to get a few better clients.
And I hear you, this is easier said than done. How do you get better clients?
One way I like to get more of the clients I love to train is to showcase the one’s I’ve already got.
Just run a session in the rain? Give a shout out on your socials or in your next newsletter to those that came.
‘Our bootcamp is for people like this.’
Got a client who is still coming because they’ve got a half marathon coming up soon? Make sure you share their journey with plenty of encouragement and congratulations.
‘We’ll be here year round for you so you can reach your goals.’
Winter is a challenging time for outdoor bootcamps, but it doesn’t have to be a bootcamp killer.
Start making even just one of the tips I mentioned about a habit now. If it’s Winter for you it will help you make it through.
If it’s Summer or Autumn right now, even better, it will put you in an amazing position for Winter!
You might also find helpful:
- A checklist for you and your clients during winter
- After a tough winter this will help you find new members
Kyle Wood created Bootcamp Ideas in 2010 when he was hunting around on the internet for workout ideas. He ran a successful bootcamp in Victoria, Australia and spends his spare time managing this site, adventuring (or lazying) with his wife and find new ways to make bootcamps even better.
Karen Hamilton says
Some great ideas here Kyle that I will definitely consider for the winter especially on ways to retain members (discounts, attendance streak incentives) thank you!
Kyle Wood says
Thanks Karen, I’ll try to remember to re-share this come winter for you in the north.