Outdoor fitness was a key driver in keeping gyms alive during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite some operators doubting the staying power of the amenity, it’s clear it’s not going away anytime soon.
In late 2021, Future, a premium workout app, found that it’s paying user-base was searching for outdoor activities over pre-pandemic favorites. According to the data, hiking was more popular than high intensity interval training (HIIT) with the 10,000 users preferring it. Tennis tripled in popularity, and users throughout the country showed preferences for outdoor activities like golfing, skiing, outdoor climbing and cycling.
It was also made clear outdoor fitness is here to stay in the latest installment of the Club Solution’s Thought Leaders Digital Roundtable series.
“What the pandemic did was let people feel the workout outside,” said Troy Richardson, the vice president of fitness services at Gold’s Gym SoCal and Thought Leaders panelist. “To have a full weight room and full operating system outside. It’s a gym in the fresh air. We’re building on it, and I don’t see it stopping for us as we continue to grow.”
Some facilities are struggling to wrap their heads around how they can capitalize from more people moving outside. Raphael Konforti, the senior director of fitness at YouFit, said on the panel to get creative with your programming. For example, help your members prepare and get in shape for their summer hikes so they can reach the summit and not twist an ankle.
While you may be focused in on how to make a profit, Konforti said people moving more in general is a win for the industry. “The more someone exercises, whether it’s in my gym, in the omnichannel craze that everyone is talking about — where we’re doing on-demand — or if that’s going on a walk, a hike, a camping trip, that’s good for everyone and that’s what we want to encourage,” he said.
However, before you jump on the outdoor fitness bandwagon, Jarrod Saracco, another panelist and the COO of World Gym, recommended assessing if it is a good fit for your business model.
“You have to sit down and plan it out just like anything else,” explained Saracco. “You can’t just throw stuff outside and go, ‘Hey we have outdoor fitness.’ There are so many things you have to think about from the safety aspect to the space aspect. Your property — do you own it, or do you lease it? If you lease it, are there going to be issues with other tenants in that space if you bring a boombox outside? There is so much planning that must take place. So, for me, before you get into all these great ideas ask yourself, does is make sense for you, and if it does, you better have a strategic plan to implement it or it’s going to be a disaster.”
Learn more about things to consider before jumping in, vendors who help club’s outdoor spaces thrive, and successful outdoor programs the panelists have implemented by watching the full roundtable below.