I have been working one-on-one with clients for over 11 years. I feel that I am able to provide a much better service to clients in this manner; therefore, I have always stayed away from group training and teaching classes. I work for myself as well as for a local gym. Because the boot camps bring in a lot of money, I have been encouraged to take part in this endeavor. I am wrapping up my fourth boot camp of this year, which has been a twice-weekly, month-long program. I have tried holding sessions three times a week in the past and realized that when the end of the week came along, people started slacking off! I feel that a Tuesday/Thursday format works best for me. Initially, I vowed to be "different" with my boot camp. I didn't want to refer to it as "boot camp," but the gym thought it was best to stick with the term. I have been able to bring a great deal of my experience in working with private clients into the group setting, but I find myself excessively focused on proper form, breathing, exercise progression, etc. Obviously, with a group this can become tricky as participants may be at different levels. I have noticed that a boot camp program prompts many who haven't been working out as they should to take part, which means many are not at a level I would desire for participation. I feel that I must spend more time instructing, while my participants are there for a butt kicking! The gym sees numbers and dollar signs as what's important. I am forced to take a 50 percent cut of the profits, and I am frustrated because I feel I could attract more participants with a lower rate, therefore enabling me to split a big group up into several smaller ones, based on fitness level. Do you have any suggestions for a passionate, perfectionist trainer who does enjoy holding boot camp style workouts and would like to have more success with them? Thank you for your time.
Clearly your question comes from someone who is passionate about the ultimate care and condition of your clients, so kudos to you for your efforts! And as you have found, working within a club setting can have some challenges since the bottom line is what keeps any good business in business. Offering an “intro to boot camp” class may be a great way to educate new participants and recruit people who may not typically take a boot camp class (i.e., “try before you buy”).
You mentioned you are on your fourth boot camp class of the year. One thought I have for you is to launch an advanced and a beginner boot camp class for the New Year. Something like, Extreme boot camp Tues/Thur and boot camp basics Mon/Wed. If time is an issue, perhaps you can launch a class on Mon/Thur and the other on Tues/Thur. This way, you can teach three nights a week and use Monday night solely for the new participants to focus on form and breathing techniques. Another thought is to offer the class for six week stints instead of four weeks. In this event, you and the club can charge a higher fee and then use the last two weeks of the month for a break. Running back-to-back classes tends to burn out your participants, and you may find yourself eventually burned out as well.
You are wise to desire proper technique from your clients, but it can be easy to get too caught up in educating your clients and forget some people just want to show up, work hard and have fun. Offering a handout pre- or post-class is a great way to educate and inform your participants on the why behind what you are asking them to do. A lot of instruction during the workout can disrupt the momentum of the class and leave your clients feeling like they got less than a “kick butt” workout.
Lastly, I think it is important to weigh your issue. What is ultimately most important to you? Is it more important for your clients to maintain perfect form and execution or is it more important for them to show up consistently, rave about the class, feel like they got their money’s worth and recruit other participants? Keep in mind that fitness is not an exact science. Rules change often and adaptation takes time. As long as you are available to offer guidelines for safe and effective participation, your clients are in good hands!