Bring the club outdoors during nice weather
Wed, May 29, 2013 at 12:04
Brad Spiegel in Dakotah, Hampshire Hills, News, Powerhouse Gym, Rick Holder, outdoors

Hampshire Hills Sport and Fitness Club takes its yoga class outside in nice weather.Granted, a place to work out is not about aesthetic beauty. You are there to essentially to accomplish a goal – get in better shape, be it aerobic, strength, agility or mobility.

However, if you can add a little variety to your environs, then more likely that not you will enjoy yourself more and want to keep going back.

As a gym owner that is music to their ears. Keeping members happy is one of the biggest reasons for high retention rates. One way to accomplish that is to take the gym outdoors during nice weather.

For many parts of the world the weather is not good enough to move the gym outside. Humid weather, cold, rain and snow are obvious obstacles to taking advantage of the great outdoors, spectacular views and just something else to look at other than the gym’s walls. Some clubs find innovative ways to get outside as much as possible, however.

“I’m a great believer that the more of a natural environment the better people feel,” said Rick Holder, general manager and owner of Hampshire Hills Sports and Fitness Club in Milford, N.H. “I look at May to October as opportune months to do things outside. If we can take yoga or tai chi outside, we are going to be there.” 

Hampshire Hills is fortunate to have the space – a 77-acre campus - to offer as much outside as it does inside, during the Spring to Fall time frame. Activities such as croquet, tennis, basketball, beach volleyball, bocce, putting and horseshoes are some of the offerings. And, at times, those areas can be transformed into outdoor classes like the aforementioned yoga and tai chi on the croquet and bocce courts and the putting green. 

Two clubs – Powerhouse Gym in Webster, Mass., and Dakotah Sport & Fitness in Prior Lake, Minn., don’t have the space that Hampshire Hills enjoys. Both clubs had to look to other ways to promote outdoor activities.

Powerhouse was in the back section of a 25,000-square foot facility. When there were outdoor classes owner Scott Holland felt he wasn’t able to showcase it. When he had the opportunity to purchase the front 10,000 square feet he jumped on it. Now, there are windows looking out to the front for group exercise classes, a great selling piece during the cold Massachusetts months, as well as a patch of grass that affords instructors to bring out spin bikes and mats to hold classes. Add in the ¼ mile loop around the property – some of it uphill – and Powerhouse now has the ideal outdoor area.

“From the outside looking in, people drive by and see more activity at the gym,” said Holland, who has owned Powerhouse for 10 years. “We’ve always been know for having a packed parking lot, but now they see classes on front lawn. This is great for business.”

Tad Dunsworth, director at Dakotah, explained that for his club it is about changing the environment. With no windows to open to bring in fresh Minnesota air, the times classes can be held outdoors are taking advantage of.

Two outdoor classes this Spring resulted in heightened interest. Pictures from a spin classes were posted on the club’s Facebook page eliciting jealousy to those who weren’t able to attend. The next day saw more spinners show up at the club, hoping the class would be outside again. A boot camp class was also held outdoors and the next class saw twice as many participants.

“The reason is twofold – it gives us the ability to market outdoor classes and it gets more people interested and coming in,” Dunsworth said. “We hope it helps on both ends, bringing in new people and keeping out existing members happy.

“Any opportunity to get outside and break up the monotony is good.”

Hampshire Hills Sport and Fitness Club outdoor biking club.Holder, at Hampshire Hills, explained that the summer is actually one of the busiest times of the year for his club. One way he is able to accomplish that is creating family-friendly programming. During the summer it includes a games concierge, as he called it. This employee creates a variety of games and activities for the young members to enjoy in the evening on the courts and green area. And with three restaurants on the campus it can keep entire families at Hampshire Hills for the entire day.

“I subscribe to what Lee Iacocca said – lead, follow or get out of the way,” Holder said. “Every year I try to add something new to the package to keep members’ interest high. If we didn’t have the programming we wouldn’t be so busy. You can have the most fabulous facilities but if you don’t have the programming people are not going to come.”

Even if a club doesn't have the space to hold classes outdoors shouldn't deter from getting members out to the sunshine. Running and biking clubs or boot camps can take advantage of nearby roads and trails.

Bring as many classes and members outside can also give clubs the chance to work on the inside of a club, whether it is re-doing the floors, converting a seldom-used area into a space that will be utilized year-round or replacing equipment.

“We know the (warm months) can be a down time so that is when we do a lot of fixing up, changing and refurbishing,” Dunsworth said. “it is good because when kids are back in school and parents come back we have some thing new for them to come back to.”

Holland added that the variety of having part or all of a class or workout outside keeps them coming back for more.

“It’s all so positive; I love it,” he said. “The last few weeks, when it’s been nice, (members) are looking to have at least a portion of their workout outside. They are looking for something different instead of the same old treadmill.” 

Article originally appeared on IHRSA (
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