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ePublication of Australian Fitness Network

Whip your bootcamp into shape!

The combination of fresh air, a social environment and a well-planned workout can be a recipe for training and business success, writes personal trainer Theresa Prior.


  • Participant numbers in outdoor training sessions can vary considerably, so plan sessions that one person could do, or 30 people could do
  • A great template for an outdoor session might include a warm up, a game, a main circuit, another game and then a cool down
  • To avoid client burnout, you need variety throughout the week, month or six-week block, rotating through cardio/running sessions, strength-based sessions and interval sessions
  • By making sessions fun and incorporating opportunities for client interaction, you will increase adherence, participation and word-of-mouth referrals.

Starting your own outdoor group fitness business or bootcamp can seem overwhelming, but with some planning you can establish a strong structure that will cope with whatever you and your clients throw at it.

By taking some time to create some simple but flexible systems, you can ensure that you are not spending hours planning sessions – which will allow you more time to work on the bigger picture for your business.

By considering the following points, you’ll be well on your way to filling amazing sessions with clients who, by becoming your raving fans, will be the best marketing you could wish for.

It’s a numbers game

The first consideration with any group fitness class is the expected number of participants. Unless you are doing a class where every participant is doing the same, bodyweight-only exercises, then numbers will be important to you. While it is nice to know who is coming along to your session beforehand (and important in order to plan for any contraindications for certain participants), the clients you have booked in to your session will not always be the clients who actually participate in your session. It is prudent to plan the session so that one person could do it, or 30 people could do it. Ways to do this include:

  • Using a timer for circuit stations (there are plenty of great interval timer apps available)
  • Being flexible with circuit stations if one is a timekeeper station (i.e. everyone moves after 30 ball slams) – you may need to decrease or increase the stations to suit the number of participants
  • Understanding that a group of three can work in the same way as a pair – simply have two participants do the same thing in that trio
  • Understanding that a group of three can also be a pair in boxing – either two boxers or two pad holders, and have them switch around more often than the actual pairs.

When you first start out, planning for a sudden change in participant numbers can be helpful. It’s good for your own confidence and peace of mind to have a Plan A, Plan B and even Plan C for each session. Over time, however, you’ll gain the confidence and experience to safely alter a session plan on the fly to suit the number of participants standing in front of you.

The great outdoors session template

So what can a typical outdoors session look like? You will know your own training style and the interests of your clients, so if you’re a fan of the ViPR or your clients revel in padwork, then include elements of what you love doing. Remember, however, that most people sign up to outdoor training because it’s different to what they could get from an indoor gym or studio-based group workout.

An element of fun can really add that jois de vivre to your sessions and have your clients talking about you for days afterwards. A great session template that packs in the smiles as well as the effort could include the following (times are recommendations only):

Warm up (5 minutes)
  • Keep this simple, timed and relevant to the planned, main circuit.
  • Participants should work individually.
  • Timing movements, rather than counting, allows for latecomers to slip in without disruption (there will always be a latecomer – allowing them the chance to fit in without embarrassment is a welcoming thing to do)
  • The warm up also gives you the chance to observe participant energy levels, participant engagement, attitudes towards the session and any injuries that will require exercise modifications.
Game (10 minutes)
  • It is not imperative to play a game, but doing so will encourage client interaction, set the tone for the session, and raise energy levels
  • Keep the first game simple – your participants are still warming up, and warming to each other
  • As before, have a Plan A and a Plan B, so you can accommodate varied participant numbers.
Main circuit (20 minutes)
  • The theme of this section should be in keeping with what has been delivered in the Warm up and Game. Stick to one training style (i.e. is it a cardio/running session, a boxing session, or a strength session? More on this below)
  • Keep it to timed stations if you are really unsure of participant numbers
  • Do not participate yourself: this is your clients’ workout, not yours. By all means, do a few ball slams beside Sam to help correct her technique, but do not do the whole circuit.
Finisher game/challenge (5 minutes)
  • This is like the initial game – it is not imperative to do it, but it’s a great finisher because it gives clients a final burst of energy, allows for further client interaction and will be the thing clients remember after the session is finished
  • Your finisher can be more mentally challenging than the initial game, as your clients have warmed to each other and have definitely woken up!
  • Again, have a Plan A and a Plan B to accommodate varied numbers
Cool down and stretch (5 minutes)
  • Whether you believe stretching at the end of the session is effective for client results or not, it is important in the group fitness setting as it allows your participants to come together as one group
  • This is a chance to celebrate the achievements of the session
  • Initiate discussion and excitement for the next session
  • Discuss any group events that you may have coming up, such as fun runs or endurance events
  • This time gives your clients a further chance to interact.

The bigger picture

As you are planning your outdoor group fitness sessions, it’s wise to look at the bigger picture first. Are you running a six-week block, or do you run ongoing sessions? Do your participants tend to come to all sessions on offer, or do some only come one or two days a week? Whatever that bigger picture looks like for you, it is very important that you plan your sessions to avoid client burnout. You need variety throughout your week, your month or your six-week block. If you’ve got clients only coming one day a week, then each Tuesday should look different to avoid client burnout and boredom.

This variety will be dependent on the equipment that you have available. Ideally, though, you should be rotating through cardio/running sessions, strength-based sessions and interval sessions. If you have the equipment, the training and the insurance, then you could add boxing or other training styles into that mix as well.

Make everyone feel valued – and be prepared!

At the end of the day, whether you’ve got four participants or 34 participants, it is prudent to make each and every one of them feel valued and important. Make a latecomer feel just as welcome as the client who got there early and helped you set up. Make the client who just rocked up without booking in feel just as welcome as the client who booked two weeks ago. Make the client who can’t yet run 100m feel just as welcome as your marathoner client.

Your session plans should be equally as varied as your clientele. Plan for a variety of ability, a variety of numbers, and a variety of training styles. Know that the session you plan on paper may not be the session that you deliver – and that that’s OK. As long as everything is done safely, with common sense and within your scope of practice, it will all get easier with time.


Click these links for further reading and resources to assist you with session planning:

Theresa Prior

Theresa is a personal trainer with a specialised qualification in post-natal assessment and functional exercise prescription. She is also a qualified outdoor education teacher. Theresa is passionate about helping mums rebuild their strength, function and confidence.

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