Boot Camp Classes: Four Tips Every Instructor Needs to Know

When you take a nice stroll through the park, you might expect to see a calm and gentle scene. Perhaps you expect to see signs of family wellness, with parents and children wandering through the park and feeding the ducks. Maybe you suppose to spot an elderly couple getting some fresh air together. However, while you might have this peaceful, idyllic picture of what goes on in your local park, once you get there it’s a whole different story, packed with hardcore wellness buffs. Some are working on their wellbeing with a few park-wide sprints, while others are performing squats on the grass. This is a firsthand look at the power and popularity of fitness boot camps.


Fitness Trainer Ryan Halvorson, director of group training at Bird Rock Fit and creator of, explains, ‘Boot camp classes have become a solid contender in the fitness world. According to information from the 2010 IDEA Personal Training Programs & Equipment Trends report, 41% and 25% of respondents offer small-group boot camps and outdoor boot camps, respectively. The data also show that 63% of those offering these programmes expect their growth to continue. For individual professionals and fitness facilities alike, boot camps can be a significant profit centre.’ Most things you read will tell you the benefits of boot camps to get you to attend one of these classes, but why attend a class when you can run one?


‘These days, boot camps are varied and appeal to different types of people,’ says Halvorson. ‘Many follow traditional methods with “screaming-sergeant” instructors, while other classes are more like playtime or recess. While it’s an inspiration to see so many exercise groups at your local park, a challenge arises: How do you set yourself apart from the pack? Starting a boot camp business can be a lucrative opportunity for fitness professionals. In many cases the overhead is minimal, if nonexistent. Classes can be held in parks or at recreation centres for a small fee. Equipment adds variety to the programme but isn’t necessary to produce an effective workout.’ So how do you create a boot camp programme that works?


1. Get an Early Start on Your Brand: ‘Once you’ve decided to start a boot camp, you’ll want to come up with a good name,’ says Cat Smiley, owner of Canada’s first and longest-running fitness boot camp, The Original Boot Camp. ‘Check with local and national government agencies to determine whether the name is available before you spend any money on graphic design and website.’

2. Be an Individual:
While you may have the traditional view that boot camps are for those who want to be screamed at for 30 minutes, it doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, doing things your own way can set you apart from the pack. ‘Use your own confidence and creativity to make your programme your own,’ Smiley instructs. ‘Many trainers don’t have it in them to do the “tough-as-nails” boot camp. Instructors are most successful when they use their own personalities and styles while teaching.’


3. Don’t Give Away the Farm for Free: Smiley warns, ‘Other trainers might call you and ask for tips and advice. Trust that you can be friendly and give advice without giving away trade secrets. Similarly, clients will sometimes want you to spend extra time helping them with exercises or nutrition advice after class. These are additional services that you can sell.’ You might be tempted to drop your prices to compete with other professionals, but stand your ground. ‘Set your price and stick with it,’ Smiley instructs. ‘Have confidence that you are worth what you ask participants to pay.’

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