Even if you've never been in the army, you've probably seen snippets of boot camps in popular war movies like Full Metal Jacket, G.I. Jane or Stripes – one of Bill Murray's finest films. What do you recall about those scenes? You're probably envisioning a mammoth instructor in sun glasses and a brimmed hat, barking at recruits and forcing them to do push-ups in the mud. Am I close?
Fitness boot camp isn't much different. You'll play the role of the tough instructor with the heart of gold, and your friends and family will play the new recruits. You'll lead them through a series of exercises (called 'circuits') and fitness games, building their athletic ability and confidence -- and growing your bank account.
A boot camp is an instructor-led, outdoor fitness class. Unlike working as a personal trainer, you don't need to be a certified strength and conditioning coach. If you're fit and fun, you've got what it takes to run a successful, highly profitable boot camp.
Upfront costs are minimal. In fact, I've run boot camps that didn't require any investment at all. You don't need any equipment because boot camps are usually based on bodyweight exercises, and if you take advantage of free online marketing tools and social media, you can sell out a session without spending a single dollar. (Like this idea? Click to tweet it!)
If you want to earn $100 an hour or more and enjoy bossing people around, check out the following tips for running a kick-ass boot camp.
It was a Thursday evening when I decided to run my first boot camp on Saturday morning. I invited my friends, family and some neighbours from my building. The invitations went out that night but nobody responded until Friday morning. Saturday morning came, and I had two attendees -- not nearly enough to run a boot camp. I cancelled it and resent the invitation for the following Saturday. The two people that had signed up for my original Saturday session didn't sign up again, and I had to reassure those that did, that I wouldn't be cancelling again. Not good, right?
It's better to prelaunch than relaunch. Give yourself time to get enough attendees. Send out email, Facebook and Twitter invitations ahead of time. Call your family and friends and get them to commit. Keep them engaged until the date and then rock your session to keep them coming back.
Design your fitness program well ahead of time, and do a run-through at home. Consider what’s available at your planned location and design exercises around that equipment: stairs, playgrounds, sand and trees can all contribute to an excellent workout.
Make sure you have enough activities planned to carry you through the allotted time. Running short will slow down the pace of the workout, and the pressure will make you sweat more than the exercise.
The night before, send out a reminder email to your participants and include a list of items they should bring: water bottles, proper footwear, sunscreen and the like. This will minimize the disorganization caused by people borrowing items from other participants as the class is about to start.
The morning of your first boot camp can zap your energy more than the boot camp itself. You've got to be organized, especially if you're expecting a big turn out.
Create a sign-in sheet with each participant’s name and email, and have them sign in as soon as they arrive. This is especially important to collect contact information from people who may not have been on your original invitation list, such as friends of friends. Building a list of happy clients will make organizing your next boot camp a breeze.
Also, come prepared with a standard waiver releasing you from any liability for injuries, similar to the ones that gyms and fitness coaches make you sign before participating in an exercise program. For more information on waivers, check out this post. If you plan on running boot camps as a long-term source of income, speak to your insurance agent about options for professional fitness insurance.
Each year, my gym runs this promotion: if you bring a non-member for a workout, you get a free month of membership. The gym gets to build a list of prospective future clients, and you save some money.
Try running the same promotion with your boot camp. After your first session, send a thank-you email to all of your attendees (you'll have the list that doubled as your sign-in sheet). Invite them to your next session and let them know that if they bring someone new, their next session is on you.
If your first session was a total knockout, your first group of attendees will bring a friend and double your second session's attendance. Have everyone sign in with their name and email, and watch your list continue to grow.
Starting a fitness boot camp with zero up-front costs can be as simple as inviting your friends and family to the park for an hour of communal sweating. If you charge $10 per person and sign up 10 people, you've made a cool $100 for an hour’s work. All you need is some basic fitness knowledge, a space in the park and a portable music dock.
Your Turn: Would you run a fitness boot camp to earn extra cash?
Mike Thorpe is a freelance writer and fitness enthusiast. You can hire him through his website at www.bestpowerliftingequipment.