To Train People Outside, Or Not to Train People Outside, That Is The Question

Do you take your service outdoor or not?

The government have confirmed that one to one, socially distanced personal training can take place outdoors in England (see this announcement) (if you are in Scotland, Wales, Ireland or elsewhere where the rules haven’t yet changed you may still find this article useful if you are considering your options ready for when they do)

 

So, with that in mind, this article is aimed at helping you answer the question of whether or not it is right for you and things to consider if you decide it is appropriate for your service.

 

Should I offer an outdoor service?

Firstly, I know a lot of personal trainers have been struggling with increased stress and anxiety since the announcements on Sunday and feeling the pressure that comes with making a decision like this one so it is important to note that just because you can do something it doesn’t mean you have to.  The great thing about running your own business is you get to decide what is right for you.

Reasons not to make the change

There are a large number of reasons why you might not want to make this move.  These include:

  • Not being comfortable with the risk to you and your family
  • Because you are or are in contact with a vulnerable person
  • Having to juggle childcare / teaching duties or other priorities
  • Your clients are more vulnerable
  • Your clients aren’t happy with the risk / training outside / juggling childcare and other priorities
  • You have too many clients to be able to offer the service to all
  • There isn’t an appropriate outdoor space you can use
  • You just don’t want to train people outdoors / it doesn’t work with your style of training / it’s not for you

That isn’t a definitive list and it doesn’t matter what reason you have for not offering the option that is now permitted, that is completely your prerogative, and you don’t have to justify yourself to anyone.

It is however very important that you continue to communicate with your clients.  Communication is something that I’ve mentioned a lot recently but we all know that when things aren’t communicated it leads to uncertainty and you don’t want your clients feeling uncertain about your service because the easiest way for them to deal with that will be to end their relationship with you.  Keep an open and frequent communication channel with them, even when you are repeating that nothing is changing right now.  I’d recommend highlighting the positives of your current service offering and their progress at the same time to help keep them focused on the good stuff they are getting out of working with you.

Reasons to make the change

There are also multiple reasons why you might want to make some changes and introduce this option.  These include:

  • You have clients who are struggling on their own and know that offering them the service will have a significant positive impact on their mental health
  • Your own mental health is being impacted and you know getting back to seeing clients will help
  • It’s the same service as you were offering pre lockdown
  • There is a financial need (if this is the only reason you are doing it and don’t want to remember you can always look at other available jobs if they appeal more)
  • You just want to

Again, this isn’t a difinitive list and you are completely entitled to offer the service for any reason you like and don’t need to justify yourself.

 

I’m going to offer the service, what do I need to consider?

There are a large number of things to consider if you want to offer this service, here are the main ones:

Logistical

  • Check your insurance! All insurers have different things they include or don’t include and these times are no exception to that so check the details of what you want to do are covered and / or if there are any particular things you need to do or not do in order to be covered.
  • Decide on a venue. If it is a local park or council space check if you need to pay a licence or there are any other restrictions or requirements.  The rules vary at a local level and based on location. Also consider how busy it gets – on a sunny day in a park you and your client may turn into the park entertainment, make sure you and they are ok with this or check out if there are any less exposed options you could use.
  • Risk assess the area. You should be used to risk assessments anyway as they are a requirement for any kind of training in any location but there will be some differences to consider if you are not used to outdoors!  Things like the ground underfoot, impact of the weather on the surroundings, ground and any equipment, other people in the vicinity, dogs or other animals.  In addition, there are Covid 19 risks to consider in respect of shared surfaces (e.g. gates), how you and your clients travel there, any issues social distancing in the car park / entrance/ exit, toilet facilities if necessary etc.
  • Confirm that the use of equipment is ok with your insurers.  Consider how you are going to transport it and clean it.  The government has issued this guidance on hygiene here.
  • Decide on who you are offering the service too – is it all clients or just a few that are struggling more or in difficult situations? Decide what flexibility you are going to allow in terms of weather changes and other reasons people might want to cancel, rearrange etc and your own preferences in that regard (are you happy to train people if the weather is rubbish etc)
  • Think about things like comfort breaks for yourself if you are going to see more than one client in a row without going home.
  • Make sure you leave changeover time so that clients aren’t “meeting” and so you can clean anything that needs cleaning etc
  • Have a think about what you need from a first aid point of view and make sensible preparations – you should have a first aid kit anyway if you are a mobile trainer but if you are used to relying on the ones available in a commercial gym you’ll need to get your own (they are a requirement for most insurances). They should always include gloves anyway but you might want to top up a few more gloves and add in some extras like masks for if you do need to get closer to someone to help them in an emergency.
  • Make sure you keep up to date with Government guidance, it’s changing all the time and will continue to do so. It may continue to progress in terms of what is allowed or it may take steps back, you need to be on top of it.
  • Have a think about what happens if you or one of the people you have seen in person subsequently develops symptoms. Obviously if it’s you, you need to self isolate but think about what communications you are going to put in place if a client you’ve seen is ill.

Communication

  • You obviously need to communicate with your clients to let them know what you are offering. I’d recommend you don’t make it a requirement for clients to train outside with you, keep it very much optional for them and are as flexible as possible over this time as people maybe try it, think about it and generally try to decide what they want.
  • Communicate all the rules, and things you are putting in place to ensure their safety as well as your own and compliance with the government rules.
  • Make sure anyone you are seeing knows what they need to bring and what they need to be prepared for.
  • Communication of what you are doing is going to be a potentially controversial topic. Respect that people (including clients, friends and family) have different opinions on what should and shouldn’t be allowed.  Aim to pre-empt them by being super clear on the guidance you are following and what you are putting in place.  Also be respectful of their opinions (even if they aren’t providing you the same curtesy).  It’s difficult when you know you aren’t doing anything wrong but it’s a tough time for all, many people are scared, emotional and dealing with their own difficult situation.  This results in people lashing out and the way you handle the situation will reflect on you and your business for some time to come.
  • Practice some respectful responses for if you gather negative attention when you are training someone. Even though you aren’t in the wrong, entering a shouting match with a random stranger isn’t going to look great to your client.

Session Planning

  • You are going to need to take into account the client, their goals, what they need from the session, the equipment you do or don’t have and they environment you are going to be in e.g. hip thrusts can feel awkward at the best of times, doing them in the middle of a park is not going to make many people feel particularly comfortable!
  • Consider where you are standing and how you are interacting with the client. Not being directly in front of them might be a good option when it comes to protecting yourself.  This article is a good one when it comes to considering risks and where you can make some tweaks to the way you do things to limit them for all concerned.
  • It may be worth having a training session with a friend or family member to try things out in real life and to help identify anything you haven’t thought of.

 

Marketing

Being able to show what you are doing and how you are doing it is always important but this is going to be even more critical for some time to come.  Showing that you are sticking to rules, going over and above on guidance, rules, hygiene etc will be key.  Highlighting the benefits clients are experiencing relative to the current situation will also help e.g. things like mental health and connection etc.

As covered in the communication section, this decision will be seen as a controversial one by some so address that in your marketing and tread carefully when it comes to the messages you are putting out.

 

Conclusion

Hopefully this has helped you.  Remember just because you can doesn’t mean you have to, either now or as each change in the rules takes place going forward.  You don’t need to make each step as it appears, you can miss a few or all as works best for you and your circumstances.

If you aren’t sure, there is nothing wrong with waiting a bit longer for things to settle and move on.  Your decision in either direction doesn’t need to be a final one, you can always change your mind in the future.  Give yourself time to make the choice.

Take into account the views of the rest of your household and the needs of you and your family first and your existing clients preferences second, don’t let random others pressure you into either direction if you don’t want to go there.

Finally, remember it is difficult times for all, aim to keep things respectful and non judgemental and be kind.

 

Whatever you decide good luck.  Let’s show the world the good we can do as an industry rather than add to the negative