Don’t forget these 13 items when teaching outdoor fitness classes

Whether you’re just beginning to think about bringing your group training outdoors or you’ve been doing it forever, you’ve no doubt put lots of time into the equipment you’ll need.  You’ve procured ladders, balls, ropes, cones and have tons of bodyweight exercises locked and loaded. 

But have you thought about the ancillary items you’ll need to bring with you on a daily basis? These are often overlooked supplies; some are critical and some not-so-much;  yet when combined they act as the nerve center of the operation.  This is especially true if your training takes place at a park that is not connected to an indoor facility, and conveniences you rely upon are no longer at your finger tips. 

Following is a list that, for over 14 years, has served me well and made the outdoor fitness experience a better one for my clients:

  1. Portable plastic file box with a handle: The key to making everything work is efficiency.  The better the method of transporting these items, the more time you’ll save, and the better chance you wont forget anything.This is where your “briefcase” comes into play. I’ve found a plastic file box to be the best tool for the job. It can easily be carried in and out of your car and can stand up to a light drizzle or wet grass.  Plus, when the lid is closed it serves as a mini table to keep your other miscellaneous items up off wet surfaces.
  2. Bug Repellant Depending on where you live in the country, gnats can really be a bonofasitch.  A bug management system will not only do wonders for your own sanity, but it it’s a nice thing to do for your participants.  A few options:The high-octane spray, or you can make your own.  I experimented one summer and put both out each morning.  It was 50/50 – half the group preferred the natural stuff and half just went with the tried-and-true. Mosquito incense sticks.  Depending where you live, you might call them “punk sticks.”  They are made from a particular natural ingredient (ahem,) so there are no chemicals, but you’ll probably feel better if you don’t think about what that natural ingredient actually is!Punks are a lifesaver for me when bugs are particularly bad – they really do work.  Sometimes I walk around and hold them while coaching, but my favorite trick is to prop them up in an agility cone or dome (just check on them often so they don’t burn through the plastic.) Oh, and don’t forget a lighter or matches!Bracelets.  It would be a high price tag to supply bug repellant bands for your entire group, but as a coach you might want to give these a try as an alternative to spray.
  3. Antiseptic wipes You’d be surprised how often you, or someone in the group will be thankful you have them.   Travel size resealable packs fit easily in the briefcase.
  4. Tissues Depending on the weather, someone will reach for these every day.  Get a bunch of pocket size packs and throw one at a time in the briefcase.  You’ll end up replenishing often.
  5. Water and food Be prepared for occasions when someone forgets their water or didn’t eat breakfast.  No matter how you transport them (briefcase or otherwise,) be sure to bring it all inside each day to avoid anything overheating. A few extra bottles of water and kid’s juice boxes are small and don’t need to be kept in the fridge so they make for a viable low blood sugar fix energy bar without chocolate or anything meltable. A small bag of almonds also comes in handy
  6. Rain protection Emergency ponchos.  Even if you don’t purposely hold sessions during rain, you might get caught off-guard.  Emergency ponchos are inexpensive and don’t take up a lot of space, so they are a smart just-in-case purchase.Garbage bags.  Again, regardless if you train in the rain or not, overnight precipitation will leave a trail of wet tables, benches, and grass in its wake.  Garbage bags provide a nice barrier between you and a wet surface, and allow for a dry area to do any paperwork, or even to give your phones and belongings a dry place to rest.Freezer bags.  These are wonderful at keeping your session notes dry while still being able to read them.  Also works to house phones and other valuables you want to keep dry.
  7. Sun protection If you teach a 6am class this might not be an issue for you.  And if you train when the sun is bright, most people lather up before they come to train anyway.  Even so, keeping a few single serving packets of SPF on hand just in case is a nice touch.
  8. Clipboard No matter how technologically advanced we get, going back to basics to keep track of attendance and have clients fill out paperwork is easy and carries the least risk of  But don’t forget the pen!
  9. Pertinent client info Whether you are working for yourself or are an employee of a club it is crucial to have the emergency contact and health history info for each of your participants available immediately should you need it.  And whether it’s stored in your electronic device or in paper form, you’ll probably want to keep this sensitive material locked in your car during the session.
  10. Restroom Key Even if you’re lucky enough to hold classes in a park with real restrooms, most parks keep them locked overnight.  So, at 6am you’re probably still going to be out of luck.  Assuming you’ve been given permission to use the park legally (hope so!,) you might want to check in to secure a copy of the key for the duration of your training season.
  11. First Aid kit If you drive the same vehicle each day, it is easiest to keep this in the car.  It doesn’t fit in the briefcase anyway, and you’ll be sure not to forget it. Keep it fully stocked and checked regularly, as certain items have expiration dates and need to be replaced more than you might think.  Items that are especially relevant to you, that might not be included in standard drug store first aid kits are: -insect bite spray -instant cold pack.  Have a back up because they aren’t always reliable.  I’ve found this to be true when they overheat or get jostled around too much.
  12. Extra towels My clients always know to bring their own towel each day, but occasionally someone forgets.  Keep a few in your trunk and grab if needed.
  13. Hair bands Broken hair ties happen during workouts.  And when they do, it’s annoying (the struggle is real folks!) You’ll be a hero if you have an extra few on hand.

So there you have it!  Like I mentioned, some of these might seem a bit fluffy to hardened boot camp types.  However, providing your clients with small conveniences that they might not expect help to make them comfortable.  When they’re comfortable, they have a better experience.  When they have a better experience……they come back again and again!

Need a colorful reminder of these items?  Pin, share, or save the below graphic.  


About Kristin Dowell

Kristin is a group fitness instructor and personal trainer with certifications from ACE and AFAA, is qualified to coach over a dozen specialty programs, and is the creator of 3 exercise DVDs. From creating physical training programs for fire academies, to teaching preschool dance, (and just about everything in between)...
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