What to do on the 2nd day of boot camp to ensure a 100% return rate on the 3rd day

Allow me to address the obvious question, and then throw in an asterisk. Why the second day? It’s because the first day of each camp season consists of a baseline assessment test measuring endurance, strength, flexibility and agility. The second day is when we begin training.

Now the asterisk. 100% return rate is not entirely true; over the fifteen years I’ve facilitated boot camps there have been a few people who have not attended the 3rd day of camp due to vacation or schedule conflicts (they were back on the 4th day!) No one, however, has not come back after the second day because they decided the program wasn’t for them. That statistic wasn’t by accident. It was by strategy.

The second day of a program sets the tone for the remainder of the season, and it’s when participants decide whether or not they want to make the commitment to continue. Therefore, every aspect of the session requires careful thought. If you’re interested in eliminating early drop-outs from your programs, keep the following in mind:

  • Train the people in front of you – not the people you think should be in front of you. The reality is you’ll have conditioned athletes working right alongside beginners straight from the couch. You need to be respectful of all levels and design the intensity and difficulty appropriately. Unnecessarily smashing people with difficulty leads to injuries, and injuries lead to those people not coming back to your programs. (For strategies to train multi-levels in one room, check out this article.)
  • Keep the end in mind. Hopefully you’ve done a baseline assessment beforehand, and along with your participants, have set goals for improvement within that realm. Every training session should be designed to help the cause. And let them know why they’re doing what they’re doing – how exactly it’s helping them get stronger, more flexible, etc. If they understand the method to the madness they’ll be more willing to take ownership of showing up each day.
  • Avoid the dread factor. With many personalities in one group, you’ll have many different attention spans, likes, dislikes, and learning styles. Be cognizant of keeping enough variety in the early couple days of camp to accommodate those varying preferences. That way you’ll have a little something for everyone. Too much repetition can bore people. If they’re bored, they’ll dread returning. And, I’m not talking bells and whistles to avoid boredom – simply change up the exercise, tempo, location, direction, etc. Include a mix of independent work, teamwork, and working in unison (again, refer to this article for more on that.) Moving through a variety of exercises will also give you as a coach a chance to scout out what resonates with people, what they excel at, as well as areas of opportunities for growth.
  • Avoid complication. Spoon feed information in little bits as they need to know it. Making them memorize long sets of instructions can be overwhelming for beginners. Forego equipment on the second day as well; using equipment often requires an extra layer of instructions and mind clutter above and beyond what they’re already trying to comprehend. Concentrate on form and technique on day 2 – bring in the toys later.
  • Keep it light and fun. At the end of the day, everyone wants to feel accomplished. They want to get stronger and fitter, but not in lieu of having a positive experience.

Check out this video to see a 2nd day of boot camp workout from our 2011 season.

teaching boot camp fitness classes

Got any tips on how you ensure a 100% return rate with your clients? Please share.

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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