Farm Ireland

Sunday 21 January 2018

Push the limits in a future of fitness

Boost revenue by diversifying into farm bootcamps

Paul McCarthy

When a farmer is looking for a business idea, I usually tell them to start by writing out all the resources at their disposal. This includes their land, buildings, and natural resources, if present, such as water, woodland, habitats, archaeological features and so on.

I also tell them to look at all their skills, hobbies and passions. With this sort of approach I find it surprising that very few farmers have taken on the challenge of starting a fitness-related business, such as outdoor fitness bootcamps.

During the past decade, with increasing health awareness and the need for an active lifestyle, the fitness club industry has really taken off here. There are now around 600 gyms in Ireland, many of them constructed during the boom times.

As we are too well aware we have all had to peg back our budgets and let go some of the comforts. For many, gym membership was one of these luxuries. In addition, a considerable amount of people have become bored of the gym and obesity is a massive issue (if you'll pardon the pun).

It may not seem relevant to you but a key trend is the growing popularity of fitness clubs, such as bootcamps, where the training takes place in open spaces, such as parks and farmland. This could be an area of potential for farmers, but it's one they must move on fast.

Paul O'Brien runs the successful Bootcamp West in Westport, Co Mayo. A native of Portlaoise, Co Laois, Paul uses the farmland and some of the facilities around Westport House for his bootcamps.

Paul completed a one-year National Certificate in Exercise and Fitness and a six-month, part-time personal training course. An enthusiastic sportsman, Paul plays soccer, squash and has run three marathons and several triathlons.

In 2007 he began to run some classes at hotels and provide one-to-one personal training sessions. He then began researching alternative models of group exercise, which would have an outdoor element, provide something different, have lots of variety and potentially generate an income, so Bootcamp West was born.

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Today business is thriving. Paul runs three to four bootcamps a day, lasting for about an hour each, five days a week with 15-20 in each class. A typical class runs over six weeks and costs €125, with an individual attending up to three classes a week.

Paul's classes are for adults and almost every age group attends -- with a range of fitness levels, he has people in their 20s all the way up to their 60s.

The best bit is the equipment required, which ranges from tyres to sandbags, cement blocks to logs, planks of wood to trees, fences and hills -- in fact all things in ample supply around any Irish farm.

Because of the Irish weather, access to a clean, dry area, such as a barn or shed, is essential.

Paul now makes his full-time living from his bootcamps and is about to start running a second programme in Castlebar.

Bookings are taken by phone or email and classes are promoted using posters and word of mouth. He advises clients to start with one to two classes a week and grow from there.

From an exercise point of view, the bootcamps are about using your own bodyweight and aerobic exercise, such as jogging, skipping, push-ups, squats and lunges, but the difference is these exercise techniques are completed in novel ways.

Farmers with a passion for sport could upskill to run the bootcamps themselves or go into partnership with a suitable fitness instructor.

The trainer is the key element and this is what makes Paul's business a success. He insists a trainer must be a good communicator, have a broad knowledge base of fitness, be self-motivated and possess the ability to motivate and inspire.

They must also have lots of energy and deliver a consistently good service.

One big potential pitfall, according to Paul, is becoming complacent after a period of things going well. His approach is to deliver every class as if it was his first.

From a farming perspective, a bootcamp business has a lot to offer. Most of the equipment is on hand, classes can be set up to fit in with the farming routine and minimal capital is required.

Upcoming Events

  • March 3: Rural Tourism Workshop with a discussion on new ideas, advice and trends, Teagasc office, Tullamore, 7.30pm.

  • April 23-24: Entrepreneur Show, RDS Dublin. High-profile speakers will focus on ways to develop new and existing businesses in the current climate. For more info visit theentrepreneurshow

  • Irish Independent