How to Acquire New Athletes Through Boot Camps

group flex with whiteboard

What promotions have you launched to get new members through your door? Get a free class! Bring a friend for free! Receive a free fitness consultation! Try your first week free! These are all enticing offers that can persuade someone to check out your box for the first time. But what about those prospective athletes who might be afraid to give your classes a chris marhefka try, even if they’re free? Those who haven’t worked out in a long time or have an unrealistic view of what WODs are really like, might be envisioning people lifting weights that are far too heavy and fighting for their lives to finish each rep in an ultra competitive environment.

A fitness boot camp is an excellent way to give prospective members a taste of what your workouts and programming are really like. We sat down with Chris “Boris” Marhefka, owner of B3 CrossFit and Body by Boris, to gain insight into how he developed a successful boot camp with the end goal of growing his overall member base.

Why a Boot Camp?

HIIT training is incredibly popular right now and perfect for boot camps. People love getting outside to workout and they want something that is hard, simple and fun. Chris realized that offering a boot camp would enable them to better serve a market that they weren’t currently reaching. “With a boot camp, we were reaching a market that might have been intimidated to jump into our regular program,” says Chris. “But within the boot camp, they end up doing a lot of the same things they would be doing in regular classes.” Boot camps, especially when they do not contain barbell movements, are a less intimidating way to give individuals a taste of your fitness training. “We focused on the fact that this boot camp was built for you; for the people who hadn’t worked out in five years or had never done a high intensity workout before.”

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Key Components of a Boot Camp

In order to run a successful boot camp, you must have a specific start and end date. This will ensure you’re teaching everyone the same key movements versus having individuals drop in for classes here and there. In order for participants to see progress, attendance is a must. Chris implemented a star program for attendance to help keep participants accountable. Boot camps need to run for a specific amount of time to be successful. Six to eight weeks is ideal, as it’s long enough for individuals to see results, but not too long that it makes it too big of a commitment.

Many boot camps focus on all-around wellness, so including tips as part of the program can help increase its value. Chris created an automated email program that sent participants wellness tips, like water consumption and the importance of good sleep, as well as healthy recipes. To help increase accountability and engagement, Chris also assigned homework for participants to complete outside of the camp.

Differentiating the Boot Camp from Regular Classes

Chris’s biggest piece of advice for box owners thinking about starting a boot camp is making sure you are clear about why you’re doing it and who the program is for. “When we first started the boot camp, we were getting a lot of questions from current members around why we were doing it.” It’s imperative that you and your coaches understand who the boot camp is for. “We are selling the boot camp as an introduction to this type of workout,” says Chris. The program is focused on teaching people basic, proper movements and showing them the importance of scaling when they can’t perform a certain movement.

Price point is very important when launching a boot camp. To help keep costs down, these boot camps are much bigger than regular classes. “We were focused on offering it at a financially manageable price point to help break down barriers for people who might on the fence about signing up.” Breaking the total cost into two or three payments, depending on the length of the camp, is great way to make the price more appealing and manageable.

How to Use Zen Planner for a Boot Camp

Zen Planner makes running a boot camp much easier. Chris states that the check-in and reservation features were key to this program’s success. “We told participants that they had to reserve their spot in each class. This helped keep them motivated, especially when we setup a 24-hour reminder that we were looking forward to seeing them.” If for some reason members didn’t show up, they’d receive automated email reminders asking where they were.

Chris also utilized Zen Planner’s Advanced Workout Tracking solution. By programming the workouts in the tool, members would come to camp each day knowing what they would be doing. Tracking the results of these workouts helped them see their progress throughout the entire program. Since meal plans and lifestyle tips were a key component of the program, Chris simplified the distribution of these emails by automating them.


The first boot camp of the year, which launched in January, was a huge success. Participants saw faster progress than those in regular classes. With a progressive form of programming, they assumed that most people didn’t know proper movements on day one. By slowly teaching and perfecting these basic movements and skills, people were executing them much better after just two weeks. By the end, everyone was looking great and moving great. One participant reported losing 30 pounds!

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The program has proved to be an excellent way to recruit new members. After the first boot camp concluded, several participants reenrolled in the next camp, while others signed up for memberships at B3 CrossFit. This program made them realize that this type of training is for them. Seeing that B3 CrossFit is moving to a new, larger facility this spring, the boot camp has severed as a great way to increase members and fill up the new space.

Boot camps can be a great way to introduce individuals to your unique style of training, and ultimately, grow your member base. Have you run a boot camp at your affiliate gym? Share your experience below!

Boot camps are an excellent way to grow your business. Looking to see what other successful boxes are doing to grow and expand? Get your copy of our in-depth Affiliate Gym Benchmark Report.

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