Some things are a great idea… until they’re not.
The pandemic and nice weather have sent many of us TRX Instructors into the great outdoors, providing a literal bright spot in the midst of gym and studio closures. Even more, the features of the TRX Suspension Trainer and Rip Trainer —lightweight, easy to set-up and transport, and super versatile —lend themselves to amazing on-the-move training experiences. Nonetheless, as 2020 has so generously shown us, the world is an unpredictable place (and city parks are no exception). Lucky for you guys I’ve been taking my TRX workouts outside for years, and while it’s usually a seamless and super fun experience for all, there have been some challenges along the way. Let’s just say I’ve made some mistakes. But just for the purposes of this blog, let’s just pretend that I made those mistakes on purpose with the goal of helping all of you avoid them (“research”?). You’ll thank me later.
Confession #1.... I forgot that trees grow.
For a couple years, as an annual tradition during the summer and fall, I ran this great outdoor TRX Bootcamp class at a waterfront park. The setting was perfect. Not only was it beautiful but there were three rows of trees equidistant from each other whose trunks were just the right width for anchoring Suspension Trainers. So every year when the weather outside got warm, we’d eagerly head out to that same perfect spot to hold class. In the third year of this lovely annual tradition, we arrived in high spirits, only to discover that our perfectly sized trees had gotten significantly bigger — even the branches were too tall to anchor straps around them. So what happened? Apparently, I’d forgotten to take into account that trees grow. Oops. While X-Tender straps would have easily done the trick, I didn’t have them with me. I had to make an emergency programming switch and jog around the whole park to find a group of smaller trees that would work for my class. Luckily most of my clients were regular attendees so they weren’t phased by my gaffe, but I was really thankful no first-timers were there!
Pro Tip: Don’t assume natural anchor points will stay the same year-over-year. News flash, trees grow, so make sure to check out your location and test out your anchoring points before you kick off your class. As a side tip, always, repeat always, have a back-up plan.
Confession #2....I failed to research the Parks & Rec landscape maintenance schedule.
All spring long I had been teaching this great 6am park-based class without a hitch. When summer arrived, it didn’t occur to me that the change in seasons would trigger a change in maintenance and landscaping needs. One morning, as we had just finished our warm-up, no less than 20 sprinklers abruptly rose from the ground and turned on full blast. We (and all of our belongings & gear) were DRENCHED.
As if that wasn’t enough, on another occasion — in the same park no less — we were mixing up our strength workout by having participants run from place to place with straps in hand. For the purpose of ease, we left our yoga mats behind; I figured, “Hey, grass is soft... perfect for ground exercises au natural.” The next day half of our class attendees came down with skin rashes. WAH WAH. Apparently the park was treating the grass with chemicals, and a bunch of people had reactions to said chemicals. Oops. It was ok in the end and everybody recovered after a day or two, but we definitely learned our lesson.
Pro Tip: Get the background scoop on your outdoor training location beforehand, especially if it’s a public location. That way if there are any conflicting issues, you can either plan around them or choose an alternate location.
Confession #3... I forgot to consider the fact that “public” spaces oftentimes turn into “private” spaces in the wee hours of the morning.
Again, to change things up in one of my morning classes, we decided to do an “adventure circuit” by making an obstacle course out of the playground equipment. We had TRX Stations anchored to swing sets and planned to have people climb up the cargo net and slide down the slide to end each round. Fun, right? While the park location is a popular spot right downtown, we figured a 6am call time would insure a relatively kid-free zone. The thing we didn’t take into account was full-grown adults, taking part in their own little “adventure circuit.” Oops.
While I was demonstrating the circuit order, out of nowhere we looked over only to see a seemingly very in love and very hungover couple go down the slide and walk away with their heads down. It appeared that they hunkered down into the shelter above the slide after a fun night on the town. Needless to say, they slinked off to one side of the playground as we all stood there dumbfounded. We all got our giggles and jokes out and carried on with our “wholesome” adventure circuit — with the bonus of having a very fun story to tell.
Pro Tip: If you’re using a public location / structure, make sure to give it a thorough once-over before setting up. Whether it’s people, animals, garbage, or something worse, it’s always a good idea to scour the area and inspect the structures to ensure everything is safe and sound.
So there you have it. Outdoor workouts are a blast, but leaving the comfort of a controlled environment that you have full say over can present its own set of unforeseen challenges. Hopefully my past misadventures gave you a little chuckle and inspired you to be prepared and methodical on your own adventures. Have fun and be safe out there! And always remember to check the slide…
To learn more using TRX in your coaching, becoming a personal trainer or online personal trainer, check out TRX Education.
Ami McMullen is a TRX Master Trainer who's been working with TRX since 2008. She has a degree in Exercise & Sport Science, certifications in personal training and group fitness, and has presented at professional conferences in 5 different countries. She believes fitness doesn’t have to be miserable and loves that TRX is accessible to so many.