Outdoor Fitness Israel: An Innovative Fitness Program Developed By UK Olim

If you’re lucky enough to be walking on the Tel Aviv promenade early in the morning, you’ll see the calm Mediterranean waves and you’ll feel the light breeze on your skin.

Outdoor Fitness Israel 758 (photo credit: NEFESH B'NEFESH)
Outdoor Fitness Israel 758
(photo credit: NEFESH B'NEFESH)
 There’s also a good chance, you’ll see a buff man in a tight black shirt, waving his muscular arms and with a British accent, directing a group of twenty- and thirty-somethings to get down on the sandy ground and do another set of push-ups.  Forty-five seconds later, the group is told to do a set of burpies.  But instead of complaining, they make a few jokes, laugh, and get to it.
In 2012, Joel and Daniel Yekutiel, two brothers from London, decided to create a new concept of fitness and chose to launch Outdoor Fitness Israel in Tel Aviv.  In their view, it’s a model that could be replicated to cities throughout the world.  But starting it in Israel was their dream.
Growing up in the UK, Joel and Daniel always felt like they saw their future in Israel. For Daniel, who is now married with a baby, he realized this dream in 2004 at age 22.  After living on a kibbutz for six months, Daniel enlisted in the Israeli Army and became a paratrooper. Following his service, Daniel worked as a chef before becoming certified as personal trainer.
Joel had a career in the UK in the merchant navy before he too became certified as a personal fitness trainer and started working in a London gym. “I was never truly happy in the UK and I always wanted to move to Israel,” says Joel.  “But it just never felt like the right time.”
But in 2012, Joel realized he was ready to become his own boss while doing what he loved.  In meetings with Nefesh B’Nefesh representatives, Joel received the guidance he needed to get settled in Israel, and then boarded a group flight with 83 other new olim.
“The good thing about coming to Israel with a plan is that I knew exactly what I wanted to do,” says Joel. “I didn’t need to spend time job searching. We just got to work.” Daniel and Joel merged Facebook pages that promoted their personal training services, built a website using Wix, and started advertising in Facebook groups, including Secret Tel Aviv.
In November 2012, only a few months after moving to Tel Aviv, Joel and Daniel launched Outdoor Fitness Israel.  With its motto, “Fitness made simple,” Outdoor Fitness Israel provides members with 40+ classes a week—including TRX, boxing, and yoga—in parks, on the beach, on the promenade, and on the marina. Members pay 150 to 250 NIS a month depending on the package and can attend unlimited classes, while feeling like they’re getting instruction from a personal trainer.
In many ways, it seems like Outdoor Fitness Israel could only have started in Israel.  Definitely not geared toward people who enjoy the anonymity that a gym offers, Outdoor Fitness Israel takes an in-your-face Israeli approach to fitness.  If you’ve missed a few too many classes, expect to receive a call from one of the brothers.  When you sign up, you’ll get an email with a 15-page nutritional guide.  
Because Joel and Daniel are friendly, outgoing guys, they’ve made their business into a community. “Often, when people make aliyah, they come by themselves,” says Daniel. “But Outdoor Fitness Israel creates a space for people to communicate with each other—and it keeps them coming back.  I love seeing that now our members get together outside of class.”
Being entrepreneurs—as a new dad, in Daniel’s case, and as a new immigrant, in Joel’s case--isn’t easy.  But, according to Joel, being in Israel makes it easier. “I love that there are Jewish festivals that everyone celebrates. It also means that I can take time off without feeling guilty,” he said.
Having launched their business with four members, Outdoor Fitness Israel now has 160 members per month.  Because it’s a start-up, Daniel and Joel not only lead almost every class, they also run all of the operational and marketing work.  But they have big dreams to make Outdoor Fitness Israel a model for international fitness groups, and they’re working hard while taking feedback from their new community. 
“In Israel, the people are warm.  They’ll sit and talk to you,” said Daniel. “I met a guy on the street and he took me for coffee and gave me advice about running a business.  It’s part of the reason I love it here.”