Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Truth about Fitness Boot Camps

**Disclaimer:  I wrote this for a very specific group of friends - and then I realized I talk to people about this subject often and thought you all might enjoy it, too!**

Have you ever seen a fitness boot camp advertised and thought “That looks fun…but NO WAY can I do something that advanced!”? Rest assured you are not alone. 

Just like any other exercise program, boot camp is not for everyone. BUT before you make that decision, let’s explore and discover why they might just be a good choice for you after all.

What we think boot camp looks like

The term “boot camp” is often used by fitness professionals to convey a message of teamwork...not military-type drills. Exercises are often “functional”, meaning they train your muscles to work together and prepare them for daily tasks by simulating common movements you might do at home, at work or in sports - which may be especially beneficial in improving balance, agility, muscle and core strength

A quick survey and past experience as both an instructor and participant revealed that the most common format used for boot camp training is interval training, meaning you have a defined amount of time to finish each exercise. Interval training utilizes a series of low- to high-intensity exercises that are interspersed with specific rest periods. This allows participants to reach their own peak exercise capacity, which is going to be different than Joe, who is different from Jane.

What boot camp actually looks like!

That’s not to say there isn’t a variety out there to choose from: Some are indoor, while some are outdoor (rain or shine!). Some are ongoing and some are offered for a definitive amount of time. Some are women-only, some are led by ex-football players and some may use medicine balls, dumbbells and resistance bands, while others focus solely on using your own body weight to generate strength, power and flexibility. 

However, there is a common thread in almost all of them: they are comprised of a variety of fitness levels, body types and age groups.

As Jessica Sniff, personal trainer and fitness instructor at Club Blue points out “At boot camp, you will not be alone—and there will be other people there just like you. You will eventually find that you’re all there to push and encourage each other”. 

Another commonality among instructors is basing their programs on social support and comradery. Debra Jones, personal trainer and group fitness instructor, agrees “Boot camp provides the accountability that pushes me to continue even when I want to skip a boot camp class…”  

Joan, a 55-year old long time boot camp participant tells me “Sure, some days I want to go home and lounge on the couch. But what if that’s a day we are doing partner exercises and some one gets left high and dry because I didn’t show?!”

Still unsure if a Fitness Boot Camp is for you? “Try one for a day. Or try a class that is similar to what you think boot camp is like” advises Dion Burns, also a personal trainer and fitness instructor at Club Blue. “You never really know until you try.” 

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