By Joey Lee
Ask any military veteran about boot camp and I’m sure images of sadistic drill instructors, long marches and non-stop calisthenics pop into their heads. But to an entire group of fitness enthusiasts, Boot Camp conjures up a much different group of images.
Fitness Boot Camp classes are one of the types of exercise programs offered through local gyms and by many personal trainers. “Group exercise classes are limited by the amount of equipment used and the participants have only one instructor for the class,” said RJ Barret, Sports Performance Director at the Healthplex Performance Center in Madison. “In a Boot Camp class, we focus on some type of cardio exercise, plus weightlifting and strength exercises. Boot Camp classes also have more than one coach so you have a better chance of getting the one-on-one attention you need.”
The classes are designed to build strength and fitness through a variety of intense intervals, typically lasting between thirty minutes and an hour. Class participants are usually divided up between various exercise stations; will do one for a certain time interval and then move on to the next station.
Classes start with a warm up, and once they’re good and warm, the interval training kicks in. This can include lifting weights (or other heavy objects), pulling rubber resistance bands, or body-weight exercises including pushups and sit-ups, plyometrics and various intense explosive routines, along with whatever other exercises your instructor can dream up!
Boot Camp fitness classes have grown in popularity over the years primarily because they offer a new way to get a low-cost, efficient and challenging workout.
They’re called “Boot Camp” because they train groups of people, oftentimes outdoors and can sometimes be similar to workouts in military basic training. They’re designed to push people further than they would normally push themselves if they were alone. The idea is that everyone provides support and motivation for one another. It’s a great environment for those of you who get bored in a gym working out by yourself and find it hard to develop a habit of exercise.
People of all ages, sizes and fitness levels enjoy these classes. They may be tailored for the beginner or the expert so check your local club to see what they offer. “Moms, students, grandparents, dads…..Boot Camp doesn’t discriminate. You show up and your instructor will take you right where you are in your fitness and safely guide you through to your goals while being mindful of your specific limitations,” said Heather Biddle, group exercise coordinator, Courthouse Racquet & Fitness Club.
“Everyone has a fear of an in-your-face-type Boot Camp, but that’s not what we convey,” said Shellie Key, director of adult group fitness at the Healthplex Performance Center in Madison. “We understand fitness levels and the concepts of progressions. Our coaches are certified and understand that everyone is on a different fitness level. They can trust we will put them in the best place for them whether they are a beginner or an athlete looking for a good athletic workout.”
Don’t let the name scare you. If you are imagining a drill sergeant leading your class, rest assured most fitness Boot Camp instructors offer encouragement rather than intimidation.
“Boot Camp classes are not a ‘one size fits all’ activity,” Heather explained. “As an instructor, I always create my classes with several modifications. You must be mindful that all different fitness levels are going to walk through the doors, so you have to be ready for anything. Find a class that meets your needs….we have beginner to advanced versions of Boot Camp.”
The classes appeal to a wider range of participants than your normal fitness classes. Heather explained that these classes attract more men to a group exercise format, “…without fear of the stereotypical instructor in a leotard and leg warmers.” Women who are tired of the typical “feminine” classes also are drawn to these because it encourages them to break out of the “ladylike exercise class.”
A big advantage of boot camps is that the large group dynamic will often help motivate the participants. Once you make friends in the class, they hold you accountable and you’re scared to skip class or slack off on an exercise for fear of being mocked and ridiculed (good-naturedly, of course) by your new friends!
Also, your new friends will help motivate you and push you to reach your fitness goals. “Everyone can test their limits without failure. Each week you push yourself a little harder, lift a little heavier, go a little farther and you do it with your “comrades,” Heather said.
So why would you switch from Body Pump or Spinning to Boot Camp? “Just like any other fitness routine, you’ve got to change it up every once in a while to promote change in your body and progress. Workouts can get stale and often you need to light the fire under yourself to push a little harder, and a boot camp style class is a fantastic choice,” Heather explained.
“People who attend Boot Camp classes put trust in us to provide them with a workout that is above all other fitness classes,” RJ said. “These people look for a challenge that is not only beneficial but is attainable.”
One underlying component of a good Boot Camp fitness class is creating a spirit of teamwork and group support.
These classes are a great way to get in top shape while making friends who will hold you accountable in your workouts. Heather summed it up best by saying, “Many take Boot Camp classes to get the most bang for their buck. You can get a full body workout that builds strength, endurance and confidence. I’ve seen numerous people reach a weight loss goal, but in the end many find that the true goal was a total mind/body transformation.”