Boot Camp Mania

Boot camps are certainly one of the hottest trends going on right now. Originally new recruit training for the military, boot camps were intense physical and psychological conditioning programs run with the intention of turning out a “lean, mean, fighting machine.” They were also meant to train recruits to obey orders without question, “When I say jump, you ask how high.”

Now every industry seems to hold boot camps which, I assume, represents the concentrated, highly focused nature of the session. You’ll see boot camps for business, social media, culinary skills, dating, etc.

The idea that military boot camps created “lean, mean, fighting machines” naturally attracted the fitness industry. With a built-in expectation of results, people will submit themselves to hardcore workout sessions that further preached the Marine Corp slogan, “Pain is weakness leaving the body.” The public has also been exposed to the brutal looking workouts found on The Biggest Loser and other intense weight loss shows. People are intrigued: “Could I do that?” “Can I get those results?”

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AmbassadorSummit_1129 / Lululemon Athletica / CC BY 2.0

Many fitness boot camps utilize body weight, calisthenic-style exercises that resemble the military boot camps. Others utilize every gadget in the fitness world to accomplish their goals. The may target specific demographics such as “Weight Loss Boot Camps,” “Bridal Boot Camps” or even “Booty Camps.” Many are run outdoors (which can add to their appeal). They may or may not have music, are sometimes run as circuits (going from one exercise station to the next), or in unison like a more typical group exercise class. They may also be based on or include an obstacle course.

The professionally-led exercise instruction and the camaraderie of the other participants can make boot camps a very effective way of losing weight and getting into shape.

However, I do have a couple of warnings:

1) Because of the intense nature of boot camps, it’s easy to overdo, particularly for new participants. You must be able to modify the exercises/activities to suit your level of conditioning. There’s nothing worse than being excited to start a new fitness program, getting injured, and having to sit out until you heal.

2) Because of their popularity and ability to make money, everyone wants to and thinks they can run a boot camp. Please make sure that the person running the boot camp is a certified fitness professional that also carries liability insurance.

That said, give them a try. See if they are right for you.

Mark Nutting, CSCS*D, NSCA-CPT-AR*D, National Strength and Conditioning Association’s 2009 Personal Trainer of the Year, holds 12 certifications in the field and has 30 years experience in personal training. A national presenter and an educator of Personal Trainers, Mark’s areas of expertise include weight loss, post-rehab conditioning, and brain fitness. Mark contributes regularly to the Guiding Stars Blog.

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