This is Part 1 of a 4 part series of our Workout-X Guide to Fitness Boot Camps. In part 1, we will be introducing you to Boot Camps. We will cover what are boot camps, their history; and the benefits and disadvantages of Boot Camps.
Official military boot camps are grueling, sometimes demeaning, and require recruits to develop mental toughness. One positive outcome, though, is that you may get into the best shape of your life so far. Those boot camps get you into shape in a short but intense period of time. Most people who have gone through them praise the experience as being a valuable and necessary part of their physical and psychological training.
Yet, not everyone wants to or can join the military for that kind of concentrated physical training. Not everyone wants to be demeaned or put through brutal psychological challenges as a part of their experience. Most civilians are just interested in basic training boot camps for the strong physical component that whips people into fit shape in a matter of weeks.
The good news is that you do not have to join the armed forces to get rigorous physical training to improve your fitness quickly. Fitness boot camps have come on the scene to make similar training available to people in all walks of life. These new boot camps offer a kinder, gentler version of basic training. It is just what many people are looking for to boost their fitness program to a new level.
If you are interested in learning more about fitness boot camps, this Definitive Guide to Boot Camps will fill you in on all the details. You will learn what a boot camp is, where the notion came from, and the advantages and disadvantages of the boot camp system. Here you will find information on what happens in a boot camp workout, how to choose a boot camp, and more. With all this information in mind, you will have a better idea of whether boot camps are for you. Then, if you are still interested, you can get started on a course that could improve your fitness dramatically.
What Are Boot Camps?
Fitness Boot Camps are specialized group training programs that are designed to challenge participants more than the usual gym workout. The best boot camps thrive on an atmosphere of group cohesion and camaraderie. Most boot camps are held outdoors, but sometimes they are moved indoors for inclement weather.
These physical fitness training programs usually run between 4 and 8 weeks at a stretch. Boot camp sessions are around 45 to 60 minutes in most cases. Some boot camp groups meet 3 or more times per week. There are also boot camp companies that offer an option of unlimited workouts during the times they are conducting classes. Many participants go on to continue the boot camp classes on an ongoing basis.
There are no special physical requirements to start most boot camps. As long as you do not have severe health conditions that preclude vigorous exercise, you should be able to fit in just fine. Boot camps begin with testing to establish a baseline of your physical fitness. This helps the boot camp leader understand your needs better. It also gives a point of reference so that you will know how far you have come when you are retested later on during the boot camp.
Very little equipment is used in most fitness boot camps. Calisthenics and body-weight exercises are top on the list. Interval and circuit training are common components of the programs. Some exercises employ naturally occurring equipment, such as park benches or outdoor stairs. Sometimes free weights, kettle bells or medicine bells may be used, especially on indoor days. There may also be time for discussion of fitness topics such as nutrition.
Boot camp trainers work on both your physical and psychological health. The current norm for these trainers is a positive but forceful attitude, encouraging you to do your best. Boot camps are given the name because they are difficult and demanding, but that does not mean they have to tear you down. A fitness boot camp is a place to learn how to handle tough challenges well and gain more self respect as a result.
History of Boot Camps
Fitness boot camps have a relatively short history, but the underpinnings of the system go back as far as ancient times. In those days, there were no boot camps. However, there was physical training for soldiers. Prospective soldiers were tested and trained in physical abilities as well as in the art of war. When modern armed services came to be, there was sporadic and inconsistent training for new recruits.
The different branches of the military in various countries began to devise standardized training methods to indoctrinate the new soldiers into the fold. Along with this instruction, a course of rigorous physical exercise was implemented to push soldiers to the limits of their abilities and endurance. The physical aspect of the programs became respected and even feared as a set of intense and exhausting challenges. In the end, though, soldiers who passed boot camp felt a great sense of achievement and an enormous improvement in physical fitness.
Since then, civilian boot camps have emerged as a fitness trend. In 1990, there was a Canadian skier who was an Olympic hopeful. This fitness enthusiast, Cat Smiley, worked out using military physical fitness training methods. She pushed herself hard in the hopes of achieving her goals. Eventually, in 2001, she decided to share her boot camp program with others, beginning the first Original Boot Camp. Smiley’s military style was distinctive, and many thought it was too harsh. That has not stopped her success. Those who are willing to undergo strict discipline and intense motivation tactics use her camps to become more physically fit in a short time.
In 1998, the American Council on Exercise first took note of the new boot camp-style training trend. In a similar time frame, John Spencer Ellis was creating his Adventure Boot Camps in America. Ellis is a personal trainer, but also has extensive education in health, business and education. He also has certificates in a variety of exercise modalities. His Adventure Boot Camps are designed for women. This is not surprising since women take boot camp classes more often than men on average.
Ellis’s philosophy in boot camp training is to encourage rather than to demean. He likes to promote a sense of community and teamwork. His fitness boot camps have come a long way from the basic recruit training of military life. Ellis has now trained Adventure Boot Camp instructors and expanded his business across the country and around the world.
By 2011, fitness boot camps are held by various fitness groups and trainers in every major city and many smaller cities and towns. Women and men work separately or in co-ed groups, led by trainers who are well acquainted with the system. There are also fitness boot camps for children, seniors and athletes. There are more people doing boot camp and there are more businesses holding the sessions. The modern fitness boot camps are becoming more popular by leaps and bounds. There is no reason why they will not continue on strong in the coming years.
Benefits and Disadvantages of Boot Camps
Boot camps have certainly made an impact on the world. Given all the great benefits of the programs, it is not surprising that people would want to participate in them. There may be a few disadvantages, but they are very minor or may only apply to a few people. Overall, the programs have many advantages to recommend them.
- Challenging: Boot camps are more challenging than working in the standard gym environment. People push themselves harder and work out more vigorously. More challenges are presented to them, and most people rise to the occasion.
- Weight Loss: Participants in the typical boot camp session burn 9.8 calories per minute. That equals nearly 400 if you are in a 40-minute class, or almost 600 calories if you workout for an hour. This is a phenomenal rate, and can easily lead to weight loss.
- Cardiovascular and Respiratory System Improvement: The American College of Sports Medicine recommends working out at 70 percent or higher of your HR max and 50 to 85 percent of VO2 max to increase the health of your heart and lungs. One study of boot camps, cited by the American Council on Exercise1, found that participants worked at 77 to 91 percent of HR max, giving the heart a healthy workout. They were also exercising within the guidelines for V02 max.
- Variety: Most boot camps use a wide variety of exercises in their workouts. Instructors tend to like to keep the sessions interesting with new and different exercises, along with different combinations of old favorites. What is more, many of the partner and team workouts are ones that you will not do anywhere else.
- Camaraderie: Boot camps foster a sense of camaraderie among all the participants. Members of the group do work together in team exercises and to accomplish team objectives. People cheer each other on when they have achieved a goal or conquered an exercise that was difficult for them.
- Enthusiastic Instructor: A good boot camp has an enthusiastic and often charismatic instructor. She will guide the participants in such a way that they want to please her and earn her respect. She will promote good will among the members of the group and encourage all in their quests for better fitness.
- Outdoor Environment: Boot camp sessions will usually take place outdoors. The settings can be gorgeous in some areas, with both natural wonders and beautiful architecture. The fresh air can be exhilarating, and the sunshine can be pleasant.
- Inexpensive: Compared to working with a personal trainer, you can save money. You still get a good workout and you still get feedback about your form and progress. You save because more people are paying for the instructor’s hour beside you.
- Limited Personal Attention: Boot camps do individual assessments and cater to individual needs to a certain extent. Yet, they cannot match the personal attention you get when you hire a personal trainer. A personal trainer can keep an eye on every aspect of your form. She can give you a plan and daily workouts that are designed specifically for you. She will hold you accountable if you do not show up for a session.
- Intense: Some people do not like to exercise as intensely as boot camps require. They do not want to push themselves beyond their comfort zones and try to do more than they did before. For these people, boot camps might be a bit much.
- Some Militaristic Trainers: They are rare, but there are still trainers that bark orders and demean their trainees as if they were in the old-school military. Anyone who encounters an instructor like this might suffer tremendously throughout the course or may even leave the group immediately. The best solution if this happens is to request your money back. In any case, it is best to find a more encouraging and positive instructor. Today’s boot camp is a place to enjoy yourself and revel in your accomplishments.
Make sure to continue to read the remaining parts of this 4 part series on Fitness Boot Camps. In Part 2 of the Workout-X Guide to Fitness Boot Camps we will be discussing the purpose of boot camps, in addition to boot camp basics and methods used in boot camps. There is a lot of great information for anyone who is considering enrolling in a boot camp for fitness.