Make that Resolution Real: Get Fit With Boot Camp Workouts

Not just for masochists, boot camp workouts have legions of devotees. Find out what you might gain from trying one.

Having the best of intentions has never been equated with having the best of bodies—or even less flabby ones. So many of us have unused or infrequently used gym memberships, and even for those of us who do make it to the gym, we often lose a mental struggle with ourselves to stay on the treadmill for a full workout or complete that last set of reps.

So what’s a person to do who wants to get in better shape but needs more motivation to do it? Well, that’s where boot camp comes in.

Originating on the West Coast around 15 years ago, boot camp workouts have recently made their way to the East Coast and around the globe. While they may have originally appealed to athletes and hard-core fitness enthusiasts, there are now boot camps for people of all fitness levels.

Part of their wider appeal is that they offer a perpetually fresh experience outside the gym. This is key for folks who bore easily, as well as those who just don’t feel comfortable in a traditional gym.

Lindsay Vastola, editor of Personal Fitness Professional Magazine and the owner of Body Project Boot Camp, a New Jersey-based boot camp company with three locations, describes boot camp as “personal training meets group fitness.” Boot camp instructors are usually more invested in each student's performance than instructors in a gym-based fitness class are.

Most boot camps are based on interval and circuit training and attendees can normally expect a challenging mix of cardiovascular exercise, resistance training using their own body weight, and stretching, Vastola says.

Boot camps are appealing for a number of reasons, including:

  • Effectiveness: Plain and simple, boot camps work. Typically lasting an hour per session, they combine cardiovascular exercise with resistance training. Instructors tailor the exercises to individuals’ abilities, so that everyone is appropriately and safely challenged. Participants can burn an average of 600 calories per hour!
  • Accountability: Because many boot camps run for a set number of sessions (e.g. two sessions a week for four weeks), trainers expect the same members to show up class after class. Depending on the boot camp, instructors may follow up with absent students to encourage them to return. There’s also a sense of owing it to the other participants to show up to class.
  • Camaraderie: Students participating in multiple sessions together get to know each other and support each other through the grueling workouts. Peter Lavelle, co-owner of Ultimate Bootcamp (which has 14 locations throughout New England), says that participants in his camps often become friendly, in part thanks to partner exercises and a group survival mentality. They may go on ski trips together, meet up at bars, and sign up for additional boot camp sessions together.
  • Cost: The cost of running a boot camp is typically fairly low, given that they require little in the way of equipment, and often make use of public spaces like parks or playgrounds (although an increasing number of camps are now available indoors and thus year-round). This means that the cost to students is relatively low as well, especially when compared to that of personal training sessions. Boot camp classes usually cost around $15 to $20 per class, but may cost anywhere from $5 to $30+ per class, depending on the location, length and frequency of the program.

Before joining a boot camp:

  • Consider what kind of training you’re interested in. Does being yelled at by a pseudo-drill sergeant motivate you? Or do you prefer a more supportive and encouraging environment?
  • Do your research. Look for a reputable program that will meet your individual needs, and confirm that the boot camp instructor has proper certification.
  • Ask if it’s possible to check out a trial class. Many programs offer a free trial or an a la carte class to potential participants.

To find a boot camp nearby, check out GoRecess, an OpenTable-style fitness site that has more than 100,000 nationwide classes, including Zumba, boot camp, meditation and Pilates.

For DIY boot camp workout ideas, check out these links:


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