Finding a Fitness Boot Camp for You

Line of people doing planks with an instructor watching
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A fitness boot camp is a type of group exercise class that mixes traditional calisthenic and body weight exercises with interval training and strength training. While there are a variety of styles of fitness boot camps, most are designed in a way that pushes the participants harder than they'd push themselves and, in that way, resemble a military boot camp. The typical fitness boot camp is done outdoors, but sometimes they are held in a gym or fitness facility.

During the four to eight week class, you'll probably get up early to run sprints, perform lots of pushups, and do various forms of plyometric and interval training with little rest between exercises. These 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 definitely aren't for every person who enjoys exercise, but with the right instructor, these fitness classes get fast results and create a supportive and motivational community of like-minded people.

A Typical Fitness Boot Camp

The standard fitness boot camp offers all or most of the following:

  • A small group environment (six to 10 people).
  • An open public outdoor space such as a park.
  • Orientation - Your first session should include time for completing paperwork, reviewing the class rules and safety guidelines, and performing a basic fitness assessment if that hasn't been done.
  • Workouts
  • Team competitions
  • Obstacle courses
  • Fitness retesting. At the end of fitness boot camp, you will typically repeat the original fitness assessment to determine your results.

Boot Camp Workout

The 30- to 40-minute workout will typically include:

Styles and Variations

One underlying component of a good boot camp fitness class is creating a spirit of teamwork and group support and cohesion. To do so, some fitness boot camp owners have started to focus their classes to cater to a specific demographic or those with a specific goal. The types of fitness boot camps that are available are endless. If you are seeking a specialized class or have a specific fitness goal, you will probably find a boot camp that meets your needs.

Some specialized fitness boot camps include:

  • General fitness
  • Sports specific boot camps such as ski prep, running, bicycling, soccer
  • Women-only fitness boot camp
  • Kids fitness boot camp
  • Fitness boot camps for seniors
  • Weight loss boot camps
  • Boot camps for brides

While there are still some instructors who act like drill sergeants, most fitness boot camp instructors offer encouragement rather than intimidation. Many incorporate concepts from mind-body training and include poses from yoga and end with a bit of meditation or visualization training.

How to Find a Good Fitness Boot Camp

Most fitness boot camps are run by qualified and knowledgeable instructors. But this form of exercise is not suited to every person, and camps vary in their ability to give you what you need. To get your money's worth, you need to research whether a camp has any red flags signaling you to avoid it.

1 Source
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  1. Thompson WR. Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2016. ACSM's Health and Fitness Journal. 2015;19(6):9-18.

By Elizabeth Quinn, MS
Elizabeth Quinn is an exercise physiologist, sports medicine writer, and fitness consultant for corporate wellness and rehabilitation clinics.