My 2 1/2 Year Old Is Out Of Control Is a Fitness Boot Camp Class Right For You?

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Is a Fitness Boot Camp Class Right For You?

The year Teri Smith turned 40, she decided it was time to tackle her nagging desire to get in shape. That’s when he signed up for his first fitness class.

“I had no energy, and I felt like my age was catching up with me,” says the Pembroke Pines, Fla., mother of two. His weight also crept up. Although he wasn’t heavy, the 20 pounds he’d gained over the years didn’t sit well with his 5-foot-3-inch frame.

A successful graphic designer, Smith has never felt more comfortable in sneakers than he did before the Macintosh. “I didn’t have the confidence” to exercise, she says, because she always felt uncoordinated.

But when her stylist suggested she try a boot camp fitness class, she worked up the nerve to do it. And he never looked back.

“I don’t feel this good in any other workout. It makes me feel like I’ve really kicked my ass,” says 42-year-old Smith, who has been a loyal boot wearer for 2 1/2 years.

Now one of the fastest runners in the class, he’s happy with his looks again. “It took me 12 weeks, but I lost 25 pounds,” says Smith.

What is Fitness Boot Camp?

The style of boot camp exercises varies depending on the teacher. But you can usually expect to meet outside, rain or shine. You’ll likely spend an hour doing some form of cardiovascular exercise (running, hiking, interval training, or obstacle course challenges) as well as strength training (dumbbells, bands, or bodyweight resistance). A section of the class can also work on flexibility, which may include elements of yoga or Pilates.

The fitness boot camp Smith is attending in Weston, Fla., is taught by former college football player and fitness trainer Tom Rayhill. Rayhill’s boot camp is offered three times a day, seven days a week, year-round. People can pay daily, weekly or monthly and come as often as they want.

Many other boot camps are offered for specific durations. California-based John Spencer Ellis’ Orange County Adventure Boot Camp, which has locations in nine countries, is offered to women only at 5:30 a.m., five days a week for one month. Many participants re-apply one or more times.

According to the instructors, boot camp fitness classes challenge both the mind and the body.

“We work on technique, form, core training, breathing, relaxation, and a better understanding of how the body moves,” Ellis says. “In four weeks, people reduce body fat by 5-6%, lose 10 pounds, and cut their mileage by 2 minutes per mile.”

Participants’ confidence often helps them take control in other areas of their lives, Ellis says.

What is Fitness Boot Camp? sequel…

“They might say, ‘I’m going back to school.’ I will get this job. I’m starting my own company, I’m going to travel,” he says.

Boot camp was more than a workout for Smith when her oldest son was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome (a developmental disorder milder than autism) and her husband, an Air Force lieutenant colonel, had to spend a year in Korea without family.

“He was literally my saving grace,” says Smith. “It was a very stressful time. (Boot camp) was a way for me to take care of myself physically and emotionally, it was my social outlet. It kept me sane.”

“Drop and Give Me 50”

Although the name “boot camp” is inspired by military boot camps, none of the instructors who spoke to WebMD use intimidation tactics in their classes.

“If you line people up and yell at them, that’s not real camaraderie. You can fake it,” says Rayhill. Besides, he says, it’s not necessary. People push themselves independently when they are in a group.

“It’s human nature to challenge yourself against other people,” says Rayhill. “Not everyone is as athletically inclined, but when you hang out with these more motivated people, you naturally want to perform better,” he says.

Ellis Adventure Boot Camps follow the same philosophy. Military training is for the military, he says, and they’re not the ones who signed up for Adventure Boot Camp. Its participants are usually moms aged 25-50 who may have had a C-section and want to get in shape.

“Negative reinforcement usually only lasts that long,” he says. “My choice is to have an empowering environment that’s nurturing and challenging. One that’s not just about getting in shape, but about community and nutrition and getting better at everything you do.”

Yet he says there is boot camp: “People are expected to show up, shut up, listen and give 100%,” he says. “Disciplined nature. Intense. Not torture.”

Camaraderie is key

So why do boot camp classes suddenly seem to be popping up everywhere?

According to Rayhill, it’s about interacting with and encouraging your peers.

“Most of what we do all day is very isolated,” says Rayhill. “We have iPods, cell phones, computers. We don’t connect to other people.”

The interaction of a boot camp class is not only emotionally satisfying, but also helps people physically enjoy themselves, he says.

“If you’re around other athletic people, they’re going to pull it out of you,” says Rayhill. “By the time they left, they had already done so many positive things that day.

“No computer can make you feel better – not like connecting with other people.”

Cult of personality?

According to some participants, another strong attraction for fitness boot camps is the charisma of the teachers.

According to Ellis, the goal of the boot camp is to equip students for the entire day. As a teacher, “you deliver powerful ideas and statements at different times. You lead by example. You lead the way.”

Rayhill also tries to be a guiding force for his students. One of six children and a 5-foot-8 former college football player (who still holds two state records at Illinois), Rayhill says he’s “always been an overachiever.”

As a teacher, she says, her goal is to give the class a different workout every day—and encourage them to find what it takes to reach their goals.

“I call myself a catalyst. I know what it takes to get there. I know there’s more than one way to do something. We’re talking about how we can make people better,” he says. “Whatever you want out of life, you have to get it. You have to do it for yourself.”

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