10 Things To Look For In a Boot Camp

gwyneth-made-me-do-it-logoFour years ago I enrolled in my first official boot camp. Led by a power-house, well built instructor, he focused on pushing us to our maximum potential, and encouraged us to not just focus on our fitness routine to get the body of our dreams, but on our diet as well. Within just a few weeks I was attending 6 am classes 5 days a week and drinking cod oil and eating pounds upon pounds of raw veggies, in hopes of finally dropping the pregnancy pooch I had developed after my 2nd child. Within just a few months, I saw the results I wanted to see, but I was exhausted, hungry, and wound up suffering a pretty bad injury in the process. As much as I loved how that boot camp got me in the best shape of my life, I resented it for making me feel like anything less than 110% was anything but my best. So when I decided to rejoin a boot camp after the birth of my 3rd child, I was a bit more discriminating. I ended up joining a local camp which is aptly named Happy Hour Fit Club, because it focuses on how fun and enjoyable fitness can be, with the right instructor and the right group of women. So if you’re in a similar stage of life as me, where your focus is on strength-building and health, not getting the body of a twenty-year-old, here are 10 signs to look for, to help you find the boot camp of your dreams!

  • Motivating Instructor 1 of 10
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    First and foremost, I think you need to really like your instructor.  I have often read personal trainers say their job isn't to be your friend, and they consider it a good thing if you hate them at the end of each workout, but I have to respectfully disagree.  I think it's very important to not only like your instructor, but respect them as well.  The feeling should be mutual as well.  Through mutual respect, your instructor will motivate you to do your best, but won't leave you feeling disappointed when you don't reach your goals, or the goals they set for you.  Your boot camp instructor should be motivating, knowledgeable, relateable and approachable.  Our instructor is all of these things, and makes me feel like I can always push myself just a little bit more, but never bullies me into pushing past my limits.   

  • Friendly Competition 2 of 10
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    Most women love a little friendly competition, but we hate feeling like we're being pitted against one another.  The vibe of the boot camp should be upbeat and motivating, and shouldn't feel like you're competing in the Olympics.  Similarly matched opponents, lots of encouraging cheering, and friendly high-fives are what you should be seeing when you spy on a boot camp.  Unless shaming is your thing, run for the hills if you hear instructors and fellow boot campers taking part in hostile yelling, name-calling or doling out punishing walks of shame.  Some folks may see this as motivating, but I see it as anything but. 

  • Challenging Routines 3 of 10
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    Beyond motivation, the boot camp should provide a challenging workout that causes you to break a sweat and feel your muscles being worked, but isn't so challenging that you may suffer injuries, or experience accidents.  I recently read an instructor of a popular form of exercise say that a good workout should make you pee your pants and puke your breakfast up.  Again, I respectfully disagree.  Unless you're an elite athlete training for the competition of your life, it is well proven that you are more likely to stick with fitness routines that are challenging, yet manageable.

  • Workouts That Allow For Modifications 4 of 10
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    When you get a group of 10 women together in a room, each one will be at different fitness levels, will have different past injuries they may be dealing with, and will have different goals.  A good instructor and group boot camp will take that into consideration and willfully allow for exercise modifications, and not just suggest them, but encourage them.  Our instructor makes a habit of taking stock of our individual needs, and when it comes time to do a particular exercise that may compromise someone's health or safety, she always suggests an alternative exercise.  This keeps you safe, keeps you working out so you continue to see results, and keeps you coming back. 

  • Form Is Key 5 of 10
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    The wonderful benefit of a smaller scale exercise program, like a paid boot camp, is that you get more individualized attention.  This small group setting will allow for the instructor to focus on each participant, and encourage you to accomplish your goals, as well keep you on the right track to proper form.  Many exercises lose their effectiveness when performed wrong, so it's crucial you focus on perfecting your movements to get max benefits.  Our instructor always tells us to focus on form over speed, and will walk over and correct our form when need be.  This improves results and ensures you're getting your money's worth out of the workout.  

  • Varied Routines To Avoid Plateaus 6 of 10
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    It is well proven that your body will experience plateaus when working out, that is, you'll stop seeing results after a certain period of time.  The best way to avoid plateaus is a varied routine that keeps your body guessing at what's coming next.  Each day we have something new waiting for us, which all focus on strength building and getting our heart rate up.  It keeps it interesting and anything but boring, and makes for a better exercise routine in the long run.  Look for varied routines that change often. 

  • Focus On Health Goals Vs. Weight Goals 7 of 10
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    Each month we have the option of choosing a goal we want to focus on.  My first month in attendance, I said I wanted to lose the baby pooch I was still holding on to after baby #3, and our instructor said no way.  I needed to instead pick a goal that was focused on health, not on losing weight.  Things like, giving up soda, running a 5k, or going to bed earlier.  These things would likely result in weight loss or better body definition, but it kept the focus on mental health and wellness, and took it off of body image.  I had never worked with a fitness instructor that looked at it that way, and it was an amazing breath of fresh air.  For many of us in this stage of life, with kids to take care of, and/or busy careers, we don't want to always feel like we work out and eat right solely to lose that last 10 pounds.  No, we want to work out so we can just keep up with life and feel good.  Focusing on health vs. weight goals helps accomplish that.  Ask your boot camp leader what measurements of success they use, and how they look at achieving goals.     

  • Focus On Fun 8 of 10
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    Each workout, our instructor has us participate in some sort of fun game or crazy activity to get our heart rates up.  Many days we play ultimate frisbee, some days we play kick ball.  And on average when we're playing these games, we run at least a mile and a half without even thinking about it.  Focusing on incorporating play into our workouts is a great way to get us moving without even feeling like we're exercising.  If your local boot camp isn't making play part of the workout, suggest they add it!

  • Affordable, Quality Childcare 9 of 10
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    An added bonus to small group classes is if they offer caring, affordable childcare.  This may be harder to find, but not impossible.  If your local boot camp doesn't offer childcare, make the suggestion that they look into getting a caretaker.   

  • Enjoy Who You Workout With 10 of 10
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    The women in my boot camp like each other so much that many of them have become friends outside of class, and there's always a big turnout when outside social activities are organized.  I love getting to know women in my community, and love that I feel like I get to workout and see friends when I go each week.  While fitness should be your end goal when seeking out a boot camp, don't overestimate how important the social component can be as well.  If you enjoy the women you're working out with, and appreciate the support they provide, it will keep you coming back week after week. 

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