The boot-camp workout
Here’s everything you need to know about this military-inspired exercise routine
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Inspired by the training given to those who join the Armed Forces, boot-camps are high-intensity workouts that deliver specific results. “It’s primarily an outdoor group activity where a cluster of people who have the same goal join together,” says J. Keshav, owner and president of BootCamp Chennai, whose 12-week outdoors boot camp costs Rs12,300. The goals of a boot camp could vary, from weight loss, building stamina and endurance to general fitness, stretching, toning or strengthening muscles.
“In one word, it’s roughing it out,” says Bengaluru-based Wannitaa Ashok, an expert in body transformation. “A full-body cardio and strength workout that’s very effective for weight loss,” she adds. It can help increase lean muscle mass, and build muscular and cardiovascular endurance and strength while improving overall coordination and balance, she explains. An important aspect of the workout is limiting the rest time between each move, so the heart rate goes up and you burn calories faster. “You do circuits of intense exercises for about 30-60 seconds each, pausing for only a few seconds between exercises,” says Vesna Pericevic Jacob, wellness expert and founder of Vesna’s Alta Celo, a wellness clinic based in Delhi. The idea is to schedule challenging workouts that push you to your limits, improve your fitness levels and burn calories faster.
The fitness level required
Most fitness trainers know that people who come to them are rookies, so they scale the activities around the group’s requirements, says Delhi-based Kamal Chhikara, owner and head coach at Reebok CrossFit Robust. “Workouts are designed to use zero to no-skill activities so that they can be performed by anyone,” he adds, cautioning that you should have a frank chat with your trainer so you fit well in the group (see “Are You Ready To Join One?”). However, since by their very nature boot camps involve ballistic, rapid movements that can be too challenging if you’ve never hit the gym before, take precautions if you’re above 35 and have not been physically active for a long time, says Ashok.
“Discuss with the trainer if you are obese, smoke a lot, consume alcohol on a regular basis, or have a lifestyle disease, or consult your doctor before you start a boot camp,” she adds. It’s important that you rest well the night before, skip the late nights and prepare yourself mentally for the workout. “Make sure you consume a protein or complex snack, hydrate before you start, stay motivated and complete the whole workout, resting afterwards,” Ashok adds. If at any moment you feel pain, fatigue, giddy or nauseous, stop immediately.
The workout starts with a 10- to 20-minute warm-up, which includes exercises like walks or easy jogs, stretching all the joints, depending on the lifestyle and age group that the trainer has set a programme for, explains Mumbai-based fitness expert Vinod Channa.
“Post warm-up it consists of basic workouts like squats, lunges, push-ups, planks; plyometric exercises like jumping lunges, squat and jump, clap push-up, and jumping jacks for about 40 minutes,” he says, adding that intense sessions may contain obstacle exercises like jumping or running over hurdles and walls, lifting load and running, drills like crab walk, walking on fours or rope climbing. “Different variations of boot camp build strength, agility, speed, flexibility, endurance level and impact-bearing capacity,” he adds.
Since the pace, type of workout and style keeps changing, a boot camp keeps you on your toes, giving you a break from boredom and the monotony of regular workout regimes, says Channa. There’s also competition. If you’re the kind who likes a challenge, a boot camp will improve your performance and motivation, he adds.
Boot camps also encourage the idea of camaraderie, which is part of the military culture. “A boot camp is not for an individual but for the entire group and it binds everyone together, which helps in unleashing people’s best efforts,” says Chhikara. The best part? The equipment comprises things like weighted balls or Therabands which are easy to carry and use in a public park.
Group workouts motivate and encourage you to push yourself, agrees Keshav. Since the workout is changing constantly, you don’t get bored with routine indoor gym-based activities. “An open and natural environment helps you inhale fresher air, burn more calories and keep you energetic even though you go through a heavy session,” he says, adding that the average calorie burn of a boot-camp workout is anywhere from 600-700 kilo-calories for an hour’s training. In addition, an intense boot-camp session revs up your metabolic rate for the rest of the day. “This means you’re burning calories post-workout too,” says Jacob.
What do you eat in a day? How much do you sleep? What is your age? What’s your personal and social life like? The frequency requirement depends on your fitness and endurance levels. “If you are a beginner level, a boot camp that pushes you to your very limit should be done once a week to start with,” says Jacob, adding that once you’re comfortable with that, you may increase the frequency to a maximum of three times a week. This is assuming that you’re doing a moderate- or low-intensity workout for other days of the week, adds Chhikara. It also depends on the cost of the programme.
Depending on a trainer’s experience, a personal boot-camp session can cost anywhere from Rs700-3,000 per class. Group sessions are cheaper, anywhere from Rs3,000-5,000 a month, usually thrice a week or both days of a weekend.
The injury risk
There is no exercise session where you cannot potentially hurt yourself. “The idea is not to be carried away, especially in group fitness, and get hurt by exaggerating the intensities of the workout,” says Chhikara. Instead of concentrating on making a workout intense, concentrate on making the workout precise, correct your postures, understand and aim on executing exercises properly to avoid injuries, he adds.
In addition, never slacken on the warm-up and cool-down. “Always do 5 minutes of both,” says Jacob, adding that you should expect some soreness and muscle fatigue but if there’s acute pain, then you should stop and try to figure out what you’re doing wrong.
The better performer
Most workouts make you focus either on strength, cardio or flexibility. “Compared to that, boot camps mix it all up to work on your strength, cardio and flexibility and also on agility, speed, impact-bearing capacity and endurance,” says Channa. If you’re the kind who drags yourself to the gym and makes excuses every day, a taskmaster and a feeling that you’re going to a class might motivate you more. “The fact that there’s a fixed time frame, a month or six months, that you sign up for and you have to come to class for one hour in the morning or evening, forces you to be more disciplined and complete your target,” says Keshav, adding that’s the reason many attend his boot camp in Chennai.
Though healthy competition is a good motivator, too much of it can lead to injuries. Leave your ego in the locker room, suggests Jacob. “It’s easy to get carried away when you see your peers doing exercises you can’t do. Instead of making comparisons, set yourself a goal and build yourself to be fitter, stronger with each class,” she says.
Channa agrees, adding that if you want personal attention or want to improve your technique, a group class might be wrong for you. “Group workouts are designed to accommodate different fitness levels. So don’t expect a lot of personal attention to your own form and technique and be ready to adjust the workout to suit your own fitness levels and goals,” he says.
Are you ready to join one?
Looking for a boot-camp class? A checklist
■ What’s the group’s fitness goal? Is it fitness, weight loss, achieving a triathlon or beefing it up? Does the goal match yours?
■ Do a background check on the trainer. He or she should have at least a college education in a health or fitness discipline or a nationally recognized certification which is still valid. Ideally, the trainer should have additional qualifications such as CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and basic first-aid training.
■ Talk to others in the boot camp. What are they getting out of the exercise? Is it camaraderie, bonding, or is it a sense of competition or personal aims? Do you fit into the group in terms of age, fitness level and mentality? How many people have dropped out or been injured in the class? If either figure is too high, take that as a warning.
■ Disclose your health issues. Tell your trainer about your exercise history, your injuries, diet, sleeping pattern and social and personal stress. The trainer will let you know if you will fit in or not.
■ Take a trial. Understand the instructor’s teaching style and the group dynamics. You will also get to know if the fitness style works for you or not.