Boot camp training is certainly not for the faint-hearted, but advocates are effusive about the fitness benefits and the general experience. If you’re tempted to take up the boot camp challenge, read on.

What does a boot camp session consist of?

For boot camp workouts, think ‘group training sessions’, think ‘outdoors’ (whatever the weather and whatever the season!), think ‘fun’ and think ‘challenging’. Based on military style fitness programmes, sessions are organised by fitness instructors in parks and open spaces for groups of approximately 20 people at a time.

Many of these sessions include both men and women, although specific classes are available exclusively for each gender. Sessions usually last for one hour and contain a broad mix of running and bodyweight exercises, which have the aim of providing an all-over body workout.

The majority of boot camp sessions take place in the early morning and early evening - typically 7am and 7pm - which proves popular with nine-to-five workers, who are able to fit in the invigorating training sessions around their working day.

In these circuit-training-style sessions outdoors, you can expect to work hard and get hot and sweaty but also enjoy a new dimension to exercising because of the variety that the sessions bring. Individual bootcamp classes are likely to differ in the specific focus of the session, for example one may include more military style drills, while another may include more sprints.

Benefits of boot camp training

By providing a mixture of strength exercises and cardiovascular training , a good boot camp session will work the heart and lungs and give almost every muscle in your body a workout. Sessions involve a warm-up and cool-down, bodyweight exercises, running, stretching, relays, and exercises with a partner.

Training ‘al fresco’ is also invigorating - whether you’re training on a frosty winter morning or a balmy summer evening - and the team-based theme encourages participants to really put the effort in and achieve results.

Who is boot camp training suitable for?

Boot camp sessions are intense however, they are suitable for novice exercisers and fitness enthusiasts alike, because individuals will be allowed to work at their own personal level and intensity. Some sessions will also be specifically designed to introduce people to the boot camp concept. Expect to sweat during a boot camp session and make sure you push yourself - whatever your ability - to get the most out of the training.

A good boot camp session will include variations of each exercise to cater for different abilities, and instructors will select balanced teams so that the competitive element remains fair. If a participant has an injury or is concerned about how challenging the session will be, then it is important to raise any concerns with the instructor at registration.

Where can I experience boot camp training?

Boot camp sessions are a popular fitness class and there are likely many to choose from in your local area. Scan the local press or enquire at your local gym about sessions in your area. Due to the popularity of boot camp classes It’s best to book the session in advance to avoid disappointment.

What should I bring to a boot camp exercise session?

As sessions are all outdoors, you should dress appropriately for the time of year. Ideally, you should layer your clothing so that you can remove outer layers as you warm up. A lightweight waterproof jacket will help keep the wind and rain out in poor weather, as the session won’t be called off if it’s raining! Gloves are also a must for those early morning winter sessions.

Always take a bottle of water to keep hydrated because even in cold conditions you can lose a lot of fluid from breathing out. Hydration is even more important in the summer, when you will need to drink throughout your workout. It is also important to eat as soon as possible after your session ends to begin the refueling and rebuilding process, which will optimize your recovery. Simply pack a snack in your kitbag that travels easily - such as a banana or bagel - which will help to keep your energy levels topped up until you can have a more substantial meal.

The boot camp sessions themselves require little equipment as most of the exercises are completed using your own bodyweight . Any additional equipment that may be introduced should be provided by your instructor, but just check when you book your session to be on the safe side.  

Is boot camp training really for me?

Only one person can completely answer that question - you. But given the increasing popularity of this fitness concept - in spite of its early morning and ‘all weather’ challenges - it’s likely that you’ll be able to fit in easily, as it’s likely there will be other people at the sessions who have similar levels of fitness to you.

Boot camp gives you the opportunity to break away from a routine of either no exercise or simply going through the motions with your usual session. Add to this mix the motivational qualities of a good instructor, the camaraderie of group training and the refreshing nature of working out next to nature, and you have all the ingredients for a challenging fitness programme that can elevate your fitness to a much higher level than you could achieve alone.

If you’re still not sure, take a friend along to a sample class near you. In this way you’ll have more fun - and you’ll also have an instant partner for the relays and joint exercises.

Putting the effort into boot camping

Boot camp training forms the cornerstone of the fitness regimes used by the armed forces, who are arguably the all-round fittest group of people in our society. So the training system certainly works! Nothing worthwhile is achieved without effort and hard work - and the popularity of boot camp indicates that with our increasingly sedentary lifestyles, the opportunity to burn off some calories in the great outdoors and get a genuine total body workout that leaves you knowing you’ve had a tough session is very appealing. So why not give boot camp fitness a go?