Fitness Boot Camps: Should You Enlist? (cont.)
The fitness boot camp class Smith attends in Weston, Fla., is taught by ex-college football player and fitness coach 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 like.
Many other boot camp classes are offered for defined periods of time. John Spencer Ellis' California-based 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-enlist one or more times.
Boot camp fitness classes challenge the mind as well as the body, instructors say.
"We work on technique, form, core training, breathing, relaxation, and a better understanding of how the body moves," says Ellis. "In four weeks, people will drop 5% to 6% body fat, lose up to 10 pounds, and reduce their mile time sometimes by 2 minutes a mile."
Often, the confidence participants gain in boot camp class helps them take control of other aspects of their life, Ellis says.
"They might say, 'I will go back to school. I will get this job. I will start my own company, I will travel,'" he says.
Boot camp became more than just a workout for Smith when her oldest son was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome (a developmental disorder that is milder than autism) and her husband, a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force, had to spend a year in Korea without the family.
"It was literally my saving grace," says Smith. "It was a very stressful time. (Boot camp) was a way to take care of myself physically and emotionally, it was my social outlet. It kept me sane."
'Drop and Give Me 50'
Though the name "boot camp" was inspired by military training camps, neither of the instructors who spoke to WebMD use intimidation tactics in their classes.
"If you're lining people up and yelling at them, that's not real camaraderie. That's something you can fake," says Rayhill. Besides, he says, it's not necessary. People will push themselves on their own when they're in a group.
"Human nature is to challenge yourself against other humans," says Rayhill. "Not everybody is as athletically inclined, but by hanging out with those more driven people, you're naturally going to want to do better," he says.
Ellis' Adventure Boot Camps follow the same philosophy. Military exercise is for the military, he says, and those are not the people signed up for Adventure Boot Camp. His participants are generally moms aged 25-50 who may have had C-sections and want to get in shape.
"Negative reinforcement generally only goes so far," he says. "My choice is to have an empowering environment, one that is nurturing and very challenging. One that is not just about getting in shape but about community and nutrition and about being better in everything you do."
Still, he says, it is a boot camp: "People are expected to show up, shut up, pay attention, and give 100%," he says. "It's disciplined in nature. It's intense. It's not a cakewalk."