Bootcamp -- A word that makes one think of a military sergeant barking orders in a recruit's face, all while they do intense drills and training. So why do so many people subject themselves to this on a weekly basis of their own free will? It promises to be the best all-in-one workout, intense cardio with strength training, in an hour or less.
No more spending hours at the gym to get in your cardio and strength workouts, these are time-savers, which tout a full-body intense workout with a group atmosphere.
Drop and Give me 20
Mainstream "bootcamps" became popular with the hard-core workouts seen on The Biggest Loser TV show. Although the workouts are extreme, featuring dripping sweat, contestants screaming and, at times, throwing up, that scale doesn't lie. The weight loss is drastic and due to, in part, the bootcamp-style workout regime. People want the intense workouts in an effort to get in shape and lose weight fast. High intensity interval training, HIIT, is a term used to describe bootcamp workouts because they alternate periods of high intensity (cardio) with lower aerobic intensity (strength building).
Elizabeth Crawford, owner of Inspire U Fitness LLC, has been holding bootcamps from her home for three years now. She has seen all types of people, from the elderly to young athletes, who come into it with different goals: weight loss, body transformation, toning and endurance training. Crawford says despite the "intimidating nature of bootcamp, you can literally start at any fitness level" and progress from there, using modifications. Bootcamps focus primarily on using one's own bodyweight, such as lunges, squats, "burpees", push-ups, planks (core), and mountain climbers. However there are times when they incorporate dumbbells, medicine ball, kettle bells, bosu ball and bands. The lack of equipment helps make "bootcamp" mobile and an exercise one could easily do anywhere, even on vacation.
Taking it to the Next Level
More recently, CrossFit has become the newest fitness phenomenon. It is like bootcamp on crack. Based on the same foundation as bootcamp, HIIT, CrossFit takes it to the next level with Olympic level weightlifting and gymnastics. CrossFit originally started as the principle strength and conditioning program for many police academies, military special operations units, and champion martial artists. It is definitely not for the uncommitted, casual exerciser.
Each day, the workout is different yet equally demanding, containing pull-ups, push-ups, bench press, box jumps and squats. Each class is about an hour long and includes a warm up, 15-20 minute strength portion and 15-20 minute high intensity portion called "workout of the day", WOD. Each person is timed, competing with him or herself for the fastest pace. This aspect of CrossFit has received some criticism because speeding through these intense drills is a recipe for injury.
Amy Quimby has been teaching CrossFit now for 3 years and says, "As with any sport or exercise, there is a chance for injury." For first timers, "form and safety is most important, then they work on time", Quimby says. Workouts are scaled down for newbies, using modifications such as reducing load, reps and sets. You don't have to come in to CrossFit as an athlete, it is open to anyone from "soccer moms to navy seals" Quimby says.
"The Sport of Fitness has arrived"
Although CrossFit is open to the general public, it is not for the faint of heart. Quimby says that "most CrossFitters do it 4-6 times per week, ... and once they start CrossFit they seem to only prefer it" over other forms of exercise. And then there is the ultra-competitive portion of CrossFit. This is not a mindless exercise class. There are national competitions for CrossFit, which they are training for right now. The regionals are in May in Chicago, with the finals being held in LA in July. This is a serious sport. There are also the CrossFit "benchmarks", which are nationally recognized with names such as "Nancy" and "Fran." They include the basic CrossFit exercises with the fastest time being the goal. Some benchmarks, called "Hero Workouts" are done in honor of fallen soldiers. The "Michael" benchmark honors Lt Michael McGreevy, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2005 and features 3 rounds of an 800 meter run, 50 back extensions and 50 sit ups.
When pulling up in front of CrossFit Bellator (12804 S. Memorial Dr. #118), you would think you are at a storage unit, not a gym. CrossFit and Bootcamp promise the hard-core workouts without all the fluff. Most CrossFit gyms are held in warehouses or garages, referred to as a "box" for their simplicity. As with bootcamps, you can't get a manicure or go to the sauna at one of these gyms, it's all about the workout and nothing else.
CrossFit "gyms" are equipped with Olympic weight sets, dumbbells, kettle bells, gymnastic rings, plyometric boxes, bars for pull-ups and rowing machines. CrossFit is considered "minimalistic" compared to most gyms in the limited equipment and number of exercises they utilize.
Bootcamp trainers are not required to have any fitness certifications but they should carry some sort of training. The training is not specific, but more of a personal training certification. Crawford took her training from the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), where she completes continuing education every year in order to maintain certification. Each gym may require their bootcamp instructors to have certain training.
CrossFit has its own certification all together. There is level one and level two plus numerous specialty certifications, such as Olympic weight lifting, gymnastics, kettle bell, rowing, endurance, etc. Quimby is a level one CrossFit trainer with her specialty in Olympic weight lifting.
Takes all Kinds
People who go to CrossFit or Bootcamp have very different goals. Many people come to Bootcamp or CrossFit to lose weight. One bootcamp class promises to burn 600-800 calories.
"Skinny Fat" is a term in the fitness circles used to describe someone who may be thin but is not fit or toned. CrossFit and bootcamp are attractive because they promise quick results. Melissa Dinsmore has been doing CrossFit for about a year but "felt more in shape as quickly as a month or two."
Many endurance athletes, such as marathon runners or triathletes count on CrossFit or Bootcamp to increase speed and strength. They focus on leg and core strength, which are pertinent for running, biking, or swimming long distance. And the high intensity of the exercise mimics the intensity of their sport.
Young athletes, ages 13-18, come to bootcamp or CrossFit for additional training. This is growing in popularity, with the prominence of high school sports. These athletes spend a lot of time practicing their sport but not building strength. Bootcamps for young athletes target skills they need on the field, such as speed, agility, power, leg strength and core control.
The percentage, male to female, of those who attend Bootcamp or CrossFit, is mostly equal. And Crawford says her Bootcamp classes are the same whether she has all guys or all girls. However, there are times that she may target certain gender specific problem areas, such as saddlebags, if she has a class full of ladies.
Do Not Be Afraid
With both bootcamp and CrossFit classes, one thing is alike: the sense of camaraderie and family. Quimby says "99 percent of those that come back to CrossFit do so to see their fellow CrossFitters." Crawford agrees that once someone attends a bootcamp class, there is "group support and accountability," which keeps them coming back. Bootcamp and CrossFit are very intimidating to the outsider, but they become like family when they do come into the circle. Any athletic level is welcome, from the overweight, to the elderly, to the professional athlete. And with Groupon and Living Social deals popping up daily for local bootcamps and CrossFit gyms, it's a good time to give it a whirl and see if it's for you. Do not afraid.
Share this article: