Visit most any public park early in the morning or in the early evenings and you'll probably see at least one fitness boot camp. Fitness boot camps have become very popular over the years. There are many benefits that this type of training offers:
- camaraderie amongst the participants
- motivation gained from the group setting
- challenging and varied workouts
- improvement in strength, power, aerobic and anaerobic fitness, flexibility, agility and many other attributes
- fun change of pace from the boring "big box" gym environment
- more affordable than personal training
Here are a few very important factors to consider when selecting the fitness boot camp that's right for you:
Indoor and Outdoor Facility
Unless you enjoy exercising in dangerously hot summer weather (not to mention lightning, rain, mud, mosquitos, monster killer red ants) or cold, frigid weather you may want to join a class that has an indoor facility in addition to an outdoor facility. If you spend your day inside on the job, it can be a nice change of pace to get outside to workout. Get the best of both worlds and make sure the class you choose has outdoor training when the weather is nice and indoor training when the weather sucks.
A boot camp is not the place you want to feel lost in the crowd. There are plenty of studies (especially the meta-analysis by Glass and Smith of 80 research reports) from the world of education that show achievements increase as class size decreases. There are many factors that contribute to the ideal class size but generally, you'll do best in a class that has 20 or less participants. It's going to be very difficult for the boot camp leader to give a large class feedback on specifics of good form.
If 20 people are doing a set of squats in a park field, it's nearly impossible to spot the nuances of proper form. It's important to train with proper movement patterns to get the best results and to prevent muscular imbalances or injury.
Unfortunately, there is nothing to stop unqualified wannabe's from starting a boot camp. Typically, they'll select a nearby park, throw an ad on one of the daily deal sites and now they have their own business with virtually no investment and no education.
What makes a qualified trainer? Ideally, it's a combination of experience and education. Just because someone was an athlete or in the military does not qualify them in any way to be able to train YOU in a safe, effective manner. Even if the trainer is in great shape, it doesn't mean they have the knowledge to get you into great shape. There are plenty of meatheads with big muscles that know very little about training anyone other than themselves. In fact, there are many large muscled specimens that seem to do everything wrong, lucky for them, they have amazing genetics that respond to almost any haphazard training method.
At a very minimum the trainer should be certified by one of the top three certifying agencies; the American College of Sports Medicine, National Academy of Sports Medicine or the American Council on Exercise. Ideally the trainer would possess an Associate, Bachelor or higher degree in Exercise Science/Kinesiology or related field.
The unqualified trainers offering boot camps that are really pretty horrible have given "boot camps" somewhat of a bad name. Because of this unfortunate fact, there has been a slight shift in the industry by the more qualified coaches and trainers. Instead of offering a boot camp, many are now offering training called "Small Group Personal Training". The biggest difference is that it's a smaller class size so more individual attention can be given.
Before you join a boot camp or Small Group Personal Training class, do your research. Make sure it meets the criteria discussed in this article. The last thing anyone needs is to spend their money on a class that isn't going to give optimal results, cause muscle imbalances or worse yet, injuries.
If you haven't tried this style of training yet, check out a couple places and give it a try. They're a lot of fun and you can get great results! If you have any questions, please let me know! I can be reached at tim@Edge-Trainer.com. Happy training!!