To Bootcamp or Not

Personal Trainer in St. Albans gives her exepert opinion on bootcamps

As a Personal Trainer in St. Albans I get asked the question – “What fitness classes should I go to and should I boot camp”?  As there are so many boot camps in St. Albans and other parts of the country many people are wondering if this is a fitness trend they should get into?  Are boot camps suitable for everybody?

Boot camps first started with the military thing, some women seemed to like being shouted at by military types in uniform; maybe it’s a spin off from a Shades of Grey fantasy!  The Military boot camps do have a good USP and you do work extremely hard and push yourself far more than if you were doing it on your own.  The guys are usually charming as well as tough and make you want to work harder when you get their attention.   In each session there’s usually more than one guy working and ‘looking after’ the group so everybody gets some sort of attention even if it is just to be shouted at.  Then you’ve got the spins offs with just one guy in his van with possibly some equipment and possibly a bit of music, they may not shout or be as forceful as the military guys and so that type of boot camp appeals to a slightly different audience.  With just one person working the group you will not get much attention and so you can ‘hide’ more when you’ve had enough.   Both types have their qualities and their downfalls but as with everything there are always plus’s and minus’s.

The good qualities of boot camps are that you get outside in the fresh air to exercise; this gives you an amazing feel good factor and is brilliant for the endorphins and wellbeing.  The other good point is that the movements tend to be functional for your body and work you hard.  Functional exercises mimic movements that your body is designed to do for example sprinting, pulling, pushing, squatting, multi-directional movement and being able to lift your own body weight.  Functional movement is an excellent way to train for sport and everyday life and should definitely be incorporated within your fitness regime.  The problem I have seen since functional training has become the new ‘it’ word in the fitness industry is that some trainers try to work their clients functionally at too hard a level for their ability and assign these exercises to their clients without much thought or experience behind them.  What they do not realise is the so called functional exercise then ceases to be effective and becomes completely ineffective and non-functional if the client is not able to perform them correctly.  Functional exercises must be fit for purpose and ability to reap the benefit.  Yes heart rate is raised at boot camps and calories are significantly burnt but training your body to repeatedly do an exercise wrong causes bad posture and injury.  Functional training should be progressive and muscle imbalances worked on not made worse.  For example before performing hundreds of squats you must first learn how to squat correctly and fire the glute muscles otherwise the legs muscles will take over and will do all of the work, you could get powerful legs but your bottom will still stay weak, flat with not much shape.  Not performing a squat well can also cause the piriformis muscle to become tight and over worked which in turn pulls on your back and causing back problems.  Knee alignment in a squat is also crucial and if glute minimus, the obturator and gemellus muscles in the bottom and hips are not strong this can cause the knee to be drawn inwards while squatting.  This is very common amongst women because of the way the pelvis is made up and can be the cause of bad tracking in the knee and cause knee pain.  All the muscles in the glutes need to be firing correctly to also be able to run, jump and do multi-directional work correctly.  Also, if you have any stress incontinence from having children and leak when you jump, skip or run you need to be working on the pelvic floor within your core training as too much stress will increase the stress incontinence and make the condition worse.  Hard high intensity classes like bootcamps are not designed to re-teach you these skills you have lost for various reasons, they are purely designed to improve your VO2 max, increase your anaerobic fitness levels and burn excess calories.  Boot camps definitely have their place and I personally love the feeling of being pushed hard but if you just do boot camp work you will not re-design your body shape.

So do I think boot camps are good?  Yes they have their place and are great if you are already reasonably fit, know how to do the basic exercises correctly (e.g. squats and lunges) with correct form and do not have any injuries or niggling pains.  It is also always good to work hard and to be pushed; I find it exhilarating but always work to your ability so not to injure yourself.  Boot camps should also not be your only form of exercise especially if you want to achieve a desirable sexy shape; it’s good to mix up your training.  If you feel your fitness levels are not at a reasonable level, you are just getting into or back into fitness, have aches and pains or post natal other forms of exercise specifically concentrating on your needs and requirement would more beneficial.  If you are in this category you should be concentrating on stabilisation, form and posture before jumping into high intensity boot camp style training.  As the saying goes ‘horses for courses’.

When my clients come to me I teach them correct form and progress the functional exercises to their capabilities.  I work on their muscle imbalances and get lazy bottom and core muscles working in synergy again and firing correctly.  We work hard but all within the clients limits and we work on getting stability, function and a sexy shape back.  I tell my ladies I will get them fit enough to be able to go and do a boot camp if they so desire.  It actually doesn’t take that long to be able to get somebody fit for boot camp and to go out into the world of exercise classes on their own.  Depending on the average client and their needs it usually takes about ten sessions.  Ten sessions with a personal trainer who knows specific muscle activation, corrective progressive functional exercises that are also shape enhancing is not a big commitment financially or time wise.  After ten sessions (and homework) you should be able to go out with confidence and enough strength to do any public class.  You can then show everybody else how’s it’s done correctly.

Contact me for your free assessment and half an hour PT session to see what I can do for you.

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