Thich Nhat Hanh
“Freedom is not given to us by anyone we have to cultivate it ourselves. It is a daily one can prevent you from being aware of each step you take or each breath in and breath out. ”-Thich Nhat Hanh

Boot Camp Practice

Disciplined fitness...Screen shot 2011-06-03 at 6.26.20 PM

Fitness boot camps offer an opportunity to build your strength and endurance with a whole-body workout. Just as the armed forces are experimenting with changes to boot camp, such as adding yoga and Pilates, fitness buffs are signing up for book camp workouts modeled on old-school military training. The appeal of a boot camp workout is that it  focuses on building strength, endurance and agility to conquer your daily routine. Boot camp workouts can vary but generally include a fairly intense mix of strength training and aerobic elements. There are many different types of boot camp workouts some might stress calisthenics while another stresses military-style drills. Some even incorporate martial arts moves. In pretty much all cases, however, you can expect to do calisthenics, such as pull-ups, push-ups, lunges and crunches, as well as drills and sprints. In essence, a boot camp workout is a type of interval training - bursts of intense activity alternated with intervals of lighter activity.

Screen shot 2011-06-03 at 6.25.29 PM

You can expect: full body workout

Level of Effort: Difficult

Time Involved: 30 minutes (or more)


Getting Started:

  1. Determine the parameters for your workouts
  2. Determine what format of boot camp works for you
  3. Schedule your workouts
  4. Warm up and Cool down with each workout
  5. Write in your activity journal


What to Consider:



1. Determine the parameters for your workouts

There are certain parameters you will want to consider for this practice. Specifically you will want to determine your goals, level of fitness and the amount of time you have to workout. You will want to find the intensity that challenges you, gets you out of breath, makes you sweat- but that you can also handle without hurting yourself.


Determine your goals - Think about what you want to accomplish - are you just getting started with exercise and want something to ease you into the practice, are you really busy and need something quick or that can be done in shorter segments, or do you want something that moves quickly or something with lots of instruction. This will help you choose the right format and type of boot camp.


Level of difficulty - Camps range in difficulty and commonly use a scale of beginner, intermediate or advanced exerciser. If you've never exercised, you're a beginner. If you've been exercising continuously for 3 months, you're intermediate and if you've been working out for more than three months, you're advanced. When choosing a camp, beware of the descriptions. Some claim to be intermediate workouts, but might contain exercise types you have never done making you actually a beginner.


Length of workout - Next, you will want to consider the duration of the workout. Think about how much time you really have to workout before you decide on a particular boot camp. If a workout is too long, you may end up skipping it altogether. If you only have a few minutes a day or you need to split up your workouts, considering creating your own workout or getting a workout video with pre-mixed workouts so you can choose shorter or longer segments that fit your schedule.

The length of your workout is up to you but keep in mind the average exerciser burns approximately 9.8 calories per minute during a typical boot camp workout, which makes it a good activity if you're trying to lose weight. In addition, a well-structured boot camp workout can help you meet the National Institutes of Health recommendations for physical activity in healthy adults:

  • At least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity - or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity - a week
  • Strength training exercises at least twice a week


2. Determine what format of boot camp works for you

Now that you have some parameters regarding your workout goals and requirements you can begin to peruse the various types of boot camps available that fulfill your parameters.

First determine what format will work with your lifestyle and budget:

  • Bootcamp classes at gym or studio: Do your research. Start by checking out the websites of different boot camps in your area, checking out the photos of the instructors and participants. Check to see what level classes are offered if there are any starting requirements, like being able to run a 10-minute mile or do a certain number of push-ups in a minute. Also, if you're unsure about adding a boot camp program to your Daily Practice, see if you can pay for one trial class instead of buying a whole package, since many camps run for four weeks or more. Think about the following questions when evaluating:
    • What are the instructor's qualifications?
    • Is the class a good mix of aerobics and strength training?
    • What do people who've taken the class have to say about it?
    • Is this class a good match for my fitness goals?
  • Bootcamp workout videos: There are many videos out there - use the fitness video practice information to narrow down your search. Here is two of the top rated videos:
    • Denise Austin: Boot Camp Total Body Blast! - You get three great workouts -- cardio, strength, and stretching -- all in 20 minutes or less. Estimated calories burned: 350; Equipment required: 3- to 5-pound dumbbells
    • Kelley Coffey's 30 Minutes to Fitness: Boot camp
  • Do it yourself at-home bootcamp workout: You can also design a boot camp workout yourself and perform it in your home. Boot camp workouts are efficient because you work your entire body-- heart and muscles--by going from one exercise to another with no rest. The workouts should involve calisthenics like pushups, jumping jacks, crunches and other body weight exercises, all done with high intensity. In boot camp, your challenge is to take your body to its limit. You work, you sweat and, best of all, you burn calories like crazy. Here are some tips to get you started:
    • Focus on the core, not just the abs. Instead of just focusing on sit-ups, focus on general core strengthening. Working on your core allows you to build your abdominal strength in conjunction with back strength and balance. Try more planks, on your knees or toes and side planks. Pilates exercises are also good, hundreds help increase your core muscles using steady breathing and slow motions. Once you increase your core strength, standard sit-ups and pushups won't stress or kill your back and abs.
    • Mix it up. You want to do everything in combination so you can target different muscle groups. That means planks, bridges, cardio, bicycles and more. You want to try and keep the muscles working but in different ways. Instead of repeating one exercise that targets your glutes, try three or four. Use compound movements that mix together lunges, squats and dead lifts into one exercise. Your muscles will be thanking you for mixing things up.
    • Don't underestimate the power of your body weight. One of the best parts of a boot camp workout is that it can be done with or without equipment, so you can do it at any place and any time. Leg lifts, squats, and step exercises like step-ups get the job done without any special equipment. Use the stairs in your house as a personal bench while toning your legs.
    • Add agility training. Boosting your agility will provide a strong, sturdy foundation for motor skill functions and athleticism. Increased quickness will reduce injury, enabling your muscles to adapt to the boosted variety in your workout. There are loads of different exercises to boost your speed and increase your agility. A simple way to add high intensity to your circuit is with shuttle runs: run 25 yards as fast as you can, turn around and do it again six times. Another example is to use the stairs with intensity by stadium running.
    • Don't forget to stretch. Stretching is a vital part of every exercise routine.
      • Stretch all major muscle groups equally
      • Stretch when your body is warm, such as after aerobic exercise or sufficient warm up
      • Breathe slowly, rhythmically, and evenly as you hold each stretch
    • Build up your cardiovascular bursts. Build up your endurance with cardio activity. If you want to run as part of your boot cam start by walking, then increase your distance by trying a mile jog followed by a 20-minute brisk walk. This approach makes it easier to ease into a fitness program consisting of stretching, strength training and aerobic activity, but it also makes it easier to maintain.


Next, based on what is available within the chosen format choose a type of bootcamp. There are many different styles of bootcamps each with a specific focus. Peruse the various kinds to see if one stands out to you or if there is kind you know won't work for you. Examples of boot camp types:

  • Calisthenics focused
  • Military-style drills focused
  • Martial arts moves focused


3. Schedule your workouts

Frequency - Based on the length of your session, intensity and other workouts you are doing you can determine how often you want to perform your Boot Camp practice.

Schedule it  - now that the elements are determined, schedule your workout. If you set aside the days and times you will perform your practice you are more likely to stick to it. Remember the idea is to make it a habit, so schedule at least 4 sessions and don't miss or change them and you are on your way.


4. Warm up and Cool down with each workout


5. Write in your activity journal

Track your activity, duration, intensity and how you felt before and after the activity. Learn More...


Boot camp

Back to Top


Benefits of a boot camp workout:

  • Offer a more challenging and varied workout
  • Require little or no special equipment
  • Create a sense of camaraderie among the participants
  • Provide a great way to burn lots of calories.
  • Efficient - you work your whole body in a short period of time.
  • Fun - each exercise is different so you don't get bored.
  • Easy to fit in to a busy schedule - You can do it anywhere with little equipment.
  • As challenging as you want them to be.


Familiarize yourself with exercise intensity

Familiarize yourself with the target heart rate and perceived exertion scales in order to monitor your exercise intensity.

Exercise Intensity


Determine your BMR to understand your specific fitness needs

Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) You can also calculate the number of calories your body actually needs in order to function. If you understand the amount of calories your body needs to function then you can determine how many calories are needed to maintain your current weight and then how many to lose weight. There is a right number of calories for you to eat each day. This number depends on your age, activity level, and whether you're trying to lose, maintain or even gain weight. Knowing your BMR can also help you think about how much exercise you are willing to do.

Calculate Your BMR


Be cautious

  • If you're older than age 40, pregnant, haven't exercised for some time or you have health problems, it's a good idea to check with your doctor before starting a boot camp class - or any new exercise program.
  • If you decide to take a class be sure to let your instructor know if you have health issues or special needs. And be sure to tell your instructor if you have difficulty with a particular exercise. Skilled instructors are attentive to proper form and technique and can adapt exercises for you.


Additional Resources and Articles