Bootcamps have become quite popular recently as a fitness trend. There are many reasons why. It provides group support, variety, and most importantly at a low cost. Because many people workout together, costs are low yet you can exercise frequently which most people need for accountability, motivation, and results. There is much concern, however, regarding it’s effectiveness and more importantly the injury risks. In fact, in my work with patients at Orthopaedics Plus Physical Therapy, I see many people who are referred to me due to injuries sustained from bootcamps. Others have been working out in bootcamps for months, and although they can run farther than when they started, or do more “pushups” (in quotes because what many consider to be pushups are far from proper execution of real pushups), many haven’t achieved their body fat reduction goals. So are fitness bootcamps inherently flawed as an option to get fit, or are they a great option – just executed poorly? First lets explore a little bit into what is a fitness bootcamp.
Let’s be clear – I don’t care what fitness company is putting on a bootcamp, or what former Navy SEAL is running it, you aren’t in bootcamp unless you are enlisting in the Armed services. So please don’t harbor any delusions that you are experiencing a fraction of the physical and mental stress imposed upon the brave souls preparing to defend our country in battle. Another great indication is that: you aren’t waring a uniform, sporting a new buzz cut, aren’t wearing – BOOTS, and you aren’t camping anywhere. You are just trying to get more healthy, which is still a noble pursuit, but different. “Bootcamp” is just a catchy term that has stuck in the fitness world. Accordingly, I will reluctantly keep using the term, but will qualify it as “Fitness Bootcamp”. Now I feel much better!
Injury Rates in Real Bootcamp
Although no studies have yet investigated injury rates in fitness bootcamps, they have been investigated amongst military recruits. A pentagon study looking at injury rates for bootcamps from 2004 to 2010 revealed that injury rates were as high as 28%! These were in young men and women who were in good shape, but where also training quite intensely. This has been such a problem that the marines have drastically changed their training, and have spent millions on proper training facilities and enlisting the help of athletic trainers to reduce injury rates. Yet I find it absurd how Fitness Bootcamp instructors try to emulate the old school military bootcamp. The notion that former jocks, desk jockeys, sedentary housewives and weekend warriors alike are encouraged to train like the young military recruit preparing for battle is a recipe for disaster. Real bootcamp is quite risky and is designed for a completely different result than someone who is not pursuing military service. Failing to realize this is a prescription for injury
The problem with Fitness Bootcamps
Below are a few of the problems of bootcamps:
- Injuries. Getting results and feeling better is the goal, not making orthopedists rich.
- Demeaning instructors who yell and scream to “motivate”. This might work for disobedient dogs, but not for self respecting people
- Not scaling the workout: this refers to progressing and regressing an exercise.
- Limited emphasis on teaching: Learning proper exercise performance yields better results and less risk
- Not assessing the individual: Failing to determine unique needs and modifying accordingly causes injury and sacrifices results.
So there are clearly some issues with bootcamps. But what about the benefits?
Benefits of Bootcamps
- Social support and comradery: These are proven factors for fitness success.
- Costs: certainly this is more affordable
- Structure: Having a consistent time and plan can make “negotiating” your workout less likely.
- Variety: Bootcamps require the use of some non-traditional and creative exercises, which can invite a welcomed change.
So Can Fitness Bootcamps Work For You?
The big challenge is how can you take the benefits of bootcamps but eliminate the negatives. Is this even possible? I have been discussing this issues at length with my most trusted colleagues, and based on what the team at Spectrum has come up with, it is possible under the right conditions. So here are the two main components to getting it done:
1. Experts Skilled in Scaling the workout
Scaling the workout simply refers to changing an exercise by making it harder or easier. Scaling requires the qualities of an expert trainer: one who is skilled in planning, assessing, and creative in quickly prescribing the appropriate progression or regression of an exercise “on the fly”. Designing exercise programs is a lot like calling plays in a football game. You might come up to the line with a planned play, but you might need to change it at the last minute when you see what the defense is showing you. Th best quarterbacks know how to recognize this, and how to modify the game plan. Similarly, great trainers come into a clients workout session with a game plan, and have the skill to quickly recognize and modify it if the client’s status changes or presents differently than expected. Less skilled trainers forge ahead, not changing the plan, and expect all clients to follow along. If not, they are deemed undisciplined and chastised. So the ability to walk in with a great game plan, recognized when to change it, then scale it by making it more or less challenging based on a client’s needs is critical. Not being able to scale a workout is a major reason why injuries happen.
2. Experts Skilled in Effective Teaching:
Yelling platitudes or insulting people isn’t motivating or teaching. Most people need empowerment to succeed. They need constructive feedback and perspective. We do this every day in the clinic and the studio helping people rehab or transform their bodies. This is certainly something we could extend to a group. Teaching assures proper performance and compliance. With the proper format, focusing on teaching the proper performance of appropriate exercises will get great results versus mindlessly herding people from one sloppily performed activity to the next.
Is Bootcamp Right For You?
Clearly a “Fitness Bootcamp” option can work if the above components are fulfilled. Indeed it would be a rare feat to accomplish, but I’ve determined that if anyone can do it, the team at Spectrum is best suited to run a successful “bootcamp”. The bigger issue is whether a bootcamp is right for you. No matter how well it is deigned, there simply may be some who are not a good fit. The questions below might help you determine if a “Fitness Bootcamp” option is right for you:
- Do you strongly prefer one-to-one instruction and have failed at group approaches?
- Are you incredibly shy and don’t like to ask questions in a group?
- Do you have very unique needs? (i.e. want to compete in a unique sport event, have an injury that has not been properly assessed and managed, have a cardiac condition that requires constant monitoring, are very distracted in group settings?)
If you said yes to the above issues, than fitness Bootcamps might not be for you. Not sure if they are right for you? You can always request a consultation with us, and we can help you determine if that is a good option or not.
Will Spectrum Offer a Fitness Bootcamp?
We are looking at the logistics, and right now it seems that we will! But I’m pretty sure we won’t be calling it a “bootcamp”. In the meantime, stay tuned for announcements about this exciting new option to transform your fitness with the leading experts in health and wellness!