A Beginner’s Guide to Bootcamp and Obstacle-Style Workouts

After the social distancing and solo workouts of the Covid-era, there has been a surge in interest in group fitness activities like bootcamps, fitness challenges and obstacle courses that bring people together to break a sweat.

Just like military bootcamps, where drill instructors run new recruits through a series of exercises from squats and lunges to crunches and pull-ups, fitness bootcamps are fast-paced, instructor-led classes that offer a total strength and cardio workout. No disguises or buzz cuts required!

Recent data shows that outdoor activity, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), and group exercise training are among the top 20 fitness trends for 2022. Bootcamps combine all these elements for a heart-pumping workout

Ashley Borden, Master CPT, a celebrity personal trainer and lifestyle expert, believes that bootcamps and obstacle courses appeal to those who like a challenging workout and thrive on competition. He added, “You can’t mentally check out, you’re stressed by the feeling of others around you working hard, and there’s a lot of energy.”

Bootcamps can also be organized into obstacle races that challenge competitors to perform a series of exercises as part of a race to the finish line. These classes are great preparation for events like the 5K Mud Run and Color Run But fast-paced workouts can be tough, and knowing what to expect can help make bootcamp less intimidating.

If you are interested in joining, here are some tips:

Play detective. If you’re not sure about bootcamp, check out a class. You can peek into the group exercise room at the gym or go to the beach or park where classes are being held to see what bootcamp is all about. Borden suggests scoping reviews to see what others are saying about the class.

Gather your squad. Bootcamps are group fitness classes, so consider signing up with your own group. Attending class with friends will help you feel more comfortable and ensure you stay present and committed. Group workouts have been linked to improved quality of life and lower stress levels. Plus, you’ll have someone to sip a smoothie with after a hard day’s work.

Get ready to sweat. In an obstacle course class, expect to crawl, jump over objects, run through mud or throw sandbags. Switching between high-intensity intervals of strength training and cardio will leave you drenched in sweat by the end of class.

Bonus: High-intensity workouts can actually help reshape your metabolism and improve your overall metabolic health. New to Bootcamp? Consider starting with 30-minute classes and working up to 60-minute sessions.

Know your limits. If you’re new to group HIIT workouts, Borden recommends skipping obstacle courses until you’re familiar with moves like squats, planks, lunges, and pushups.

“Usually an obstacle course [requires] A constant pace and moving toward the finish line and not stopping as much for coaching cues,” he explains. “For newbies, it can be a lot of moves you’ve never done under time and pressure, which is a recipe for injury.”

For bootcamp workouts, consider showing up to class early to let the instructor know you may need some additional instruction or modifications for more advanced moves. Borden also noted, “You can opt-out of the movement if it feels too dangerous for you.”

Put the kibosh on comparisons. It can be tempting to focus on a person who seems to be moving effortlessly while you struggle with squats or take breaks between burpees.

“As with any physical activity, you need to focus on your abilities and dial in your movement patterns to perfection, not focus on what others are doing,” says Borden. “Everyone has different abilities and strengths.”

Instead of comparing, focus on your own workout.

push yourself While it’s essential to listen to your body and adjust or take breaks as needed, keep going.

Going through a bootcamp, completing a fitness challenge, or crossing the finish line in an obstacle race is a big accomplishment, and coaches are there to encourage you to make it happen. Sure, the workouts will be tough at first, but you’ll build strength and endurance over time and feel the endorphin rush that comes with a great workout.

“Challenge yourself wisely and have fun,” says Borden. “Nothing feels better than pushing through a discomfort zone to show how strong and powerful you really are—no matter what level you’re at or where you started.”

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