Boot camp fitness classes are a fresh way to mix up your exercise routine, lose weight and get a total-body workout. But if you’re physically and mentally unprepared, they can be intimidating and potentially unsafe. Follow these boot camp basics for a fun and effective sweat session.
1. Know what to expect. Boot camps take on many different forms, but most involve full-body engagement and almost-constant exercise. You may run, do push-ups, lift free weights and more. Most boot camps are suitable for all levels of fitness, and your instructor can help you mold the workouts to your ability.
2. Fuel up. “Pre-class nourishment is a must,” says Bonnie Matthews, a Baltimore-based personal trainer and weight loss coach who has been featured on The Dr. Oz Show. She recommends drinking plenty of water and eating a meal or snack that contains protein, like a salad with fish or chicken, or a protein bar 30 to 60 minutes before class. Showing up dehydrated and hungry can cause dizziness, nausea or even fainting during class. “Consuming a meal before a workout will also benefit your performance and mental clarity,” she adds. Just make sure you don’t eat immediately before class, which can make you feel sick and sluggish.
3. Go easy on day one. It’s natural to want to work hard from the get-go, but pushing yourself too hard, too fast may leave you on the sidelines. “Push yourself, but recognize if you are hurting, and don’t be scared to take a break,” says Matthews.
4. Ask for modifications. If those deep squats are making your knees—not just your muscles—scream, don’t be afraid to say, “uncle.” “In the example of squats, ask the instructor for a modification, such as not squatting down as far,” Matthews says. “You’ll still experience the benefit, but avoid injury and eventually work up to the full move when you’re ready.”
5. Prepare to sweat. “You can expect to be sore and out of breath during class,” Matthews says. “Boot camps are meant to challenge your entire body and are often geared toward intense, short bursts of exercise that no one, not even fitness professionals enjoy, because they’re hard!”
6. Know that it gets better. If that first class leaves you feeling the burn like never before, take solace in this: “The good news is, you get faster, stronger and more agile with each class,” Matthews says.