So you decided that this was the year you are going to lose those extra pounds and get into shape.   The question then becomes how?

Three of the American Council of Exercise’s Top 10 Fitness Trends for 2011 are # 5 the buddy system which provides peer encouragement, leading to the increased potential of success, # 7 small group workouts which allow people to socialize and stay motivated and one of the most popular workouts in 2011 that can also incorporate the first two trends mentioned here are # 6 fitness boot Camps.

Although there are different beliefs on how boot camps got their name everyone agrees that the original boot camps were created by the armed forces to train the recruits in military life.  Military boot camps are not just physical training but are designed to prepare recruits for the physical, mental and emotional stress they will encounter in service in a relatively short amount of time.   These boot camps teach their recruits how to work together and also depend on one another.  More than 15 years ago a few ex members of the military decided that what works for the military can also work for civilians.

These days you can find a civilian fitness boot camp in just about every town in American.   Today’s fitness boot camps are designed with the participant’s needs in mind.  There are bride-to-be boot camps that promise to have you looking good in your dream dress in time for your wedding.  Military style boot camps that come complete with an ex-drill sergeant screaming commands at you.   Baby boot camps that allow mothers to lose the extra pounds without having to leave their stroller aged children with a sitter (no the babies do not work out.  In fact many probably sleep through the workout.)  Men only boot camps that focus on high intensity upper body work outs.  You can find boot camps on the beach and boot camps that promise a spectacular view of the city.  Women only boot camps that focus more on body toning and strength training then muscle building and extreme military style boot camps that include scaling walls and crawling under ropes.

There are probably as many different types of boot camps as there are needs.  One thing in common for all boot camps is the back to basics approach to getting fit and staying fit in an encouraging group environment.

What to expect in a civilian boot camp

Much like the armed forces boot camps a well-designed boot camp should provide you with physical training and emotional support to motivate you to reach your goals.

Most boot camps provide the basics; Stretching; Calisthenics – including jumping jacks and jump roping; Strength training using sit up, push-ups, squats and some type of weights; Running drills- which might include running up and down stairs, long distance running, and relays; Obstacle courses – can include anything from running around cones to scaling walls and climbing through tunnels. Some even use battle ropes, sand bags and tractor tires in their workouts.

What you will not find at a boot camp is boring routines or waits to use the treadmill or stationary bicycle.

Finding the right on for you

Prior to choosing a boot camp go on line and research the boot camps in your area.  You will want to determine what type of boot camp fits your style.  Do you want a specialty boot camp like a men’s only camp or are you ok with working out in a co-ed setting.  Do you prefer getting fit in the great outdoors or the comforts of an air conditioned gym.  Keep in mind that some outdoor boot camps will take place in the rain and even the snow.  Check to see if there are any physical prerequisites to starting the class like being able to running 3 miles.   Some camps may have classes for just for beginners. If not find out how they manage different fitness levels in one camp.   You also need to find out what type of time commitment you need to make.  Some camps are ok if you show up whenever you can, but others expect to you to attend 5 to 6 days a week at 5:00 in the morning for four of more weeks.  If you are still unsure about the camp and it is an outdoor go watch the class in action before signing up. Whichever boot camp you choose make sure that they change up the workouts to prevent boredom and maximize your results.

The great thing about boot camps is that you get to meet new people, workout in a team environment   which leads to greater success, while still having  a coach personalize the training to you and all at a fraction of the cost of a personal trainer.