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7 Things to Consider When Choosing a Boot Camp

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No Gym, No Problem!

So, you’ve tried the gym and you’re kind of bored with the treadmill and machine weights and a little disappointed with the crowds, the stuffiness and the results.

Maybe it’s time to consider a specialized program that will keep you focused, on track and push your limits every time. A boot camp can deliver those qualities and more, but there are several things to consider when choosing a boot camp or other group fitness class.

First, what exactly is a boot camp?

Fitness boot camps have been around the group exercise scene for several years and they have evolved along with the exercises and programs that are now available. Typically, a boot camp is a circuit style fitness class that is held outdoors. Parks, school grounds, and sometimes trails, beaches, or other open spaces are used to conduct the classes. There may be one or more instructors and the size of the class can range from a handful to a very large group of 30 or more.

The classes are meant to be challenging and will use the surrounding environment to have you run, climb, or crawl through various terrain. Some classes may use only bodyweight exercises, think squats, push ups, and running. While others may include various equipment such as; resistance bands, jump ropes, kettle bells, TRX, etc. Most provide a high intensity cardio-strength conditioning workout that will burn calories and use all of your muscles and energy systems (aerobic and anaerobic).

Not all boot camps are equal and you should do some research before making a decision. Here are seven things to consider when choosing the best boot camp to meet your goals and get in great shape.

1) Location:

Is the boot camp location safe, accessible and convenient? Other important things to consider are parking and restrooms. If you have to spend 15 minutes searching for a parking space and there no restroom facilities you may still consider the boot camp but you’ll need to make some adjustments to make it work. Next, you should find out if the business or trainer conducting the boot camp has a permit or permission to be at the location for the purpose of holding fitness classes. Anyone can put up a flyer announcing boot camp classes at Central Park, but you don’t want to plunk down your money on a fly-by-night that may be kicked out of the location at any time. Seek a reputable, legitimate organization.

2) Instructors:

Just as you want the organization/business to be legitimate, you also want the instructors to be professional, knowledgeable and educated. Fitness pros should be certified in at least one reputable organization (NASM, ACE, NSCA, etc) as a personal trainer, group fitness instructor, or strength and conditioning specialist . They also should be current in CPR, First Aide, be insured and have the appropriate business license in order to charge you for their services. The wannabe bodybuilder from the local gym may be impressive but is he a professional and can he deliver the programs to get you the results you want?

3) Class level:

Consider your fitness level and check to see how the class is taught and how the instructor is able to accommodate various levels. A boot camp is not one-on-one personal training and you can’t expect that the instructor will spend all of their time coaching you, but a good instructor will be able to meet the needs of everyone in class. From beginners to advanced, all should be able to work at their own level and get an appropriately challenging workout. The instructor should also be able to modify or substitute exercises to accommodate injuries or limitations.

4) Fitness Assessment:

Boot camps are not for everyone and a reputable fitness organization will want to screen people with health issues that may be aggravated by participating in their program. You want to let your instructor know about your health history, exercise experience and goals. If your goal is to compete in a bodybuilding contest, a boot camp is probably not the program for you. Most boot camps will have you complete an exercise readiness questionnaire and health waiver. You may be required to get a doctor’s recommendation if you have heart disease or other medical issues. Some organizations may have you do an orientation or assessment to evaluate your readiness and teach you some of the basics.

5) The Vibe:

What kind of feeling do you get from the class? Is the group having fun? Are they engaged or just going through the motions? Is there a flow to the class? Is it organized, well set up, and safe? Do you feel motivated? Does it look like everyone is doing their best and are you inspired to do your best? There should be a fun factor combined with challenge and motivation here. If you want your best results, find a class that you will want to come back to and that will always challenge you to get out of your comfort zone. Hanging in the background is not going to help you achieve your goals.

6) Fellow participants:

Can you relate to the other participants? Are you looking for a class that you can workout with your spouse? Some boot camps are women only, such as Empower Fit. Others cater to families or are open to all. Finding a friendly, supportive group of people with common goals and values can go a long way in making the boot camp experience valuable, rewarding and enjoyable. For many, this is an opportunity to expand your friend base and let’s face it, it’s more fun to work out with friends and it helps to keep us accountable, “Hey where were you yesterday?” Many of our boot campers have started running races together, trying out adventure races and hiking on weekends.

7) Engagement:

Does the boot camp engage with its members inside and outside of class? Does the instructor know everyone’s name? Are you greeted when you arrive and acknowledged when you leave? Do they introduce new people to the group? Is there a social media component, such as a Facebook Page or newsletter? What if you miss a class – are there follow up texts, e-mails or phone calls to check in with you? Can you easily contact the instructor? One of the advantages of a boot camp, unlike many gyms, is you are anonymous. When you don’t show up, you are missed and are followed up with. This also adds to the accountability and leads to better results. A good boot camp wants you to show up for every class.

Even the longest journey starts with a single step

Lastly, when seeking out boot camp programs, check the reviews on Yelp and other platforms. Look at their Facebook page and website. Ask friends and colleagues who have participated in programs, happy campers are happy to share the info. There are often introductory offers allowing you to try out a camp at a reasonable cost without any long-term commitment. Now, go get started!

Healthy Recipe: Tortilla Soup

Healthy Recipe: Tortilla Soup

With winter’s colder temperatures and shorter days, it’s a great time to hunker down with a nice, hot bowl of soup. Enjoy this delicious, nutritious and satisfying meal.

Tortilla Soup:

tortilla chips
1T. olive oil
1 onion chopped
2 cloves garlic
5 large roma tomatoes
2 c. green chiles, chopped
2 c. black beans
6 c. chicken broth
1 c. cut up chicken
2 T. cilantro
salt and pepper to taste
1 ½ c. Monterey jack cheese

Heat oil in a large pot. Saute onions 6-8 minutes. Do not brown. Add garlic and cook an additional 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, chile, chicken broth and chicken, black beans and spices. Bring to a boil and lower heat to simmer 10 minutes.

To serve, place tortilla chips in bowl, add cheese, and por soup over them.

Serves 5-6 as a main course. Can add additional broth and garnish with cilantro, avacado, and sour cream.

Vegan Version: substitute vegetable broth for chicken broth, add extra beans in place of chicken.

Stay well this winter — eat your soup.

Nutrition Planning for Success

Nutrition Planning for Success

Nutrition plays a key role in getting you to your goals of peak fitness, weight management and optimum performance. Keeping on track with a healthy diet takes some determination as well as some planning. We will tend to eat what is convenient, so make healthy meals and snacks convenient. Here are some tips to keep you on track:

– Plan your meals for the week. Include 3 meals a day plus snacks.

– Check recipes that you will use and list the ingredients that you need.

– Create your shopping list based on your weekly plan.

– Shop at stores that feature fresh healthy food.

– Shop after you’ve eaten. Do not go the grocery store on an empty stomach.

– Stick to the plan. Get all of the items on the list.

– Pre-cook meals for the week if you can. Freeze or store in Tupperware in the fridge.

– Prepare lunch and snacks ahead of time. Pack in Tupperware or containers to pack for work.

– Snack on whole fruits, veggies, seeds and nuts.

– Save half of your dinner for leftover lunches.

Stick to the Plan

Part of planning for success with your nutrition is keeping the foods you may want or even crave but know are not what you need out of the house. Keeping cookies and crackers and chips and ice cream in the cupboards is just too tempting. In spite of your good intentions, at those moments of weakness, if a carton of Haagen Dazs or the box of Oreos is within reach, watch out. Instead, throw them out and don’t even go down those aisles at the store.

So what about those afternoon or evening sweet tooth cravings? It’s all about having a game plan and sticking to it. Instead of reaching for the junk, have a bowl of fruit handy. Stock the shelves with raw, unsalted nuts and seeds. Keep fresh berries and pomegranate seeds in the fridge.

Plan your meals for the week, including breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Check over your recipes to see what ingredients you need, check the pantry, freezer and refrigerator and write out the list.

Shop Smart, Cook Ahead

Shop at stores that have fresh produce, wholesome varieties of foods that include organic, grass fed beef, wild salmon, bulk grains, etc. Stores like Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and New Leaf offer a good variety of fresh fruits and vegetables as well as good variety of other wholesome food. Be cautious, however. Just because you’re shopping at Whole Foods doesn’t mean you can’t fill the shopping cart with calorie dense, sugar-loaded, glorified junk food. Stick to your game plan and your list. If you’ve got green apples on the list and they happen to have caramel apples made with raw turbinado sugar and organic slivered almonds, pass it by.

Once you get your groceries, start preparing your meals and snacks for the week. By pre-cooking and pre-packaging your meals you have set your plan in motion. You have those healthy meals and snacks ready to go as you head out the door for work, lunch and snacks in hand. Coming home from work too tired to plan a meal and cook? No problem, pull your pre-cooked meal from the freezer, defrost it, heat it up, and it’s ready to eat. Whereas in the past you may have stopped on the way home to pick up something at In-N-Out Burger, you now have a great meal at home ready to go.

Make it a Ritual

John Berardi of Precision Nutrition talks about the Sunday Ritual in Tip #2 of his 27 Tips to Kick Start Your Diet on the Right Foot. Berardi states, “To ensure that good foods will be available when you need them, use the Sunday Ritual. This is performed by setting aside three hours every Sunday to write out your menu for the week, shop for the week, and prepare your meals for the week. Cook all the meat, chop all the vegetables, measure out all the yogurt and/or cottage cheese, and distribute all the powders. Have them ready and set aside so that you can grab them in the morning and bring them with you regardless of what your day holds in store for you.”

I also use the Sunday ritual and do all of my shopping and meal prep for the week. It has become a habit, a ritual. You can make it yours as well. You can also make other simple changes to your diet and make a habit out of them. Just as you can train your body to perform at a higher level, i.e., running farther or doing more push ups, you can train your body to make healthy diet changes. Once those changes become habits, you have made one of the necessary lifestyle changes to achieve peak fitness, weight management and optimum performance.

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