If you're looking to lose weight fast, improve your aerobic fitness or take your strength training to the next level, an outdoor boot camp workout can help you do all three. A 2008 study sponsored by the American Council on Exercise found that the average participant burned nearly 10 calories per minute, working at an average 77 percent of max heart rate during a boot camp workout. While potentially burning 600 calories during a one-hour workout will definitely help with weight loss, a boot camp workout does much more than that, giving you big-time aerobic and strength benefits as well.
Boot camp workouts can vary widely, but both the American Council on Exercise and the American College of Sports Medicine recommend a program that includes an even mix of cardiovascular and strength movements. The ACSM also recommends adding a flexibility component. The pace and intensity of the workout should be challenging in order to reap maximum benefits, but that doesn't mean there are no rest periods between exercises. In fact, the ACE study found that the very nature of the boot camp workout closely mimicked typical interval-style workouts, where effort level rises and dips over the duration of the session.
Anatomy of the Workout
As with any workout, the first segment should be devoted to a warm-up. Spend between five and 15 minutes doing some light aerobic activity and dynamic range-of-motion movements. Brisk walking or jogging can be followed by trunk twists, arm circles, "toy soldier" hamstring stretches and knee bends. Next, move on to the working portion of the session, alternating strength moves with short bursts of cardio activity. Strength moves can include many variations of lunges, pushups, squats, pull-ups, crunches and planks. Cardio activities can include jumping jacks, squat-thrusts, short sprints and plyometric moves like jumping lunges and squats or broad jumps. Finish the workout with 10 minutes of stretching to cool down.
Use the Outdoors to Your Advantage
Boot camp-style workouts are particularly suited to the outdoors because you can get a great workout with very minimal equipment or none at all. Use the uneven terrain to your advantage, running your sprints up a nearby hill or over a looser, more challenging surface. Doing so requires your body to work harder not only to complete the movement, but to stabilize joints and muscles as well. You can also use natural or man-made objects to challenge yourself, propping your feet on a boulder or picnic bench while doing pushups, or weaving in and out of a line of trees, for example. Another big benefit of an outdoor workout is the positive effect it can have on your mood.
Above All, Be Safe
The benefits of an outdoor boot camp workout can be quickly undone if you get injured. The ACSM ranks safety as the top consideration when planning a boot camp workout. Listen to your body and slow down if you become very fatigued, and don't attempt anything you are unsure about. These are higher-level workouts by design, and shouldn't be attempted if you're not already quite fit. ACE recommends that less-fit individuals work their way up to a boot camp-style workout.