Thoughts on fitness boot camps/retreats

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Thoughts on fitness boot camps/retreats

Postby MogTM » Tue Oct 18, 2011 7:12 pm UTC

I have around seven weeks of (unpaid) time off from work starting in March and am hoping to use them to get into the best shape I can -- I'm wondering what advice y'all might have. A few details about my current fitness, my goals, and the options I'm considering:

Currently I am 23 years old, 6'1" and 160 lbs, so weight loss is not a goal. However, since my metabolism has always been pretty brisk, both my diet and level of exercise have been generally been poor -- even though I know the long term effects on my health/mood, it is hard to convince myself to work out in the absence of short-term weight issues. This is especially true because, in part due to my poor fitness level, I find most exercises exhausting and unenjoyable.

So, my goal is to change that. Specifically, in the seven weeks I have free I would like to get into good enough shape to accomplish three goals: First, to attain a higher level of fitness; Second, to be in good enough shape that I can maintain that high level of fitness with only a few hours/week (little enough time that I can fit fitness into an extremely busy work schedule after the 7 weeks are up.) And third, to be fit enough that I can exercise without hating it/being exhausted by the end of the workout -- practically speaking, that seems to be the only way am likely to maintain a fitness schedule.

With those goals in mind, I wonder if some sort of fitness boot camp or fitness retreat might be best. I don't know much about them and many appear to be designed for extreme weight loss. However, some googling led me to Camp Technique, which offers an "exercise regimen ... for those individuals who want to ramp up their fitness level in a short amount of time" which sounds like it may be what I'm looking for. Of course, it's not inexpensive; the 6-week version would cost about what I make in 3 months. But, with frugal living between now and March I should be able to fit it into my budget. If a program like this has a realistic chance of setting me on a path to lifetime fitness, it seems worth the price.

So, several questions for y'all. Are my goals realistic for a intensive 7 week period? If so, would a fitness boot camp be the best way to attain them or is there some better/cheaper? (Keep in mind that I have limited knowledge and even more limited willpower so "stay at home and work out until in good shape" is not a realistic suggestion without details on what to do and how to motivate myself to do it.) Finally, if I do go the boot camp route, is Camp Technique a good option or are there any other programs y'all would recommend? Finally, I would appreciate any advice/anecdotes from those with personal experience with that sort of program.

Thanks so much!
-Daniel
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Re: Thoughts on fitness boot camps/retreats

Postby Aiea » Tue Oct 18, 2011 7:19 pm UTC

If I had 7 weeks off work, I'd so try to start hiking the Appalacian and see how far I could get.
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Re: Thoughts on fitness boot camps/retreats

Postby Nath » Tue Oct 18, 2011 10:07 pm UTC

I think your first goals are mostly realistic. Seven weeks is enough time to make a significant change in your fitness level. You can maintain a reasonable level of fitness in three hours a week; I can point you to some programming suggestions if you want. As for the third goal, yes and no. You can certainly learn not to hate exercise, but no matter how fit you are, you will be exhausted after a productive training session. However, you may start to enjoy the feeling of post-training tiredness. Food tastes better, and sleep is absolutely amazing.

Fitness programs that call themselves 'boot camp' strike me as gimmicky, but for motivation, there's something to be said for working out in a group. A cheaper, perhaps more productive option would be to find a good gym and train with a group of people, including some who can coach you. I don't mean the local 24 Hour Fitness or Planet Fitness; I mean something performance-oriented. Since your goal isn't weight loss, a strength sport might be worth considering (Olympic lifting, powerlifting or strongman). These gyms often cost about $100/month (US), plus maybe some coaching fees for new people. A martial art may also be an option, though you will make less progress in 7 weeks, and will have to spend at least four hours a week later on to make continued progress. Judo tends to be the cheapest productive one; as little as $30/month, depending on where you are. For general-purpose fitness, some people enjoy Crossfit, though (a) it's pricey, and (b) a lot of Crossfit gyms suck. But there are ways to tell a good CF gym from a bad one.
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Re: Thoughts on fitness boot camps/retreats

Postby Save Point » Wed Oct 19, 2011 12:05 am UTC

Nath wrote:A cheaper, perhaps more productive option would be to find a good gym and train with a group of people, including some who can coach you.

This, definitely, because it can persist beyond your time off and be phased into your normal work schedule once that picks up. As for boot camps, like Nath, they've always struck me as a bit of a racket, and I'm not sure it would be my first option if one of my goals was to stay intrinsically motivated to workout.
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Re: Thoughts on fitness boot camps/retreats

Postby MogTM » Fri Oct 21, 2011 10:04 pm UTC

I'm open to other ideas, especially if the fitness retreats tend to be a bit gimmicky/a racket. (And, I admit that I've had a bit of difficulty finding third party reviews of such retreats, which is a bit worrisome. Again, I would particularly welcome any comments from those who have first- or second-hand knowledge of any of these establishments.)

On the other hand, those programs do sound pretty intense. If their promotional materials are to be believed at all, they keep you active in various supervised exercises pretty much all day -- I wouldn't begin to know how to do that on my own without hurting myself. And the options at most gyms seem to be more along the lines of "work with a trainer for an hour" or "go to a two hour class;" there doesn't seem to be an option for something more comprehensive. In some ways, I seem to be the perfect target for these retreats -- I have no idea how to effectively train on my own and want to cram as much progress as possible in to a short period of time in which I am totally free. But maybe that makes me a sucker, I don't know.

Do y'all have any links/guides/suggestions on how I could work out that intensely without a)hurting myself or b)burning out in the first week short of a fitness retreat? A lot of the comments on this forum/other sites makes the whole process a bit overwhelming and raises my willingness to pay for a crash course, to be honest.
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Re: Thoughts on fitness boot camps/retreats

Postby Jorpho » Thu Nov 03, 2011 2:16 am UTC

MogTM wrote:Specifically, in the seven weeks I have free I would like to get into good enough shape to accomplish three goals: First, to attain a higher level of fitness; Second, to be in good enough shape that I can maintain that high level of fitness with only a few hours/week (little enough time that I can fit fitness into an extremely busy work schedule after the 7 weeks are up.) And third, to be fit enough that I can exercise without hating it/being exhausted by the end of the workout -- practically speaking, that seems to be the only way am likely to maintain a fitness schedule.
A "higher level of fitness" is kind of ambiguous, but I guess if you're shooting for better endurance such that you do not "find most exercises exhausting and unenjoyable", that's something to shoot for. Maybe it's even something you'll be able to maintain with only a few hours/week; I was thinking that a particularly high level of fitness would require rather more than that. However, I might propose that if you plan to be able to exercise without being exhausted afterwards, you would not be exercising properly.

(Keep in mind that I have limited knowledge and even more limited willpower so "stay at home and work out until in good shape" is not a realistic suggestion without details on what to do and how to motivate myself to do it.)
You kind of lost me there. If you have limited willpower now, do you think you will have sufficient willpower afterwards to make drastic changes to your life in the sense of committing a few hours to fitness out of your busy schedule?


MogTM wrote:And the options at most gyms seem to be more along the lines of "work with a trainer for an hour" or "go to a two hour class;"
Two hours!? That's a really long class, unless it's a martial art of some sort. I suggest group aerobics; usually those last an hour at most, and it can be a pretty intense hour, at that.
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Re: Thoughts on fitness boot camps/retreats

Postby nightbird » Thu Nov 03, 2011 12:31 pm UTC

If I were you, I'd just pick up a sport. Apart from the fact that they may not be the most productive thing to do, most people hate running on a treadmill and doing ab exercises in a public gym; it is BORING. Neither body nor mind were built for highly repetitive actions. My advice would be to take a look at ball games, martial arts or freerunning (if you're into that).

In terms of motivation, I think it's always best to train for performance. "Physical fitness" is a very vague term, too vague to keep you going. But work up to a butterfly kick, a really fast 40-yard-dash or a 250lbs deadlift and the wish to maintain these achievements will make you go to the gym. I really hate public gyms and treadmills because they take the functionality out of athletic ability. If you are able to jump over a fence, do 15 pull ups and make it through a 20-minute sparring session, it means you're in shape - and the way to get there is actually enjoyable.
“Human beings make life so interesting. Do you know, that in a universe so full of wonders, they have managed to invent boredom.”
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Re: Thoughts on fitness boot camps/retreats

Postby Fossa » Tue Nov 08, 2011 1:23 am UTC

I would recommend that you not do it. While I can't speak to the efficacy of the programs you're looking at, I can say that it probably isn't worth the money.

The main benefit for boot camps like that when it comes to weight loss is that they make it very difficult to cheat diets. For building muscle or endurance, you aren't getting anything special while you are getting shafted where it really counts.

My advice? Take that money and spend it on a good personal trainer. Find one with flexible scheduling who will let you do more sessions during the time you have off and regular sessions (1 or 2 60-minute sessions a week) for six months.

A personal trainer will work with you towards your specific goals which is very important since there are a lot of definitions of "fit". They can help you set and meet realistic goals and, more importantly, they can adjust the regimen based on your progress. Most importantly, they'll help you ingrain the workout into part of your regular routine so that you can keep it up (with or without the trainer) for life.

Full disclosure: I'm a personal trainer (ACSM) so I'm biased in my views, but I'd like to think that I'm also well informed on the subject.
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Re: Thoughts on fitness boot camps/retreats

Postby Jorpho » Tue Nov 08, 2011 2:19 am UTC

It had not occurred to me that expensive as personal trainers may often be, you could probably get a goodly number of sessions in with three months' worth of salary. I'm told it can be rough finding a good one, though.
Last edited by Jorpho on Wed Nov 09, 2011 2:07 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Thoughts on fitness boot camps/retreats

Postby Fossa » Wed Nov 09, 2011 8:01 am UTC

Yes, depending on where he lives. The closer he is to a big city the more likely he'll be able to find a great one, particularly if it's a city with a health slant (or at least, appearance of health) like Los Angeles.

But yeah, even a top of the line trainer shouldn't cost you more than $400-600 a month for bi-weekly sessions while most trainers would charge around $200. Way more affordable and like I said, way more beneficial.

The biggest obstacle to making lasting fitness changes is that people tend to look for one-off solutions (camps, retreats, diets, you name it). When they get results they stop and the inevitable happens.

Working with a trainer is the best way I know to make lasting change, to internalize the good habits you learn and to keep them up long term. It takes so little time in the grand scheme of things (two hours a week) and it can make all the difference in the world.
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