I won’t lie, when I heard I’d be hitting an adventure boot camp class at the crack of dawn on a misty Saturday morning, I got a little shiver. Two words: Boot. Camp. The adventure bit was just there to throw you off, right? Make it sound like a holiday resort activity, right?
What I thought would happen...
What I did know was that I’d be joining a group of women to burn our way through an hour of exercises outside. Yes, on a sports field. Did I mention we’d be doing it with the first sparrows of dawn? And there would be a trainer – would this person be wearing very short shorts and shout at me through a loudspeaker? Single me out as the scared chick at the back and make me pay for my cowardice with solo burpees before a silent staring crowd?
What really went down...
It wasn’t like that. At all. Two words: Community. Encouragement. Instead of a sadistic drill sergeant, there were two super-encouraging trainers (no loudspeakers). Instead of mute soldiers, there was a bunch of women all in it for the same reason: to get fit. And to do it together – because that’s so much easier than sweating alone.
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This variety of boot camp is an hour-long, fun, all-over body-toning experience. You’ll walk out with legs screaming for mercy, arms that ache and a tummy flattened into submission – and you’ll do it with a massive smile on your face because you really worked, but it didn’t feel like work. It felt like a workout.
A typical day at adventure boot camp, according to actual campers
“I was also terrified that I was going to have a drill sergeant yelling at me to give them 100 push-ups,” says Chandre Davids, who decided to test out adventure boot camp for a month and give an honest account of the body benefits. “I thought that it would be hardcore from day 1 and that I’d never be able to keep up.”
The reality? “Well, there was no yelling,” she says. “Instead, the trainer motivates you to do, like, 10 push-ups. We started with the basics during Week 1, so it wasn’t as hardcore as I’d imagined. It got more challenging as the weeks went on, but I was getting stronger, and surprisingly I was able to keep up!” Not only that – she also lost 11cm, dropped a jeans size and went from an XL t-shirt to a large in just 30 days. Whoa.
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Robin-Jade Carolus, a current camper, has been around the adventure boot camp block – and she clearly liked it because she’s signed up again for this year’s Women’s Health #WHGetsFit Winter fitness challenge, a three-month commitment to exercise through the coldest, darkest, bleakest days of winter.
“Every day of the week targets a different body part,” explains Robin. “We start off with a warm-up circuit, which sometimes feels like the real deal already. Then we continue to do three to four circuits of resistance training and high-intensity exercises. The trainer also gives you substitute moves if some are too difficult or you have an injury that restricts you from doing the preferred move.”
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Every week the intensity of the workouts increases. “Week 1 and 2 ease you in, but they’re still challenging. This time round the use of equipment such as kettle bells, medicine balls and weight bags were also incorporated in the workouts [a cool change since her old camp days]. After the initial shock, I was excited about this, as added weight means more muscle built and more fat lost. After the circuits are done, we do a warm-down that includes stretching the body parts mostly used that day,” says Robin.
So no army vibes at all?
And there’s zero judgement. “At adventure boot camp, you don’t have to prove your fitness level or strength to anyone but yourself. The assessments give you an idea of what you’re capable of, what your strengths and weaknesses are, and that gives you a way of measuring a goal. This for no one other than yourself – to track your improvement,” says Robin. Also, no climbing walls, working out in the rain or muddy crawls, quips Chandre.
#Goals: pull-ups/push-ups like a boss
Other than the stretch (obvs), which moves do these two campers rate? “Commandos,” says Robin. “This is not my favourite move. This move is the absolute worst. I don’t know how anyone does more than one. But I’m going to have to get used to it because my goal in (fit)life is to do pull-ups like a boss.”
Commandos work the shoulders, chest and arm muscles all while engaging the core. This move is an all-rounder exercise, targeting the entire upper body – her weakest areas.
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“Weirdly enough, I really liked the push-ups,” says Chandre. “My arms are the area I’m most insecure about. And push-ups are great for toning your arms. When I started boot camp I could barely lift myself off the ground; by the the end of my fourth week, I was doing a full push-up – no knees!”
Truth time: how does your body REALLY feel after a class?
“At the end of class you are so tired! But as soon as the cool-down is done, you feel refreshed and ready to take on the rest of the day/evening,” says Robin. “After day 1, if your body isn’t used to this kind of exercise, it’s really hard to walk, sit or just ‘do life’ – your whole body is in pain. The good kind of pain though. The pain that proves you kicked butt yesterday.”
“You definitely feel like you had a sweaty workout – but you feel amazing!” adds Chandre. “All the endorphins are flowing, you feel like you could take on the world. It’s a great way to start your day.”
I’m thinking it’s about time I hit up another class…
Need some motivation to keep fit through winter? Keen to give it a bash? Check out the Adventure Boot Camp website for details and to sign up – and let them know you heard about them from Women’s Health. You’re welcome.
This article was first published on Women's Health SA.