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Tiger Toning

Fitness boot camp. Photo by Adele van Wyk

“I keep seeing boot camps being advertised around town and was wondering what exactly they are and if they are meant for me (I’m pretty new to exercise)?” – Beginner Boot Camper

I was going to save this question for the spring because when I think of boot camps, I often think of outdoor group fitness classes. I was pleasantly surprised, however, to learn recently that boot camps are not exclusive to warmer months, and indoor winter options seem to be growing in popularity.

I’m getting ahead of myself though. Let’s start off by talking about what exactly a ‘boot camp’ is. Boot camps have been known as a tool of parents everywhere to threaten misbehaving children with the launch of a premature military career. Luckily for me, my parents called it “bad boy school” so I was spared the emotional scarring associated with the phrase.

Today boot camps have become a very effective fitness tool for every level of exerciser.  They can range in type and come in both outdoor and indoor forms. The first boot camp I did was an outdoor class on Citadel Hill, twice a week at 6 a.m. It sounds awful, but it turned out to be a fantastic way to start my day and I am NOT a morning exerciser.

At the camp I attended there were about 16-20 participants and we essentially spent the hour going through fitness-based relays, obstacle courses and other challenges. Everything had an aspect of fun and, more importantly, the opportunity to tackle the chore at your own fitness level. Nobody was judging you and everyone was very encouraging with each other. At the same time, there was a competitive spirit that allowed everyone to push each other beyond their comfort zone and achieve amazing things.

Indoor boot camps work the same way, often in fitness centres, gymnasiums, community centres, and other similar facilities. Think gym class in school without the judgemental, childish sneering and bullying that may have made the class an unpleasant childhood memory.

So, back to one of my original questions: Why would you ever want to take one of these classes?

Boot camps offer an amazing group spirit and sense of encouragement that is hard to find anywhere else. They are similar to group exercise classes, but with more variety. And, you often have a smaller group that you get to grow and push boundaries with. You can make great new friends and get progressively healthier in the process.

Finding the right boot camp is also important. While many are meant for a variety of fitness levels, some are more geared towards beginners, moderates or advanced exercisers. You need to be sure you are getting into one that will challenge you without causing frustration. If you aren’t sure about a camp, check to see if you can attend one or two classes for free to get a sense of what it’s going to be like.

If you are timid about trying a camp for the first time, find a buddy. It’s a great opportunity to work out with a friend, no matter what your fitness level is. Ladies, if you feel uncomfortable working out in front of men, there are many women’s-only boot camps available.

I’m not going to list any specific camps, but make sure to do your research to find the one that’s right for you. Also, check in with our local gyms, recreational facilities and organizations like the Maritime Heart Centre. While some classes may cost a small fee, if you look hard enough, you can find some that are either free or extremely affordable. Feel free to message me at if you need some help finding the camp that’s right for you.


Send your fitness-related questions to and check back in the Gazette weekly to see if your question gets answered.

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Colin Hebb

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