Why you should try to find one, and how to find the right one for you!
Running fitness bootcamps in the UK for the last few years has been a lesson in seasonal workout preferences. There are the committed all-weather exercisers, and then what we affectionately label 'fair weather' exercisers, people who opt for indoor workouts during winter. So there’s usually a boom in new member registrations over the spring and summer months, followed by a seasonal drop off over the winter, beginning in late October/early November.
2020 however turned this pattern on its head. By the end of October, no one had dropped off! All the new people who joined during the summer lockdown have kept their bookings till December and even January 2021. I’ve actually had to add 5 extra classes to accommodate everyone - it’s unprecedented! Experts predict that this trend will keep going strong this winter and into the near future.
But of course, 2020 was an unprecedented year. The Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent social distancing restrictions have driven people to exercise outdoors both by necessity – during lockdowns – and out of concerns for safety, versus exercising indoors in gyms. On-demand fitness apps and video services are also booming but most involve exercising at home, and with the work from home revolution almost trapping millions in their homes, getting out of the house is a big plus for bootcamps. Less fortunate upward trends of 2020 include increased anxiety, depression and social isolation; all three can be reduced with the double benefits of exercising outdoors and exercising with a group. Fresh air, sunlight, exercise and interacting with others (with distancing measures, of course!) are like super vitamins for mental and physical wellbeing. Additionally, exercising outdoors in the cold has metabolic advantages, including causing your body to burn more calories than in warmer weather – so all the fair weather outdoor exercisers are really missing out!
So if you’re wanting to get more active, social, gain exposure to essential winter sunlight and have effective and fun workouts to boot, how do you go about finding an outdoor bootcamp? And particularly, one that’s perfect for you? Here are five tips to help.
1. Search for bootcamps in your neighbourhood
It’s important to find a bootcamp that’s in your locality and naturally, a good place to start your search is online with ‘bootcamp X’ where X is your local area or local park/s. Local store noticeboards, community groups and platforms like the Nextdoor App are great for getting recommendations, but perhaps the best way is to walk through your local greenspaces at the times of day you’d like to work out, and see what groups are out there to choose from. Just be sure to focus on finding bootcamps that are close enough to where you live so that getting to the bootcamp venue won’t become a hurdle on cold dark winter mornings and evenings!
2. Find out who the trainer is
Once you’ve found an option that meets the proximity criteria, the next thing you should do is visit the class and if possible, take part in a trial session. This might be free or paid but will give you a chance to find out who the trainer is, their background and their training style. Are they fun to train with? Do they make you feel welcome and important? Do they give you great coaching cues? If you have reservations on any of these points, then that bootcamp may not be right for you. Don’t pay for a large block of classes upfront without having had a try first.
3. Find out the bootcamp class sizes
There will be counter arguments to this of course but based on my years of participating and coaching fitness classes, I’d strongly recommend avoiding very large exercise groups. There is a financial scale to consider of course – very small groups (say 4-6 max participants) tend to be more expensive, while larger groups cheaper. However once numbers are rising over 15 people, the level of direct interaction between you, the instructor and other members will drop. The instructor will instruct more to the group than to individuals. This is normal in indoor group exercise, where the instructor may not know everyone’s names, is delivering a workout to a large group, and you yourself may not know anyone’s name or speak to anyone at all! But bootcamp is more than a workout, it’s a community. The instructor should know and use everyone’s name multiple times in the class and you should get to know everyone else in the group. That increased social aspect and interaction is key to the enjoyment of a community bootcamp.
4. Check for good vibes!
What’s the group vibe? Do you feel comfortable with the other people in the bootcamp? Are they your tribe? Are you comfortable with the intensity of the workouts? Good vibes matter because you need to be in the right frame of mind to have a good physical workout. So, feeling that something’s off (even if you can’t put a finger on it) is a good enough reason to go looking for alternatives.
There’s a huge variation in bootcamp vibes. Some bootcamps are very formal and strict, some are more relaxed and free flowing. British Military Fitness operates in the same park as my group, but it doesn’t matter because we couldn’t be more different. We’re not really in competition with each other because anyone who wants to be beasted, yelled at and will be motivated by being badged according to their fitness level isn’t going to like my classes; conversely, those who want to be trained on a level playing field with more coaxing and chat is going to be at home in my group. Both are excellent, valid and effective approaches, but they will tend to suit completely different people. Variety is a wonderful thing, so don’t be afraid to shop around, because the first group you try may not be the one for you, and that’s ok.
5. Evaluate the training grounds
Where does the bootcamp train in winter? Are you going to be in a muddy field, or does the group move to a more suitable surface? Are you allowed to bring a mat? Aside from getting splattered shoes and clothing, a lot of bodyweight exercises become unsafe on muddy ground. A group that works out in mud is either going to put you in the mud, or if you’re allowed to bring a mat, you’ll be needing to wash it after every class. What surface will you be putting your hands on? Mud, or concrete, or a mat? Muddy gloves become cold wet gloves which lead to cold wet fingers! A group working out in mud may skip doing ground work – exercises that put your hands or body on the ground, which is the majority of bodyweight upper body and core work – completely, which excludes vital workout components. Look for a group that either trains on a solid surface for the winter or uses multiple surfaces, like running on grass but doing upper body and core work on say a paved area, on your own mat.
Exercising outdoors during winter is quite the experience! You get to feel your body’s internal heat fight back the chill of winter as the cold air becomes no more than a pleasant pinch against your skin. Outdoor winter exercise is way more interesting when you’re guided by a fitness expert and in the company of fitness-minded people. I enjoy team workouts on a different level than solitary exercises and I love seeing members of my bootcamp become friends and accountability partners, helping each other stay committed to reaching fitness goals.
It’s not too late to find an outdoor winter bootcamp that’s right for you. Just be sure to do proper research and when you’ve found a bootcamp you like, go for it. You’ll be glad you did!
Oh and if you’re worried about the weather, remember the old adage ‘there’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing’. I’ve got you covered with my list of 5 essentials for your winter wardrobe.
I really hope you enjoyed reading this, please feel free to contact me for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org
Finally, in addition to bootcamp, if you’re also looking for an at-home workout app that’s super fun, check out my audio fitness adventure Apocalypse Survival Training. You can try Episode 1 for FREE!