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Fitness boot camps offer what gyms cannot

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Instructors shuffle exercises between cardio and muscle building, and participants foster camaraderie not found in gyms.

January 04, 2010|By Jeannine Stein >>>

Kerwin learned not to do this the hard way -- he served in the Air Force special ops for four years and tried the angry drill instructor persona when he first started teaching boot camp. He quickly realized that wasn't going over well. "The average person doesn't want to get yelled at," he says. He does, however, have clients who address him as "Major," and he sometimes makes them run while singing the cadences he learned in the military.

Old dogs, new tricks

Boot camps have become such an indelible part of the fitness culture, having proved their get-you-into-shape-fast effectiveness over the last decade or so, they've spawned a host of variations. Beach boot camps take advantage of the sand and water; bridal boot camps help brides fit into their gowns. Some are geared toward women, children or seniors, and others are sports-specific. Each location and instructor brings a different environment or atmosphere.

At Thank Dog Bootcamp, people work out with their dogs, which not only get exercise but behavior training as well. "You're not only doing it for you, you're also doing it for your dog," says Jamie Bowers, who co-founded the Burbank-based program with her twin sister last year (classes are also held in Long Beach, Orange County and Northern California). "It also gets everything done in one hour. Everyone's busy, and people don't want to work all day and come home and train their dogs."

Dogs and humans have separate trainers and go through an initial consultation before the first class. Dogs may practice following the "stay" command while their owners do some weight training, and both get some cardio workouts on the grass.

Finding a suitable boot camp may take a few tries -- the setting may feel uncomfortable or the instructor might not be a good fit. If you'd really rather slug the instructor or if you're bored by him or her, the class won't do much good. Although instructors should do a health screening for new students, participants themselves should be up front about any injuries or chronic conditions.

Bryant says boot camp is not something to be entered into lightly -- preparation is key. "Make sure you get adequate rest and that you get adequate nutrition -- those things are going to impact how enjoyable the actual workout is going to be."

He adds that über-competitive former athlete types may need to check their egos at the door. "They need to be man or woman enough to back off and not attempt to keep up with everyone. Maybe you don't do every exercise that everyone else is doing, and you can't be so prideful that you say, 'I'm going to do it even if it kills me.' "

"That you continue to show up and enjoy it is half the battle," Jay says. "It's hard, yes, but people are having a great time."

jeannine.stein@latimes.com

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