Friday, October 22, 2004

Boot Camp to Jump-Start Your Training

My journey to triathlon-level fitness began at 6:00 A.M. on 2003's first Monday, as 40 bleary-eyed boot campers (i.e. New Years resolvers run amok) assembled on a basketball court at Lifetime Fitness. We were there for Boot Camp, an amalgam of Navy Seals (think GI Jane without Demi Moore) and high school gym class (without the fat, sweaty, hirsute teacher.)

Why "Boot Camp?" Because if one person is late, the entire class does push-ups or sprints. If one person's knee touches the floor during a push-up drill, the entire class starts the drill over. When doing two speed work reps back-to-back, if the second rep isn't faster than the first, the entire class does a third. You get the picture. There's group accountability and a self-reinforcing work ethic. And some militaristic discipline.

Beginning workouts included everything you probably hated about high school PE: runs, pushups, situps, leg lifts, squat-thrusts and jumping jacks. After several weeks of acclimation the picture grew more challenging: Fartlek runs (sometimes "with gear" i.e. a 10 lb plate that you carried overhead during the walking breaks and at your side during the all-out sprints,) resistance bands, atomic situps, dive bomber pushups, 2-minute wall-sits and Green Beret sprints across the basketball court. Sometimes it was all mixed together in what came to be known as the Friday gauntlet. Each day's workout was a new challenge. Some were strength oriented. Others were aerobic and cardiovascular. A few took place in the pool or on the climbing wall.

Yet, this was not a group of super-athletes. Some struggled to get through the workouts or, in Boot Camp lingo, "complete a mission." Group pressure, though, resulted in something very positive; those bringing up the rear in a run, for example, finished to the cheers of 40 colleagues. Was there self-interest at work here? Sure. The faster the slower runners were, the lower the likelihood of having to do another rep. But ultimately the cheers were for people struggling to overcome their limitations...and succeeding.

All the while we were being tested for improvement: pushups and situps in 60 seconds, flexibility, body fat percentage and distance covered in a 10 minute run. After 6 months of training I finished my first triathlon, saying as I crossed the finish line "Hmph. That wasn't NEARLY as hard as boot camp!" After a year in the program I had completed several tris and seen major improvement in all aspects of my fitness.

Many locations now offer Boot Camp-style programs. If you need motivation, discipline and a jump-start to your training, Boot Camp may be the ticket. You'll be challenged to find out how hard you really can work and, like me, you may be surprised by the answer. Just don't be late.

Oh, and thanks Georgia. It's all your fault!

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