May 19th, 2008
04:35 PM ET

Surviving fitness boot camp

By Amy Burkholder
CNN Medical producer

I'm sprinting – straining – at maximum capacity, desperate to keep my battalion of determined men and women in sight – knowing one missed step could leave me stranded – and vulnerable to the enemy, in this case are the much faster runners – on a bench in Central Park.    

I'm not on a maneuver, I'm fighting for survival at  Aussie Boot Camp, a program promising to target my "problem areas" through lamp post sprints, lunges, stairs, tricep dips and push-ups – and deliver a better body – in time for the Hamptons.

"At Aussie Boot Camp, you'll get physical fitness results, improve your breathing, and your lifestyle, " promises Luke Milton, the 6 foot 2, blond, professional rugby player and personal trainer who conducts 'Aussie Boot Camp' in New York's Central Park.  (Luke has memorized everyones' names and intuits how much encouragement they need in moments – and I secretly begin believing, if you can't put out for Luke, who can motivate you?) 

"Boot camp" is a marketing catchall – there are bikini boot camps, bridal boot camps – and exercise experts point to these fitness, military-style boot camps as one of the fastest growing fitness trends in the country.  Many run an hour a day, $20 bucks or much more an hour – four or five days a week for six weeks – the duration of real military boot camp. But while the U.S.  Army promises "no bull, no bias, no pressure," and to "transform you physically, mentally and emotionally" – many fitness boot camps promise a 5 percent reduction in body fat, a 1o to 15 pound weight loss, a 25 percent improvement in strength – oh, and that beach body. 

Can fitness boot camp really do all that – and transform you in a matter of weeks? Yes, says Dr. William Roberts, former president of the American College of Sports Medicine – but it's going to hurt a little.  "You can get in pretty good shape in four to six weeks," says Roberts, who holds out the military as an example -it expects its recruits to be whipped into shape in a very short amount of time. With the consistent, sustained exercise the boot camp promises, you can also expect to lose weight – you may not go from 190 to 165, but a 5- to 10-pound weight loss may be realistic. 

One key, says Dr. Roberts, is to get checked out and train before you start boot camp. Even the military asks new recruits to prepare physically before they arrive.  Going from zero to a boot camp workout can increase your risk not only for serious cardiac events and muscle strain, but it may also leave you sore and discouraged for the next session – and more likely to quit.

Dr. Roberts said think of enlisting in a fitness boot camp as you would preparing for a marathon – you need a beating heart, a tested heart, a trained heart – and – a lot of heart.   Aussie Milton echoes that heart business – he says as important as the lamppost  sprints is the sense of belonging. "I don't want to be an army drill sergeant, but I want people get in shape and feel like a part of a team. " Milton continues, "This feeling of being a part of a team builds consistency in your lifestyle, makes you more likely to show up – and to work harder for that team. "

But what about taking one for the team – in the form of burning thighs and arms so exhausted you can barely raise them? As a boot camp participant – I guarantee you will be "feeling the burn," but exercise experts disagree whether that really does a body any good. High-intensity training may help the body create proteins that help the body use lactic acid to create energy, but an hour of sustained high-intensity exercise doesn't do as much good as interval training – a workout with exercise highs,  and rest periods that can  improve cardiovascular health, and burn fat.

What do you think of fitness boot camps – have you tried one? Did you get a bikini body, or burn out?  

We'd love to hear from you.

Editor’s Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.

Filed under: Exercise • Fitness • Weight loss

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soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. Stephanie

    I am currently working out, running MWF and doing basic strength exercises Tues/Thurs/Sat. For some reason, I have days when I can run just over a mile without stopping, and other days when I have to stop and walk 2-3 times within that mile. Some days when I finish, I'm a little shaky, other days I feel more normal. Sleep, if I don't get enough, can really ruin my workout in the mornings, so I make sure to go to bed early the night before.

    May 19, 2008 at 17:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Mekia

    I am in the fourth week of a woman only boot camp in Honolulu. I only do three days a week, while most of the other women do five days a week. I must admit that I am already in pretty good shape to begin with, however, being very competitive by nature, I find myself pushing even harder. I think I might have lost a pound, but I find myself with a lot more energy throughout the day, and toner muscles.

    The class started out with about 22 people, and now I believe it is down to about 18. I think if some women start out doing 5 days a week, it might be too much and they will find themselves sore for a while. They should start with just 3 days a week, and build their way up to five.

    I have already signed up for another session because I like getting my workout finished early in the morning (5:30-6:30). If you have the right attitude boot camp can be awesome!! I also made a running parter. I plan to do this up until September!!!!

    May 19, 2008 at 19:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Gavin Manley

    I actually did Luke's class tonight in Central Park – I'm out of shape and just gave up smoking (yesterday). Boot camps are much less scary than the sound and an excellent way to get your body moving again after prolonged periods of inactivity...it's a huge help to have the positive motivation of a professional rugby player who's a walking advertisement for fitness and vitality.

    All in all a great experience – I will be going back and as Luke says "what a great way to start off your week!"

    May 19, 2008 at 21:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Jeff Thompson

    I disagree with part of the article – especially the part about having to already be in shape – not all camps are the same, or follow a strict military theme. For example, Operation Boot Camp caters to all fitness levels, you don't have to be in super shape to start - like some camps that say they are 'Hard Core.'

    May 20, 2008 at 11:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. JoJo

    I have been involved in Operation Boot Camp in Atlanta and have loved it-even when it was hard and I didn't think I could squeeze out even one more sprint! It has changed my body – booty is higher, deltoids are defined and LOVE the definition of my abs. I did have some aches and pains when I first started but found that a lot of it was just part of getting back into shape after being sedentary AND using proper equipment (new shoes!) helped immensely.

    May 20, 2008 at 11:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Robin

    I did my first bootcamp in January of this year at Candler Park in Atlanta through Operation Bootcamp. I had always been pretty active with running, going to the gym and pilates. But I was getting really tired of my old workout routine and felt like it wasn't challenging me. So I signed up for bootcamp to force myself to break my rut and do something outside the box.
    It was challenging, difficult at times but everything I was looking for and more. There was a new workout everyday so I never got bored. It pushed me out of my comfort zone and made me do things I didnt think I could do.
    I saw results first after two weeks but most notably at a month. My clothes fit better and was more toned. But even better, I noticed that I was getting fitter- faster, stronger and more endurance.
    Since January I have continued with bootcamp. I was always a middle of the pack type of person. Not one of the really fast runners that are always at the front of the pack. But over the past months I have gradually moved my way up the pack. I am still not the fastest, the strongest or the fittest. But I am getting closer and soon enough it will be me breathing down their necks.

    May 20, 2008 at 12:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Kent

    I am in second week of Aussie Luke's boot camp and loving it. I normally work out several times a week but my gym membership expired and i found out about his camp in central park and the $20 price is nice. Its a small enough group to encourage each other but Lukes the boss and his non-ego, regular guy/rugby player approach keeps you coming back for more. Its also about mentally staying focused for that 45 minutes to hour and getting the most from the workout. The bootcamp has made me more productive at work. My mental focus has a longer span and i am more enthusiastic. I am in sales and occasionally there are objections and setbacks but this morning i finished Aussie boot camp so i can sell anything. Becuase Luke played rugby and won at the highest levels (equivalent to playing in the NFL) in Southern Hemisphere his motivating techniques are authentic and command respect.

    May 21, 2008 at 16:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. aman

    Prior to my wedding, i joined stacys bootcamp, and it worked wonders! she really knows how to motivate her students without going overboard. There were times that I could barely walk the next day, but it felt great-in a weird way-and my fitness endurance and strength have progressed amazingly! To add to it all, central park is a gorgeous place, so you don't feel that boring gym-type atmosphere. SO Kudos to bootcamps!

    May 21, 2008 at 18:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. EJ

    I would never put myself through such torture.

    The treadmill, in front of the tv, when AC360 is on is as far as I will go.

    May 24, 2008 at 23:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Kerry

    I am currently involved with Aussie Bootcamp in Central Park, I am so excited to be a part of such a well run fitness group. I feel that there are a lot of ego's in the 'health and fitness' industry, but Luke is educated and has lived his adult life as an international professional athlete. I have met some great people and a couple of close friends through Aussie Bootcamp, and in this city that is definately welcome. All in all, Aussie Bootcamp is a great all round program, and I strongly recommend it to anyone looking to get in shape and have some fun.

    May 29, 2008 at 09:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Phillip D Lacey

    Health & Fitness Vacation Retreats for Women!

    Hey....look what I found....check out the Grand Opening of Cabo Bikini Boot Camp and Napa Valley Yoga Retreats. Both of their Yoga Boot Camps provide Top-Notch Health and Fitness Training with "Cabo Style" and "Napa Style" Fun for Women! Ladies can enjoy both of these unique experiences of yoga, health, fitness, peace, harmony, and a little fun in two diverse beautiful geographical locations. their websites are http://www.CaboBikiniBootCamp.com & http://www.NapaValleyYogaRetreats.com

    July 19, 2008 at 18:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Avery Tuten owner Ultimate Fitness Boot Camp

    This is a great article, I'll have to get all my clients at Ultimate Fitness Boot Camp and NOLA Beach Bodies to read this one.

    May 6, 2009 at 23:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. daniel

    i need help. i'm 235 pounds and supposed to be 175. Ive been over weight my whole life. I've looked better but never good and now im 37 and i feel like i spiraling out of conttrol.
    I eat to feel better about my life. I can't quit.
    please help me.
    Thank you

    June 15, 2010 at 04:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Anete Hakkinen

    Nice article. When will I get the additional info?

    Anete Hakkinen
    independent escort warsaw

    December 2, 2010 at 17:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Laura King

    Great article and thanks for the reminder to get checked out before you go to a fitness bootcamp. While we need to get healthy we sometimes need to introduce our body into an exercise regime gently especially if we have tended to be a couch potato! Will send some of our readers at http://www.fitnessbootcampguide.com to this page. Thanks again

    ps could you ask Luke does he fancy a trip to London lol

    August 8, 2011 at 12:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Dan Clay of Dangerously Fit Boot Camp

    If you're just looking to join a fitness boot camp for a quick fix or if you're not committed to getting into shape... then boot camp program isn't for you... it is only for action takers.

    But if you're committed to having the kind of body you deserve... and living the kind of life you KNOW you deserve deep down inside... then fitness boot camp is willing to help you get there as FAST as possible.

    Anyhow, this is a great article! will let our readers at http://www.bootcampsydney.com.au to this page. Thanks much!

    February 6, 2013 at 02:55 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.