Outdoor Bootcamps and Training vs Gym Experience

Women at a fitness bootcamp providing group training

outdoor I keep hearing about outdoor bootcamps in parks across the country and wanted to find out why exercising in a group would be preferable to working out in the gym. A boot camp is a type of physical training program for groups led by personal trainers and former military personnel. To find out more, I asked Jackie, the owner of Functional Fitness based in Dover in Kent, “What is boot camp fitness?”

“I have been asked to write a small piece on outdoor bootcamps and being active outdoors and how this differs from training within a Gym environment.

Jackie personla trainer at functional fitnessI am a Personal Trainer, Master Kettlebell Instructor, an Advanced Bootcamp Instructor and Nutrition and Weight Loss Advisor.

I haven’t always done this. I was extremely sporty throughout my childhood and at 17 years of age joined the Women’s Royal Naval Service. This is where I discovered the joys and the side effects of alcohol and I also discovered that disgusting nicotine addiction which stayed with me until I was in my 40s. I did however represent the WRNS in athletics and RMSM Deal in cross country and my quirky style of dancing at the local bops was rather energetic to say the least so my fitness levels remained quite high.

I then left the Navy and became a civilian for a few years before joining Kent Police at the grand old age of 26. Was I fit? Nope!! Did I need to get fit? Oh yes!! I headed off to the local gym, had a look around and promptly walked out. I then joined a group circuit class and before I knew it, I was being handed my truncheon that was just the right size to fit into my Police Issue handbag, a set of handcuffs and an ill-fitting uniform.

I was sent off to training school where fitness wasn’t a choice. We were heading into a job where chasing baddies on foot was going to happen whether we liked it or not and there is nothing worse than seeing a copper catch someone and proceed to puke over the ne’er do well or even worse, being out run by a shoplifter laden down with a whole weeks worth of goodies. Oh and not to mention the shift work diet of curry at 3am, or grabbing a chocolate bar when nothing else was available, the stress levels through the roof, the night shifts, the out of sync body clock, the unsociable hours to name but a few. The only thing that did keep me going was my fitness and love of training.

Becoming a Personal Trainer

In 2007 I hired a Personal trainer for the first time ever and that’s when I decided I wanted the knowledge and the skills to help others get fit and healthy too.

So here I am now, 9 years on. I have taken early retirement from the Police and I run my own business doing outdoor Bootcamps and Personal Training.

When I first entered the Personal training arena, the emphasis was on getting fit in a gym environment using machines and weights to build and tone muscle and cardio machines to improve cardiovascular and aerobic stamina.

Using the Outdoor Environment for Fitness

To me, the body is already a machine and therefore does not necessarily need more machines to make it work better or more efficiently. Did our cave man ancestors have machines to help them chase after their food? So, I removed myself from the gym environment and started experimenting with training outdoors using anything I could find to help me in my quest to get fit and lean.

If I saw a bench (preferably with no one sitting on it), I would do some step ups or tricep dips or elevated push ups. If I saw a set of steps, I would hop, jump or sprint up them. If I saw railings, I would throw out sets of inverted rows or close hand pullups. If I saw lamp posts, that would be my fartlek training done for the day. The great outdoors literally became my gym without having to listen to the grunts and screams of guys and girls doing their free-weight thing. I also didn’t have to wipe off someone else’s sweat from any apparatus I wanted to use and I certainly didn’t have to wait to use a bench or a weight whilst someone finished texting. – yes!! Mobile phones had been invented by then.

I became in tune with my body and its ability to balance itself, my motor skills were being utilised at all times, I wasn’t relying on a machine to fix my body into the correct position. It was my core, my posterior chain, the way I held myself.

My love of functional fitness was born.

In time, not only did I acquire an awesome tan, freckles and a truck load of natural Vitamin D, I acquired a lean and toned physique with a fitness and stamina level to die for. The greatest thing about it as well? It’s absolutely FREE!!

What do Outdoor Boot Camps Entail?

Boot camps with a personal trainerMy bootcamps do exactly the same thing. I use bodyweight exercises ensuring a whole body approach is achieved. I concentrate on quality as opposed to quantity. Good form is vital as well as control, balance and co-ordination. The outdoor bootcamps consist of functional fitness training based on military style workouts using functional movements performed at high intensity. For example: Press-ups, burpees, squats, lunges, jumping, skipping, planks. The list is endless. I use tyres, boxing, kettlebells, sandbags, bands, medicine balls, slam balls, battle ropes, steps, running tracks and of course, everything nature has to offer fields, hills, the beach, muddy banks.

What can you expect to get out of one of my bootcamps? Well it does all depend on how hard you work and the effort you are willing to put in. At Functional Fitness Bootcamps, be prepared to experience fat loss, muscular growth and endurance, definition, stamina and speed.

Yes it is hard work but outdoor bootcamps are a lot of fun. You become part of a team, a group with the same goals, a great group who always encourage each other and motivate each other.

Gyms on the other hand can be solitary training environments where your motivation depends on your mindset or whether you have an awesome training partner to spot you and encourage you.

Don’t get me wrong, I love gyms but I know what I am doing and I know the importance of goal setting and a training plan. I see people enter gyms and not know where to start or they get so disheartened so quickly, or they are intimidated by the guys with the muscles in the free-weight section or they get given a programme by the in house PT and are expected to get on with it. I’ve returned to gyms after a year of only doing outdoor training to see the same people doing the same workout and their fitness or body shape hasn’t changed one iota.. How de-motivating is that!!

Luckily I found an awesome gym. A big shout out to www.doverweightsroom.co.uk . A gym where people are friendly, focused and always willing to help out if they see someone struggling. I’ve trained in there on my own, with a PT, with pals and even with total strangers.

Outdoor exercise will always be my preferred choice of training. It is so versatile. It is free. It is convenient. It changes every time. I always carry around a kettlebell in my car just in case I feel the need for a 20 minute training session. Everywhere I go, I eye up my surroundings and see the opportunity for a work out. Hey, even childrens playgrounds hold a multitude of training opportunities.. Remember monkey bars? (great for upper body) Remember see saws? (great for squatting). Just don’t start shoving children out of their playground because you get the urge to do leg raises and hang off the steps to the slide.

Get a timer app on your phone. I have a boxing app which allows me to do times rounds with rest periods in between. Plus I love the ding ding sound it makes when the round has been completed. I set myself up a little circuit of lunges, squats, press ups etc and set my timer to 30 seconds on each station with 10 seconds rest in between and do that about 4 times or however many times I feel like.

The world and your surroundings are literally your own gym.

Since my clients have started to train outdoors with me and have experienced outdoor bootcamps, none of them want to train indoors again.

So my outdoor activity readers. Put on your Under Armour sportswear, grab your personalised water bottle and join an outdoor boot camp. The choice is yours as to whether you choose a gym or an outdoor activity but always remember one thing:


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