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In Praise of Boot Camp

By Brenda Kayzar, YWCA Fitness Member
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Days before my 55th birthday this year, a New York Times article reported intense exercise provides the best results for aging muscles. It occurred to me that my eight-year boot camp obsession might not be a problem after all! Those intense workouts several times a week are enabling muscle repair and boosting muscle energy at the cellular level, and quite possibly undoing some of the detriment of aging. 

The Winding Road to Fitness

For me, being on the right path to fitness was at first unintentional.

Female athleticism was neither envisioned nor encouraged in my youth. Brief forays into sports were unsupported, and instead I learned weight control was my demonstration of health as a young woman; necessitating fad diet and weight loss acumen.

In my twenties I experimented with exercise, but my inconsistent and unskilled engagements with running and aerobic classes were primarily aimed at weight loss efforts as opposed to healthy lifestyle choices.

Finding the Right Balance of Strength and Weight Training

In my thirties, however, I went “all in” with a friend and hired a personal trainer. She was a gift, teaching us the meaning of health while we learned proper weight training and strength building techniques. My body realized its power while transforming into a healthy, stable weight and size.  Although I struggled with consistency in the wake of other ‘life’ demands, this was me into my 40s.

A New Gym and New Class, Boot Camp!

When I moved to Minneapolis I joined YWCA Minneapolis. With relocation and work stress (and a little weight gain) I found myself in an inconsistent strength training routine and felt the pull of the old unhealthy intonations about weight control. A YWCA Downtown staff member told me about boot camp classes. I’m not sure what I thought I was in for, but I signed up for a 6-week session in the hope of losing weight.

Sweat, Adventure and Fun

All misguided intentions aside, what I found was amazing. Since I failed to actually die in that first class, I returned week-after-week. I returned because the instructor, who took us through our paces in tough workouts, was knowledgeable, incredibly adept at teaching members of differing skill levels, kind and encouraging. He was also fully capable of making this sweaty grueling adventure, fun. And I returned to be in the company of a host of strangers – soon comrades, all of us with varied ‘athletic pasts’ and current intentions.

Boot Camp, Eight Years Later

We showed up, Tim presented another crazy workout scheme (and later, Andrew), and we all fell in to do bear crawls, push-ups, lunges and encouragement. I want to emphasize the encouragement part. There are many reasons I’ve been showing up for boot camp for the last eight years.

  • I love the focus on strength training interspersed with bursts of cardio.
  • I love that my workout is planned for me.
  • I love that this means I will work out harder and have much more variety in my routine than I would if I were in charge of my own workout design.

But mostly, I love that I am working out with a group of people, diverse in our backgrounds and intentions, yet engaged in our encouragement of each other.

Remaining Strong in Boot Camp

All these years later I still sometimes get ‘butterfly tummy’ in advance of class. I know it will be hard. I know I will be challenged. But I also know I will perform to the best of my ability and in an hour, appreciate that I did this boot camp class for the benefit of my health, and for the comradery. It’s nice to learn that studies support what I inherently knew. My intense workouts will help me remain healthy as I age. So, I remain strong in praise of boot camp.

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