Creative outdoor exercises for bootcamp fitness program?
February 14, 2008 11:51 AM   Subscribe

Been to any good fitness bootcamps recently?

Long story made short. I have a chance to substitute for one of those outdoor bootcamp-like workout franchises. I've been to a few and I'm familiar with the drill (run, 20 pushups, run, 20 squats, run, 20 dips, etc). I'd like to make this particular camp more exciting but I'm not especially creative. I'm looking for suggestions regarding what others who have participated in one of these programs have done and liked (and thought was difficult) or from people who exercise outdoors and have come up with creative means of getting a strenuous workout. All participants in this particular outdoor bootcamp have 8 or 10 lb dumbbells and there are plenty of places to make them run, a stone "wall" tall enough and long enough for everyone to use for step-ups, dips, etc., a long tennis court and basketball court for suicides, and a short paved hill. I've looked on YouTube for videos but they are primarily promotional as opposed to instructional. So... any recommendations from you fitness buffs out there?
posted by notcomputersavvy06 to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I've run a free twice-weekly boot camp in New York's East River Park for the last 5 summers. I'd be happy to give you a full menu of tortuous workouts (email's in profile), but the one thing that I think is the most important is to always keep moving. Oftentimes, the total lack of rest is far more important to the overall experience than the individual exercises that we're doing.

Other than that, some of my participants' most hated exercises included:

- Indian Runs: all participants run in single file at a medium pace; the person at the end of the line must sprint to the front.

- Bows and Toes: lying face down on the ground, prop your body up on your elbows and toes, with your back forming a straight line from your shoulders to your heels. Maintain this position until somebody faints.

- 21 Down: Do 21 pushups, then 21 crunches. Then 20 pushups, 20 crunches. Continue to count down to 1 and 1. NO REST in between sets.

- Dead Bugs: Each participant lies flat on her back, with her arms and legs sticking straight up in the air (like a dead bug). An arm/leg combination is called out (i.e., "right arm, left leg") and participants must lower the indicated appendages down to a 45 degree angle to the ground, without bending elbows/knees, all the while keeping their other appendages sticking up in the air. Each pose is held for 15 seconds, followed by 2 seconds rest. Our typical pattern is RA/RL, LA/LL, LA/RL, RA/LL, Both arms/RL, Both arms/LL, Both arms/Both legs.

I've got a million more of these. Feel free to email me.
posted by saladin at 12:09 PM on February 14, 2008

Some stuff I've done at judo:

- Get your partner on your back (piggyback) and run to the middle of gym or field, do 10 squats (with the partner still on the back), piggyback the partner the rest of the way to the other end of the field.

- Same thing, but with the fireman's carry.

- Same thing, but with the "baby carry" or "bride over the threshhold" carry. These are rough (grooms are tough, I guess!), so no squats. Although, you could toss 'em in if you really want to make it brutal.

- Squat jumps all the way down the field.

- One person crouches down, like he's ducking and covering. The other person leans on him or her, chest touching his back, arms out to the side, toes on the ground. The chest should be the only point of contact. For one minute, the top partner rotates on his chest, moving himself with his feet, and keeping his arms in the air. Then, the partners switch.

- We sometimes do burpee-throw circuits, but you can substitute a pull-up on the wall for a throw. Do a burpee, and as soon as you jump up, grab the wall and do a pull-up.
posted by ignignokt at 12:26 PM on February 14, 2008

If you're handy, you can make your regimen really interesting with cheap, DIY type stuff.

- If you have the time to fill some plastic and canvas bags with sand, sandbag training is one of the most fun/creative/renegade/DIY ways to really get a good workout.
--throws (just like it sounds, up, forward, behind you..)
--relay races/circuits
--overhead presses
--anything you can thing of.

Ideal weight for your beginners will probably be about 30-50lbs.

- Also, buy a cheapo sled from Sears, tie two ropes to it (one for each hand), and then load it up with sandbags/weight plates and have them drag it through the grass, and up and down hills in a park or something.

Other ideas to keep in mind:
- Tons of freakin BURPEES! Burpees are about a billion times better than bodyweight squats, for every reason. Have your guys squat, ass-to-ankles, and then have them jump as high as they can. Then they land (in the pushup position, or moving to the pushup position afterwards) and do a pushup. Depending on the fitness of your ... "boots"? you should consider comprising roughly half of the bodyweight exercise of just squat jump and burpee sets. Firing the whole posterior chain is one of the best things you can do for general fitness.
- Buy a secondhand barbell and plates and have them do basic compound lifts as part of the circuit.
posted by crunch buttsteak at 12:27 PM on February 14, 2008

Seconding Burpees. Man I hate those.

Can you get some jumpropes and do some double-unders? (Rope comes under twice in a single jump.)
posted by tiburon at 2:12 PM on February 14, 2008

I did bootcamp all last summer and fall. We did bunches of relays which I enjoyed because they broke up the monotony of just doing the same exercises and running over and over.

Most of them involved various exercises written on tennis balls (the dreaded burpee, mountain climbers, etc.) and placed around the venue. So say we did it on a tennis court: we'd have everyone have a base exercise (jumping jacks usually) that they would do and keep doing then one person would run down to the other end of the courts and pick up a tennis ball to bring back, we'd then switch to doing whatever exercise was on the ball while the next person ran down, etc. The rule was that you had to pick the first ball you touched and you couldn't read them. We'd eventually make it through all of the balls but it meant you couldn't send a big sprinter to get the worst ball and shorten the time everyone did that exercise. Sometimes we'd break into groups to do this and compete over which group could get through all the balls the fastest.

Sometimes the balls would be spaced out around the park and you ran between them doing X number of whatever was on the balls.

As the least fit person in the camp, I always liked these group things better than one-on-one or partner exercises because I wouldn't really be slowing down anyone too much or singled out as being the farthest behind. But I would still be pushed to keep up by the group's pace while maxing out my own efforts and feeling part of the team.
posted by marylynn at 2:46 PM on February 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

I am doing boot camp at the moment, and I really love our program because it's not competitive- I hate to feel like I let people down because I am unfit and unco-ordinated so I tend to avoid teamwork.

We do have one rule that if someone says they can't do something, the whole group has to run ten laps, which sucks. So it's a good motivator to stay positive.

We also do a relay where we all run in single file, and the person at the head of the line has a medicine ball which they carry for a set distance, then pass over their head to the person behind, and so on, until the person last in line has it, and they have to run to the front of the line to start the chain again. We do that until everyone has been at the front of the line, and it is killer. But it does build camaraderie!
posted by indienial at 3:46 PM on February 14, 2008

Thanks everyone! You've got me thinking more creatively for sure. As people have mentioned, I love/hate burpees as well. I also love any kind of suicide/shuttle run type of exercise.

Saladin, thanks once again. You've got great ideas.

Ignigkot, I love your ideas! Unfortunately, I must instruct within the confines of the established program and apparently, they've gotten feedback that people don't want to touch each other. Whatever.

Crunch, the sandbag idea is great. They'd hate it (which is good)!

Marylynn, how many tennis balls would there usually be and how far would you have to sprint to pick one up? Were there a lot of people in your class?

Indienial, how long would you each have to run with the medicine ball, how long total would you usually run, and how many people would be in the line?

posted by notcomputersavvy06 at 4:27 PM on February 14, 2008

Just for the record:

The idea that someone, somewhere, is making poor defenseless human being do motherfucking INDIAN RUNNING makes me want to cry.

In all my childhood I was never given a physical task to do that so thoroughly destroyed my ass.

(Which is why it's probably great for what you're doing. But fuck you for even considering ruining those people's hearts and souls with your 'health' nonsense!!!!!!!!)

That is all. :)
posted by waxbanks at 5:41 PM on February 14, 2008

Usually each person in the line has the ball for about 10-15 seconds, just long enough to take it from the person in front of them and pass it over their heads to the person behind. It only takes that long because you're running at the same time so some co-ordination is required. If you're at the end of the line and have to take the ball back up to the front, it can be anywhere from 20-30 seconds up to a minute or so, depending on how many people in the line.

This works better with more people (around 10-15) but I've done it with as few as 4 and as many as 18. We usually did it for around ten minutes, and it depends on how many people in the group as to how many 'rounds' that will be.

It's a good workout because you have to be somewhat co-ordinated, carrying and lifting the medicine ball is good for abs and upper body, you have to pace yourself to the group to get hold of the ball and pass it on, but you also then have to sprint- with the ball- to get ahead of the group, if you're on the end of the line. Much, much more fun than ordinary laps, and less competitive than running.
posted by indienial at 8:31 PM on February 14, 2008

The class sizes varied from a low of about 10 to a high of nearly 30. I think there were anywhere from 12-20 tennis balls depending on the exercises. All the ones you could think of having a group do while staying in place were there and some may have been repeated (but not much actually).

The distances also varied but the tennis courts we were on had 4 courts and usually we grouped up within one - so maybe 3 courts wide at the most? In some of the circuits they would have balls spread out around the courts and we would also start spread out and then do X number of whatever was on the ball, run to the next, do X number, run, etc. It helped to spread us out and, again, keep people moving. I think the key is to keep everyone's heart rate up. We were NEVER given any time to sit to stop really - the exercises were either already set up or one of the trainers would be setting them up while we did something else and would be ready when we arrived, running in from the last exercise.

Some other tips you probably didn't ask for:

In the sessions with more people we would often be asked to divide ourselves into advanced and intermediate groups based on our own perception of our fitness levels (intermediate was a very generous assessment of my own level but unfortunately there was no "couch potato fatass" level I could opt into) which helped a lot in keeping everyone moving but still ending things at the same time. For example, the advanced group would run a longer trail around the park or do 15 repetitions while the rest of us did 10.

Our camp offered us the option of going 3, 4 or 5 times a week. Wednesdays were always track days at the local university track so we knew we were up for a lot of running and lots of stadium stair climbing. Very little strength or flexibility work. Since I hated running and couldn't even attempt to keep up with the group I skipped that day about half the time. One of the things I started to dislike was that the trainer that came in loved having us run and we did, in my estimation, a disproportionate amount of it on the non-track days. If I wanted to do straight cardio, I've have gone to the gym. So try hard to balance it out if you can. You can still keep them moving without just having them run.

Here's how much I hate to run: I would do burpees for 30 minutes instead of run for 5. Haaaaate.

I was scared going into bootcamp because I am so non-sporty (and it was at 6:30 am which I never see except from the back end) but I had a great time and that was entirely up to the coaches and the other women there (this was women only). They pushed but weren't jerks about it and everyone was very encouraging but not enabling of any slacking off. If you can foster that kind of environment and just mix it up enough to keep people from getting bored you'll do a great job!
posted by marylynn at 8:38 PM on February 14, 2008

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