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Safety First At Boot Camp

By Aarti Patel Email By Aarti Patel
March 2012
Safety First At Boot Camp As enjoyable as it might be, working out in a group setting can sometimes compromise your safety if certain things are overlooked.


With the temperatures warming up, and more people wanting to be outdoors, boot camps and various group fitness classes are a great, affordable option to exercise with others and improve your fitness. Here are some things to keep in mind as you decide which boot camp or group fitness class you should choose and then to have a safe workout experience.

Before you even begin, check out the trainer’s credentials. Are they certified to teach such a class? Beware that so-called “trainers” and “fitness instructors” can get “certified” in a weekend and online, without having the proper knowledge of kinesiology and body mechanics. The American Council on Exercise (ACE), the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) are some of the reputable certifying organizations. These organizations also offer a special certification for teaching group fitness classes. Don’t be afraid to question your instructor’s credentials or qualifications. Along with having the right credentials, your instructor must be CPR-certified.

Your class instructor should have some personal knowledge about you, and be informed, for example, whether you have a bad back, or knee issues, are diabetic or have high blood pressure, or if you are on any medications. All of these will affect your workout and the instructor should be aware of this. Schedule a time with your instructor before class to share your medical history and ask any pertinent questions. Ideally, a short medical history form should be filled out and kept on file.

A one-size-fits-all approach is sometimes seen in group fitness classes and boot camps. This is not always the best situation. Certain moves that might be appropriate for a 25-year-old individual who is already fit might not be appropriate for a 45-year-old sedentary individual who is just beginning to exercise and thus can leave the latter vulnerable to a potential injury. Yet certain classes mix all age groups and all fitness levels. Also, in large classes of 20 or more participants, the instructor is unable to keep an eye on everyone. The ideal class size should be no more than 15 participants.

Certain group fitness classes also incorporate strength training in their workouts. While this provides added challenge and is great for improving muscular strength and endurance, it is important to note here that before weights are added, the participants must master the correct form of the exercise. This is often neglected in a boot camp setting when there are too many participants and individual attention is compromised. If unsure, always ask your instructor the correct way to perform a certain exercise.

Finally, the instructor should be motivating, fun, and focused on your overall health and well-being. Be wary of any instructor who pushes quick weight-loss schemes or crazy calorie-reduction plans. Your boot camp instructor should not be prescribing any diet plans (especially low- or no-carbohydrate plans) but instead give general advice on how to make healthy food choices that you can maintain in the long run.

If you follow the above, your boot camp or group fitness class experience will be not only fun and challenging, but also safe.

[Aarti Patel serves as the columnist for Fitness Lifestyle. She has a B.Sc. in Health Information Administration and is certified by the American Council on Exercise as a Personal and Group Fitness Instructor, and Lifestyle and Weight Management Coach. She can be reached at (404) 376-5655; info@aartifitness.com. This column rotates monthly along with the Ask the Doctor column by Gulshan Harjee, M.D.]

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