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Fitness Boot Camps: Should You Enlist?

Fans say boot camp exercise classes inspire them while whipping them into shape.
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'Drop and Give Me 50' continued...

"Negative reinforcement generally only goes so far," he says. "My choice is to have an empowering environment, one that is nurturing and very challenging. One that is not just about getting in shape but about community and nutrition and about being better in everything you do."

Still, he says, it is a boot camp: "People are expected to show up, shut up, pay attention, and give 100%," he says. "It’s disciplined in nature. It’s intense. It’s not a cakewalk."

Camaraderie Is Key

So why do boot camp classes suddenly seem to be showing up everywhere?

According to Rayhill, it’s about interaction with, and encouragement from, your peers.

"Most of what we do all day is very isolating," says Rayhill. "We’ve got iPods, cell phones, computers. We’re not connecting with other people."

The interaction of a boot camp class is not only emotionally satisfying, but helps people push themselves physically, he says

"If you’re around other athletic people, they are going to pull it out of you," says Rayhill. "By the time they leave, they’ve done so much positive already that day.

"No computer can make you feel better – not like the connection to other people."

A Cult of Personality?

Another powerful draw for fitness boot camp classes, say some participants, is the charisma of the teachers.

A boot camp class, says Ellis, is meant to empower students for the whole day. As a teacher, "at different times, you interject powerful thoughts and statements. You’re setting the example. You’re guiding the way."

Rayhill tries to be a guiding force to his students as well. As one of six children, and a 5-foot, 8-inch former college football player (who still holds two state records in Illinois), Rayhill says he’s "always been an overachiever."

His goal as a teacher, he says, is to give the class a different workout every day -- and to encourage them to find what it takes to reach their goals.

"I call myself a catalyst. I know what it takes to get there. I know there’s more than one way of doing something. We’re talking about how to make people better," he says. "Whatever you want out of your life, you’ve got to get it. You’ve got to do it for yourself."

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Reviewed on May 27, 2009

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