Choosing a Safe Bootcamp
Although fitness boot camps have been around for years, they have recently grown in popularity. Many are a fun way to meet new people in the community and stay motivated. However, how do you know if they are operated with qualified fitness professionals, and in a safe manner?
When shopping around for a boot camp that is in a convenient location for you and fits into your schedule, ask if the instructors have health/fitness related degrees and/or nationally accredited certifications in group fitness and teaching boot camps. Because the fitness industry is not regulated, there is no law that requires either of these, so don't be afraid to ask for proof that your potential instructor is current in this area, and has current CPR/BLS training.
When participating in any fitness program, trainers and instructors should obtain a thorough health history, and medical clearance to exercise from each participant. The health history includes finding out about your orthopedic and non-orthopedic concerns, how severe each one is, and much more. A minimum of a baseline fitness assessment should also be part of the package. Instructors should know your medical and orthopedic concerns so they can modify exercises for you and minimize your risk of injury. With group exercises, there is no one-size-fits-all. Ask them to give you a copy of the exercise guidelines for each of your health concerns as recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine. For example, if you have high blood pressure, high intensity training should be modified, and you should exercise in cooler temperatures with good air circulation. There is a whole list of things you should be aware of and guidelines to follow.
Find a boot camp that follows these other important safety issues:
- Emergency care - a first aid kit, defibrillator, water, and other necessary items should be visible. This includes being at a commercial facility, a school, a church, Memorial Park, Lake Zorinsky, or any location.
-Adequate supervision - the American College of Sports Medicine guidelines are one instructor per 25-30 people. In Omaha there was recently a boot camp that boasted 150 people with only 2 instructors- yikes!
-Safe environment - Be sure sessions are only held in a safe environment. This includes NOT exercising at moderate or high intensities when the heat index is higher than 90 degrees, and activities should be performed on safe surfaces for exercise.
-Beware of claims - titles such as "nutritionist" are used loosely. Anyone can call themselves a nutritionist, and there are some very entry level nutritional certifications out there. Fitness professionals will stay within their scope of practice and recommend a registered dietitian or similarly qualified person for weight loss and meal planning; especially if you have any medical concerns. You wouldn't go to a registered dietitian to design an exercise program for you, so is asking a fitness instructor for specific nutritional advice a good idea?
-Adequate liability coverage - Programs and individuals should be insured, especially if the boot camp is held at a "host site" or outdoors. Insurance companies won't cover fitness programs if they are off the premises in which the policy covers.
-Permission - This is one many people may not consider. Written permission must be obtained from the city, school, or whomever owns the property on which the boot camp is held. Permits are usually required to host boot camps in parks or similar areas - especially when there is a charge.
Boot camps can be a great way to start, supplement, or advance your health and fitness levels, and Omaha offers some great boot camps. Just be sure to do a little digging to find out which ones are safe!