By Caitlin Moscatello
December 22, 2009

Raise your hand if this sounds familiar: You input 30 minutes onto the treadmill timer, but hop off after 20 (hey, you broke a sweat, right?). Then you complete two sets of curls instead of three. And those lunge exercises? Well, they can wait until tomorrow. The point is, even with a set workout schedule, it's easy to cut corners-especially if you're going it alone.

Enter the boot camp workout, designed to get you in shape with rigorous workouts you can't quit (unless you want to get yelled at drill-sergeant style... just kidding, it's not that scary). Laura Miranda, owner of Miranda Fitness Concepts and Strong-Healthy Woman Boot Camp in New York City filled us in on what to expect, how to prep and why this workout might be more your style than you think.

Finding the Right Camp

Camouflage and combat boots not your thing? Ditto. So do your research. Start by checking out the websites of different boot camps in your area, checking out the photos of the instructors and participants. Do they look like you? Are they wearing face paint (if yes, run)? Also check to see if there are any starting requirements-like being able to run a 10-minute mile or do a certain number of push-ups in a minute, and what level classes are offered. Another tip: If you're nervous about adding a boot camp fitness program to your workout schedule, see if you can pay for one trial class instead of buying a whole package, since many camps run for four weeks or more.

Doing the Prep Work

You don't have to be in peak condition for a boot camp workout, but you should have at least a base-so do some homework beforehand. Get your heart going by running either outside or on the treadmill three days a week, and gear up different muscle groups with squats, lunges and push-ups. If you're strapped for time, throw in an exercise DVD and break a sweat right in your living room. The point here is to build the groundwork so you're able to keep up with a boot camp fitness program.

Getting the Gear

While your gym might offer a boot camp workout, most independent programs are outside, meaning you'll want to dress in layers. If it's cold outside, wear a base layer with breathable fabric (as in, not cotton), along with a shell and pants/tights. Working out in the heat? Well, then less is definitely more-but even if you're wearing just a sports bra or cami, you'll want to bring a T-shirt to make sure you have full coverage for any exercises that might have you moving your core across a mat or hard surface. Also bring a water bottle, towel to wipe your sweat and training gloves if you'll be using weights.

Most importantly, before you add a boot camp to your workout schedule, get fitted for the right sneakers. Properly fit running shoes are your best bet-so head to your local running shop to be fitted. Aerobic shoes, cross trainers or other sneakers are a no go.

Know What to Expect

Each program will have its own boot camp workout-so there's no uniform group of exercises that you can expect. There are, however, certain categories, like "military style" boot camps designed after the real deal at U.S. Army camps (which, not surprisingly, tend to be very competitive). Other types include stroller boot camps for moms, bridal boot camps and general boot camps (although be sure to ask if it's co-ed or women only if you'd rather work out sans guys).

Almost all boot camps include exercises like jumping jacks, squats, sprints and more-which are then geared toward the specific type of camp. Here are a few workouts you can expect in a general boot camp:

See the Results

Why do boot camp programs tend to yield top results? Easy-you've got yourself a coach and teammates. Despite the term "boot camp," most programs are designed to be a fun, motivating experience where you'll tone up and meet friends-all at about a third of the cost of many personal trainers. So get moving!

  • Obstacle courses: This can include anything from small hurdles to an agility ladder to running around cones. The point is to keep moving throughout the course while completing various exercises set up at stations-and yes, be prepared to drop and do 20.
  • Jumping exercises: In one of Miranda's agility workouts, participants line up single file, five feet apart, and get into plank position. The last woman in line hops up and then jumps over the feet of all the other women before getting back down in plank position.
  • Relays: One of the biggest perks to a boot camp workout is that you have plenty of people to work with-but instead of just running laps, many boot camps have partners work together to complete a series of exercises back and forth while the clock's ticking.