Cross-training is a huge component of a healthy runner’s life, whether you’re opting for weightlifting, bodyweight training, mobility work, yoga or any number of other cardio options like rowing or cycling. If you only have an extra hour each week to devote to a non-running workout, consider a bootcamp-style class. In a single hour, you’ll combine weights, high-intensity cardio intervals and mobility in one quick-hit class that will get you stronger for those miles you’re running.
Because a typical bootcamp class doesn’t focus on lifting really heavy weights, or pushing you to exhaustion on the cardio portion, it’s a good ‘mild’ workout that is less likely to leave you injured than if you hit the gym and try to bench press on your own. There’s often a core-work component to workouts, and in less than an hour, you’ll hit most of the major muscle groups. You can’t beat the efficiency. It also typically has a mobility component, so for runners who hate to stretch, this is a sneaky way to add a bit into your routine.
Here’s what you need to know about getting the most out of a bootcamp-class routine:
Research Different Classes
Bootcamps can vary hugely from one to the other, so do some research before settling on a class, says Ali Baldassare, an experienced bootcamp instructor and distance runner. She recommends asking other runner friends, or even heading to your local run shop, to get some suggestions. Because some classes will lean toward more heavy lifting, while some might be more intensity-focused, you want to find a class that makes you feel like a superhero, not a limp rag after. Some runners might thrive doing the extra intensity, while others might prefer a bootcamp class with a stronger mobility component. You might have to sample various teachers before finding “the one.”
Try Different Instructors
Because there’s not a specific bootcamp formula, you may have a teacher who really loves heavy deadlifting and does it every single week. Or, as Baldassare points out, you might have a teacher who’s really into the ‘bootcamp’ vibe and is shouting at participants to encourage them. “That’s not my style,” she says. “I’m more encouraging and cheering people on, but some people might prefer that more military style.”
Tell Your Instructor You’re a Runner
Currently Baldassare is using bootcamp-style workouts to train for her first marathon. Her best piece of advice for a runner checking out a bootcamp is to get to your first class a little early and chat with the teacher. “Introduce yourself,” she urges. Tell the instructor you’re a runner, and she may be able to suggest certain moves or modifications to make your class more focused and helpful to your running. “Bootcamps are a great way to train muscles that may be under-utilized,” she adds. It’s a perfect chance to learn to activate your glutes during squats, or really improve your core with planks.
Check Your Ego
You might be a long-time runner, but if you haven’t been doing much strength training or intensity, it’s not a smart move to hit a bootcamp class and try to ‘win,’ says Sarah Applegarth, owner of Active Life Conditioning in Collingwood, Ontario. You want a bootcamp to help boost your running, not leave you injured from doing a lift with a weight that’s too heavy for you. You also don’t want to spend the entire next day curled up on the couch feeling sore from going too hard. Ease in: Think about giving it a 50 percent effort, and try not to look at what anyone else in class is doing.
Stay for the Extra Credit
A lot of bootcamp classes will have short cooldowns at the end of class and tell students they’re free to stay longer if they want to stretch more or use foam rollers. Take advantage of that extra time and do a few bonus minutes of mobility — you can even ask the teacher for some tips on the best ways to stretch specific muscles that are feeling tense.