Pilates exercises work the abs, core, and back muscles and can be done at home.

The New Summer Fitness Favorite: Outdoor Boot Camps

Visit your local park early in the day and you’re likely to spot them: Groups of people doing squats, lunges and crunches, laughing as they go. What’s going on? Welcome to the world of fitness boot camps. And if it seems like they’re springing up everywhere, you’re right, they are.

What Is a Fitness Boot Camp?

The original inspiration for fitness boot camps was, as you might guess, the traditional endurance and strength-building workouts used by the military. But in many of the popular boot camps today, the term is applied pretty loosely.

While most boot camps still include traditional calisthenics, drills, and sprints, they also incorporate a wide and varied mix of sports, from running and cycling to yoga and martial arts. The overall emphasis is on interval training, with boosts of adrenaline-pumping cardio interspersed with lighter activities. The typical boot camp lasts for six to eight weeks and follows a regular weekly schedule of meetings. Many fitness centers also now offer individual boot camp-style classes.

What Are the Benefits of Boot Camp?

Just like the original military model, boot camps are designed to foster comeraderie (and competition!), which can inspire you to push your limits. You’ll build upper and lower body strength, increase your cardio capacity, and improve your endurance, and have fun while you’re doing it.

Where Can I Find a Fitness Boot Camp?

The San Francisco Bay Area has so many active boot camps that there’s almost certain to be one at a park, recreation center or fitness club near you. Here are a few to check out:

1. BootCampSF

One of the biggest and most popular programs, BootCampSF offers boot camps at 7 different outdoor locations throughout San Francisco, including Golden Gate Park, Crissy Field, the Presidio, and the Lyon Street Steps. Led by Keith Wohlwend, a former Division II all-American athlete, these boot camps meet four times a week for an hour, with an additional optional class on Sundays.

2. Koi Fitness

With classes at Baker Beach, Golden Gate Park, and San Francisco State University, Koi Fitness emphasizes a total-body workout, incorporating speed and agility training as well as strength-building. Sessions are six weeks long, with the option of attending up to four classes per week.

3. Mike’s BootCamp

Held in Dolores Park, Mike’s Boot Camp emphasizes strength training and running, sending participants in all directions, from Bernal Heights to Twin Peaks, in search of optimal fitness.

4. Marin Adventure Boot Camp

A bit further afield, these four-week fitness camps incorporate nutrition and weight loss counseling into their regimens as well as fun adventure outings. Marin Adventure Boot Camp meets for an hour a day, four days a week Monday to Friday with early morning meeting times to accommodate work schedules.

Melanie Haiken writes about health, wellness and fitness for national magazines and websites. She specializes in discovering and reporting the latest research on diet, nutrition, fitness, weight loss and other health-related topics. Her award-winning stories have appeared in Fitness, Shape, Health, Forbes, and other respected magazines. She also contributes health stories to numerous Kaiser Permanente newsletters and other publications.