Monday 23 October 2017

Beware of the 'biggest loser' bootcamps

Man standing over group of people doing pushups, side view
Man standing over group of people doing pushups, side view

Damien Maher

The guilt of gaining excess weight over the holidays is a burden too heavy to bear and now that the children are returning to school it seems like a good time to hit the gym.

Killian Fisher, of the Institute of Leisure and Amenity Management, which represents the leisure industry, said that last year nine per cent of the Irish population were members of gyms.

"This figure only measures the amount of people signed up to gyms and does not measure their frequency in going.

"This can be seen from current retention rates in Ireland, which are 20pc, which means 80pc of customers defect, according to our figures," says Fisher.

So big box gyms have been excellent at signing up new people but they fall down badly when it comes to retaining members.

So what about some of the newer fitness alternatives? Bootcamps are one trend to emerge in recent years but while they might sound impressive they're often not much better than big box gyms.

There are many people who prefer group dynamics and in the downturn of our economy, a bootcamp is a viable cheaper solution than personal training. The common bond of the participants and the friendships formed in bootcamps increases accountability and it helps people stick with their programmes.


However, some bootcamps like to imitate shows like the 'Biggest Loser', where part-time army soldiers run military-style classes and scold a participant in army speak for a lack of compliance. All this makes for fun but with so many people, how much equipment can be used?

Body-weight exercises and running up and down a hill is only good for beginners. After that it's the law of diminishing returns where your body adapts to its own resistance. This is one of the many limitations of bootcamps.

Another factor that's crucial to success in transforming your body is nutrition. Management expert Peter Drucker said: "What gets measured gets managed and what gets managed gets done." How can you measure the results of 30-plus people with one trainer on a cold, wintry evening in a public park without catching hypothermia?


While bootcamps in their current format won't get results, don't hold much hope for the big box gyms either. Cardio may attract people into them in the first place but the results and retention come from strength training. This is the contradiction in the fitness industry. Members want cardio, but only one per cent of gym members achieve a change of physique.

Most big box gyms have pathetic strength areas and abundant cardio areas. This is because you need a lower quality of staff to press buttons on treadmills and machines than you need to periodise and plan a 16-week fat loss and nutrition training programme.

Cardio eats your fat-burning muscle, whether it is done on a treadmill or at a bootcamp. At BFit4Life we don't have a single treadmill. Our clients are interested in results and longevity.

A research study on anti-ageing conducted at Tufts University suggests that the factors that dictated longevity, in order, were: Muscle mass -- ability to maintain or build it; strength; BMR -- basal metabolic rate; body fat percentage; aerobic capacity; blood sugar tolerance; cholesterol sub-divisions; blood pressure; bone density; temperature regulation.

Your muscle mass provides the framework for health. If you are losing muscle, you are starting a cascade of events that can have drastic effects on your health.

Strength training should be your number one priority if you want to maintain a highly functioning active life as you age. Bootcamps, although very popular, have so far failed to address this.

At BFit4Life we have the luxury of being able to hold a bootcamp that can be indoors or outdoors. This has improved compliance and so will increase results.

Participants' progress is measured every week, and their nutrition and food diary is analysed. When you vary the stimulus like exercises, repetitions, tempo and weights, you can continually adapt and get results and that is what people want. It is the future of fitness.

If you are interested in finding more check out the address below.

Irish Independent

Editors Choice

Also in Life