Bootcamps and Marmite

I bet you are wondering what an earth this post is all about….well all will become clear.

Bootcamps have become a very popular ‘class’ and if you are out and about early in the morning I can gaurantee that no matter where you live you will find men and women running, jumping and exercising in the local park, car park, beach or open space.

For many people in the fitness industry bootcamps are a bit like marmite – you either love them or hate them. I have to admit that at the moment people seem to love them! Regardless of which side of the fence you sit on it’s worth taking some time to read this guest post from Dax Moy. He makes some great points…enjoy.

Over to Dax… 
I’m closing my studios down.
I’m quitting personal training for good.
I’m going to stop running courses for personal trainers with immediate effect.
But perhaps I should. Especially if I go by what many fitness marketing gurus are telling me.
They’re saying that personal training is dead. That the public neither want nor can they afford PT and that it’s the bootcamp that holds all the promise for the fitness professionals of tomorrow.
So maybe I and every other personal trainer on the planet that still works one on one with clients should quit and open up bootcamps in the very same parks as all these other guys and their bootcamps?
Maybe we should have 20-30 bootcamps to choose from in each and every park, beach and greenspace in every city to cope with this overwhelming demand for bootcamps that we keep hearing about.
Or maybe not.
Maybe this bootcamp craze that we’re going through is part of the process that my good buddy Alwyn Cosgrove is always talking about; over reacting in the short term and under reacting in the long term.
You see it all the time in fitness.
Swiss balls. Resistance Tubes. Bosu’s. Weight vests. Plyo’s. Functional Training and, dare I say it, kettlebells.
They’re all examples of the same short term over-reaction that I believe we’re currently experiencing with bootcamps; Fitness professionals getting carried away by the latest version of ISAIWI.
It’s Shiny And I Want It.
ISAIWI happens whenever something’s new and suddenly everyone has seen the light and believes they’ve stumbled upon the definitive answer to all their prayers. They’re so hypnotised by the new, shiny thing in front of them that they never stop to ask whether or not it actually does the job better than whatever came before. In fact, they don’t care, they just like the new.
I don’t blame them. I like new too.
New’s fun.
New’s stimulating.
New’s fresh.
But new isn’t always better, it’s not always right and, well, it’s rarely truly new.
Bootcamps are a bit like that when you really think about it.
Can they be fun? Absolutely!
Are they stimulating? They certainly can be.
Are they better?
Well, there’s a question…
To answer it you need a definition for ‘better’ in the first place, right?
In this instance we could say that bootcamp training makes fitness more affordable than PT. We could say that in most communities it will get more participants involved in exercise than PT which is no bad thing. And yes, it can create a fairly decent per hour income for the instructor that, in many cases, exceeds the income generated for that same hour by personal trainers.
So far so good for bootcamps.
But here’s where it gets… ‘hazy’ for me.
See, few of the truly great fitness professionals I’ve ever met, worked with or even heard of believe that lasting change in either fitness, fatloss or health in general is the result of attending organised exercise classes. None of the ‘field’ experts nor none of the researchers or scientist for one second believe that classes in and of themselves contribute to the lasting change that most clients seek and that most fitness professionals claim they want to provide.
Anyone who knows anything about long term adherence to health strategies knows that it’s a very cerebral process. One that requires coaching, reinforcement and, ultimately, paradigm shifting on the part of the client. I know of only a handful of bootcamp instructors who come anywhere near to offering anything near that approach and, clearly, with just 2-3 sessions of 30-40 minutes a week shared by 20-40 other bootcampers, even as good as they are, they aren’t going to be very effective at doing any ‘mind work’ with their class participants.
And let’s be honest here. It IS just a class.
Other than a few people out there who are delivering military style bootcamp ‘beastings’ (which is a subject for another post) most ‘bootcamp instructors’ are simply delivering fitness circuits outdoors. No problem with that at all. I was a soldier myself, I went through bootcamp training for real and I love outdoor training but calling it ‘bootcamp’ doesn’t suddenly elevate it to another realm of fitness provision. It’s still a circuit training class, right?
Yet you don’t hear the guru’s calling for personal trainers to give up PT to become circuit training instructors do you?
Because the industry would see it for what it is. A market that would soon become over-populated and over marketed just like aerobics, pilates, step and all those other church-hall fitness businesses leaving some with busy, thriving classes and others struggling to find available space that they can afford as well as trying to find people to their classes.
But name it ‘bootcamp’ and people don’t see it anymore.
Funny that.
So look, here’s how I see it. Outdoor circuits are here to stay. Just like aerobics, step, tae bo, spinning and all of those other group classes you’ve heard about over the years. And just like these classes, outdoor circuits will go through a massive surge in popularity, a slow dropoff and, eventually, they’ll be run by the relatively small percentage of instructors who can make them profitably work in their local parks and greenspaces (even now, local authorities around the globe are catching on to the bootcamp craze and looking for ways to charge you to a licence to use their parks, forests and beaches).
Just like PT, bootcamps will become the province of those professionals who know how to get a good mix of marketing, results and experience shared around their communities and the rest will either be discouraged by low attendances, low profits or high overheads as the parks ask for their share of the wealth.
One thing’s for sure though. There will always be a need for those people who are able to offer a highly personalised, highly professional and highly niched, specialised blend of lifestyle, exercise and nutrition especially among those for whom exercise class participation is inappropriate, inadvisable or simply ineffective.
So let the guru’s talk about the death of the Personal Trainer all they want. It ain’t happening anytime soon, and nor should it.
Personal training may need to change and become even more specialised than it currently is but it ain’t dying. It’ll still be here when bootcamps have gone out of vogue and the next instalment of ISAIWI shows up and some people will still be making a fortune at it and some will still struggle, just like in any industry or profession.
Cream rises to the top. Always. Regardless of whether you’re a PT, bootcamp instructor or anything else, choose to be the cream and your success is assured.
Dax Moy
P.S – I’ll get this out of the way so that you’re clear before any outdoor circuits instructors post me hate mail : )
1. I have nothing against class instructors of any kind. They perform a vital role in our communities and make fitness fun and affordable to a large number of people.
2. I have myself run outdoor circuits very successfully and helped numerous students to do so.
3. I have been in a real bootcamp both as a recruit and as an instructor so feel more qualified than most to comment on what is or is not a bootcamp.
4. I have issue with any class that randomly throws exercises, loads and reps together in a ’screw it let’s do it’ fashion.
5. I believe that ‘beasting’ type of training has no value for the public, limited value for soldiers and athletes and even then in limited doses.
6. I believe that if your idea of long term exercise prescription is a deck of cards then you’re doing yourself and your clients disservice.
7. I don’t believe that a class of 20, 30 or 40 people can ever get enough attention from 1 instructor to ensure that the workouts are truly safe and effective.
C’mon then, let the Dax-bashing begin : )


I really enjoyed reading this article when Dax first published it and I’m really grateful that he has allowed me to publish here. Thank you Dax.

Anyone that reads the articles on this site regularly will know that I’m big on coaching and developing your underlying principles that support the training methodologies/tools that you use to get the job done. Personally I think ‘outdoor classes’ and ‘group training’ sessions have their place when they are being delivered by a great coach with specific purpose in mind.

We run some short term ‘group training classes’ at Smart Fitness from time to time (and our members love them…but they don’t do it 52 weeks of the year!). My good friends and colleagues, Alwyn and Rachel Cosgrove run group training sessions at their Results Fitness facility but that is not all they do!. Carmen Bott, who we recently interviewed for this site also has her own take on group training (L.I.F.T. Camps) where the emphasis is on coaching and education…not beasting!

What I know about these coaches is that their group training sessions are just a small part of their overall operations. They are not the ‘bootcamp’ guys…they are coaches that may choose to use group training when it helps their clients achieve their overall aim and when it is appropriate to do so.

I think individual and semi-private COACHING will be here long after the majority of mass participation bootcamps have come and gone (from discussions with colleagues in America there is already a movement away from this type of training). The few bootcamps that survive will all have a good COACH running them!

Nick GranthamBootcamps and Marmite

10 Comments on “Bootcamps and Marmite”

  1. Carmen Bott

    Yes, Dax, you are right – I have always giggled at frivolous use of the word BOOTCAMP – Do people really, and I mean really know what truly goes on in military bootcamps? I choose NEVER to use that word because of its true definition. If I wanted to psychologically prepare a soldier for war and the possible interrogating that may occur if held captive, then sure, bootcamp it is. But, really a series of burpees on the beach do not maketh a ‘bootcamp.’ Ahhh fitness, you gotta love the play on words….Yesterday I did a seated power clean. Kidding.

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  3. Jack

    SPOT ON! Thank you for sharing this, Coach Grantham, and a thank you to Dax Moy for writing such an excellent piece.

    “One thing’s for sure though. There will always be a need for those people who are able to offer a highly personalised, highly professional and highly niched, specialised blend of lifestyle, exercise and nutrition especially among those for whom exercise class participation is inappropriate, inadvisable or simply ineffective.”

    “7. I don’t believe that a class of 20, 30 or 40 people can ever get enough attention from 1 instructor to ensure that the workouts are truly safe and effective.”

    Personally I enjoy giving a LOT of detail to a smaller number of clients rather than a little to a lot of them. So that suits my personality, although I can see how larger groups may be more up someone else’s alley. But at the end of the day, you inevitably sacrifice precision and overall quality when groups get to be too unwieldy and/or have too few qualified instructors.

    Truth be told, my enjoyment of getting detailed with clients likely goes a touch too far, as I enjoy 1-on1 work even more than small group work, since I get to impart everything I have that is of value to that one person.

    The thing I enjoy most about 1-on-1 work is that client support out of the gym is ultra-personalized without getting me swamped with calls/e-mails and feeling bogged down. Some can hack it with more folks and make it look smooth and easy, but not me.

    It’s funny to me how many bash CrossFit but gladly singe the praises of bootcamps. Neither is even close to the end-all be-all in fitness, and yet one gets routinely ripped and the other (bootcamps, which may actually have even less structure depending upon the instructor)typically receives praise.

    While I am on a roll I should add the TRX to the pile of over-reactions. Does suspension training have value and a place in any coaches arsenal/toolbox….ABSOLUTELY. But unless your one and only goal is to move around more, I don’t think it deserves nearly as high a pedestal as it is currently receiving.

    For a healthy and relatively structurally-balanced client with some measure of gym experience, I can see periodic use of group classes as viable and potentially of use, especially if their main aim is simply to be active.

    All in all, thank you for sharing this, as it resonated with me. It’s no Surprise that you and Dax are two of the best at what you do, and you always have such a sensible and level-headed approach to all things fitness, with an ever-present eye towards optimal results.

  4. Nick Grantham

    Jack – glad you like the post…full credit to Dax for this one though, I just jumped on it and shared! I’m not even going down the whole crossfit route…I think Mike Boyle has done a good enough job of getting them all hot and bothered!

    TRX and suspension training – I love suspension training, think it offers some real variety to training and we use it at Smart Fitness when it makes sense to but have to agree it is not the be all and end all. It is a training tool – only use it if it fits with your training programme and underlying methodology.

  5. Ian

    At the end of the day bootcamps are circuit classes whatever way you look at them- all that translates to is “conditioning”. A lot of personal trainers just do this with their clients anyway. What’s best for a client anyway 3 sessions of bootcamp conditioning or one session of PT- hands down the three sessions all other things being equal(so it again comes back to the coach).

  6. Amanda Thebe @ foxyburd

    Thanks for this article – though I initially jumped in because I thought it was about Marmite – darn it!! The Bootcamp phenomena here in Toronto has gone crazy. I know so many people who do the camps for the following reasons;
    1) cost – as your stated not many want to spend the money (or can afford to) on PT’s and believe wholeheartedly that they are getting THE SAME benefits going to a bootcamp
    2) group mentality – don’t you mind that the masses of everyday folk (I sound like a womble) are not motivated to go solo and the group setting motivates them.
    3) time effective – 45 mins long at 6.30am before work, its the only way some people and fit exercise into their schedule.

    I spoke to a friend who is addicted to bootcamps and she was trying to sell me the virtues of the regime she does 3 times per week. She claimed to be in the best shape of her life except for the last 15 lbs that won’t budge! And she claimed that she was now great at push-ups because she does so many each session. Basically the sessions never change, there is no progression and therefore no real physical change in these people after the first month or so.

    Two really good gyms I know here are specifically pushing the ‘semi-private’ classes. The same benefits of PT but with 3 – 4 people sharing the cost – to me that is a positive way forward.

    anyway, thanks for the post, I really enjoyed it. Do you mind if I re-post your re-post giving credit where its due?

    ps Carmen do you ever come to Toronto? WOuld love to workout (oops work with!) you guys.

  7. Nick Grantham

    Amanda, you would have to get permission for the article from Dax Moy as it is originally his (I just tweaked and added to it with his permission!). I’m sure he won’t mind.

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