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Not so basic training: The increasing popularity of boot camps

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Are you looking to get military fit? Tung Chung-based boot camp instructor and personal trainer Jamie McGregor tells James Allen how it’s done.

Not so long ago, the phrase ‘boot camp’ was synonymous with images of red-faced drill sergeants, brutal army training regimes and crawling on one’s hands and knees through thick, wet mud under yards of rusty barbed wire.

Today, it’s a different story. Boot camp has become an increasingly popular way of keeping fit for people of all ages, not least because it gives them the chance to try out exercises and workout regimes they may never have considered before.

A boot camp workout is a type of interval training – bursts of intense activity alternated with intervals of lighter activity. You can expect to do calisthenics, such as pull-ups, push-ups, lunges and crunches, as well as drills and sprints. Building lean muscle, burning calories and meeting people are all benefits – as long as you’re willing to put the work in.

A regimented workout

Tung Chung-based personal trainer and boot camp instructor Jamie McGregor has been whipping people into shape for 12 years, seven of those in Hong Kong. He founded his fitness company Perun Fitness six-and-a-half years ago, and hosts boot camp sessions in Tung Chung (six days a week before and after work) and in Cathay City (at lunchtime four times a week).

The boot camp sessions are strictly regimented, and organised over blocks of four to six weeks. They follow a periodised schedule with a clear focus to each hour-long session, whether that’s building muscle, increasing muscular endurance or fitness conditioning.“

We’ll focus on strength training, so low reps and high weights, and then the next block will be volume training, hypertrophy stuff,” Jamie says. “And then we’ll have a segment on muscular endurance, so that’s more high reps and low weights. We also focus on fitness conditioning because not everyone likes lifting weights, right? And one day a week, we get the boxing gloves out and have a bit of fun doing circuit training.“

The resistance training maintains bone density. You get your skeletal muscle tissue challenge, and your strength and endurance training, and hypertrophy,” Jamie explains. “Then we try to go into the different energy systems, so we periodise people aerobically and anaerobically, and even go into a little bit of the explosive power stuff.”

The idea is to make the training as varied as possible both to keep clients interested and ensure an improvement in wholebody fitness. If you commit to the training, and know where you want to get to, there’s no doubt you will see progress.

“I’m a very patterns and structures person,” Jamie adds. “There has to be a structure and plan, and it can’t be day by day, it’s got to be week by week, month by month, or even for a whole year.”

bootcamp with jamie mcgregor

Advice for new recruits

So who regularly shows up for 6.10am boot camp in Tung Chung?

“There’s people who use fitness to deal with incredibly stressful jobs. These are the people who retire in their 40s and 50s and sleep three hours a night,” Jamie says. “There’s people who used to be sports people who don’t want to lose too much of what they had, and then there’s people who are solely focused on body image. And there’s a lot of people who just want to feel a bit better, be healthier and have the energy to go about their day.”

And if you think you have to be super fit to enrol for boot camp, think again. Jamie is adamant that people of any fitness level can get involved. “If you are new to it all, you should spend your first few sessions learning to get your form correct and get a feel for the classes,” he says. “I’d recommend starting off with two or three times a week, then gauging it from there.”

Interestingly too, more women show up to the Tung Chung boot camp than men. “It’s about 30 to 35% male and 65 to 70% female on most days,” Jamie says. “Generally speaking, the guys want to bulk up, get more muscle, lose the spare tyre etc.; the females want to tone up and lose fat.”

The big question is, of course, do you get fast results? “Our ethos is fitter, healthier, stronger,” Jamie says, “so you’ll get a bit fitter, healthier if your diet’s good, and you’ll definitely get stronger. The results will come on as fast or as slow as people want them to, depending on how they commit and how willing they are to go into their diet.

“Training like a maniac six times a week twice a day will get the job done, if you know exactly what you’re doing,” Jamie adds. “But sacrifices have to be made if you want to get your body fat down to a certain percentage or hit that sub 1:20 half marathon. You have to commit to it, put in the time to the training and have a structured diet. And that’s what’s tricky for some people. You have to face up to the reality of what you’re willing to give up.”

Boot camp camaraderie 

Armed with a clear plan and a definite objective, Jamie has seen clients achieve astonishing results, and that, he says, is where the real rewards come from.

“From a personal perspective, I get satisfaction from the housewife who’s never trained before who loses 40 kilogrammes and goes on to do her first 200-kilometre run [ultramarathon],” Jamie says. “Then there’s the guy who has diabetes who manages to manage his weight and become really healthy again. Empowerment and confidence is what you expect as a trainer – it’s what you want your clients to achieve.”

Jamie also enjoys seeing the sense of community that emerges in boot camp as clients realise goals together, and push one another through tough workouts. “Teamwork is absolutely everything and I’m really big on that in class,” he says. “Get better as a group and you’ll get better individually.’ If there’s someone who needs help and I’m yelling at someone else then give them a pointer.”

Boot camp camaraderie extends outside class too. “People come in and get welcomed, and before you know it they’re going out for lunch together, and texting each other on Whatsapp,” Jamie says.

“People do karaoke together, have birthday parties in the park after class, and even come down with roast lamb at 9.10am. From a diet perspective, I’m thinking this is horrendous, but in terms of the social thing, it’s marvellous.”


You can contact Jamie McGregor of Perun Fitness at 6443 6597 or www.perunfitness.com.

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