A Mind Body Girl Goes Military

Boot Camp? “I don’t do that,” I would answer disdainfully when asked about the military-inspired fitness regime. Those workouts are empty-headed, hurtful, dangerous. Squats, sprints, push-ups, mountain climbers and burpees?


I decided long ago that Boot Camp was “not my thing,” that my body was clearly designed for low-impact Mind Body exercise modalities, that I definitely had slow-twitch muscles and I shouldn’t do all those hysterically explosive workout methods to which so many subject themselves.

I left Boot Camp to the beefy fitness buffs who didn’t want to think about what they were doing but were satisfied throwing their bodies around for a brutalizing hour with the hope that the relentless suffering might bring some sort of positive physical benefit.

I was a Mind Body SNOB.

Before Pilates, I sucked at exercise. I pushed weights, jumped over steps, grunted through body pump classes – you name it, I tried it. I earned NO RESULTS.

When I discovered Pilates and my body experienced such a massive transformation, I believed I had found the right exercise method for my body type. As I improved in form and function, I rejected those fitness regimes that had yielded me nothing but futility and frustration and dove, head first, into the full suite of Mind Body modalities. There I stayed for 15 years, honing my exercise skills as I harnessed a masterful level of body control.

A few months ago, I felt bored and realized I was sitting too leisurely in my comfort zone. So when I saw several svelte moms walking in their workout gear to my daughter’s new school, I inquired. They answered brightly, “I did Boot Camp at 5:30am this morning!”

After the initial horror wore off, I went home and reckoned with my own excuses, judgments and (let’s face it) fears about Boot Camp. It’s “out of control.” It doesn’t yield results. It’s for dudes. It’s too damn early!...

I signed up for my first class.

My trainer Gunny of GLADIATOR FITNESS had us begin with a 10-minute run, then continued with 20 side straddle hops, 20 mountain climbers, 10 cherry pickers and 10 push ups. We repeated the series 2 more times.

The rest of class entailed a blistering upper body routine, each set framed by a 200-yard sprint. Heart racing, eyes tearing and consciousness waning, I made a realization.

I’m kind of enjoying this.

Getting my butt kicked out of my comfort zone taught me 3 things:

1. Boot Camp is an all-inclusive Club of Commitment.

With meatheads conspicuously absent, people of all ages, fitness levels and genders populated the class. These were a group of committed, focused, SERIOUS men and women working hard together. Boot Camp felt like a team effort, the camaraderie and community pushing me to work harder. Mind Body exercise is so internal, and it was refreshing to get out of my own head and become part of the troop.

2. Boot Camp hasn’t changed. I have.

The exercises in Boot Camp weren’t unfamiliar. But this time around, I performed them differently. I engaged my core muscles, I breathed deeply to keep blood flowing to my muscles, I stabilized my shoulders and hips before launching into military presses or jump-squats, and I rested when my body barked too loudly.

Boot Camp wasn’t wrong for me. I had just been doing Boot Camp wrong!

Pilates taught me that any exercise is an external vessel only, and the important stuff happens on the inside. We must fill an exercise with internal form: intention, precision, breath, control and flow. Only then will you earn real results.

With my Mind Body principles as a foundation, I executed dynamic, explosive movements without feeling out of control or at risk of injury. I had crossed a threshold of skill that helped me enjoy a fitness form that had been such a frustration so many years ago.

me and my trainer, Gladiator Gunny

3. Judgment is a Joke.

My bias against Boot Camp first emerged from ignorance, but was soon scaffolded by arrogance. After I found Pilates, I looked down on traditional fitness forms and judged people who liked them, exalting myself as a more intelligent and mindful mover.

I was completely obnoxious.

I am grateful to have (after 15 years!) come back to my Beginner’s Mind, to open myself up to the possibility that I can experience things in a new way and with a fresh perspective. I am grateful for my Boot Camp teachers and the men and women who meet me out on the field at 5:30am, their presence reminding me that “we’re in this together.” I am grateful to learn again (and again) that in order to grow and change, we must leave judgment behind.

I give most of the credit to the burpees.