When it comes to fitness, no-one does it better than the armed forces, and boot camps are the perfect gateway for civilians to get started.

But for women, starting your first boot camp can be daunting. Consequently, it’s worth doing some preparation first. Read on to learn more about what women should know before starting their first boot camp.

Stay hydrated

The most important thing you need to remember is simply to hydrate — it is vital that you ensure you drink enough water daily. Drinking fluids replace the electrolytes lost during exercise, keeps your joints working as they should, and regulates your body temperature.

While it’s important to hydrate before your class, try not to drink too much. This will give you cramps and, in turn, impede your workout.

As a rule of thumb, drink one or two glasses of water at least two hours before your boot camp starts. The next time you hydrate should be 15 minutes before your class starts, again with one or two glasses.

Buy a good pair of trainers

Speak to any athlete of any age and of any discipline, and time and time again they’ll tell you that the most important piece of equipment you need is a good pair of trainers. If you buy a good pair of shoes, your feet won’t fail you.

It’s tempting to opt for the most expensive pair of shoes on the market. But price doesn’t necessarily guarantee quality. Eschew the bells and whistles some brands offer — the essential qualities you want in a good exercise shoe are:

  • Good fit: your shoes must fit like a sock, with little room for movement but without being too tight.
  • Cushioning: ample cushioning protects your feet against impact during a workout.
  • Breathability: your shoe should let sweat evaporate through the material to prevent foot infections.
  • Stability: the best exercise shoe protects the ankle during a workout. Look for solid support that controls the ankle’s movements.

Asics has some affordable options that offer genuine protection and durability during workouts. They also actually look good, a quality hard to find in workout trainers.

Side note: avoid the five-finger shoes you see praised online. These do more damage than good. What you need is a good trainer with strong ankle support and, above all, comfort.

Wear a supportive bra

Exercise has a massive impact on your body — that’s why we do it. But beyond making us fitter and healthier, it can also damage our bodies when we don’t have the requisite equipment to do it with.

This is especially true for women. During exercise, a woman’s breasts can move anywhere from one inch while walking to five inches while running. This results in breast pain during and after a workout.

Thankfully, there has been a great deal of research into this. As a result, women’s sports bras are now produced in a way that offers support and protection against such physical activity.

Knix is a good place to start, with a good selection of sports bras that offer a rare combination of comfort and function. Along with shoes, bras are one of the most important items of clothing women should invest in before starting their first boot camp.

But bras are just one element that you should consider. Breathable t-shirts and running shorts or leggings reduce sweat. Further to that, moisture-wicking fabrics actively draw sweat away from the body to keep you cool.

That said, don’t be distracted by expensive activewear. Speak to any experienced athlete, and she’ll say that the most important items you need are a good pair of shoes and a strong, supportive bra.

Keep your body fuelled with food

Drinking before and during your workout is important, but so too is eating. Food is fuel, and you need to eat right to get the most out of your workout. Boot camps are intensive courses, and consequently, you need to give your body the fuel it needs to perform properly during your workout.

As with hydration, it’s important not to overeat before a workout. Ideally, you should eat at least one hour before your session starts.

And it’s something you’ve probably heard 1000 times before, but breakfast genuinely is the most important meal of the day. As a rule, you should eat complex carbohydrates for energy, and add some protein (think eggs or tofu) to stave off hunger pangs during your class.

That said, everybody is different. Some people cannot abide eating breakfast so early in the morning, while others rely on it. Find what works for you, but use the above as guidance.

Have a conversation with your instructor

Think of boot camps, and you probably think of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman from Full Metal Jacket. Perhaps your friends have told you horror stories of terrifying instructors with no mercy and no filter.

But while your instructor might bark orders at you, they’re ultimately there to help you become a better, fitter person. So don’t be afraid of approaching your instructor and asking for advice, or even just to say hello. They likely have years of experience behind them, and will only be too happy to share it with you.

You’re paying for your boot camp, so make the most of your instructor’s expertise and ask for their advice.

Boot camp is for you — no-one else

There are plenty of reasons for attending boot camp. Lose weight, get fit, boost confidence — the list goes on. But underlying all these reasons is the fact that you’re doing it for yourself. Exercising means breathing heavily, breaking out in a sweat and going red in the face. That might feel embarrassing, but it’s important to put that behind you.

You’re not paying for this class for other people, you’re paying to better yourself. Similarly, you’re not exercising to impress other people, you’re exercising to impress yourself. Everyone has their own limits, and you’re just finding (and outstripping) yours.

Push yourself further in every session

The best piece of advice you’ll hear (and the hardest to adhere to) is to simply push yourself. Boot camp is a battle between your mind and your body. Take push-ups, for instance. Your first one might be fine. Your second one will be a struggle. Your third one may be agony. But fitness is a struggle of mind over body.

If you want to get any benefit out of your boot camp, you need to push yourself to your furthest limits. This literally means exercising until you physically cannot do it anymore.

Your lungs will burn, your heart will pound, and your body temperature will soar. But the only way you’ll benefit from boot camp — indeed, any exercise — is to work through this as best you can. This is what makes your body change and get fitter. As the old Eighties fitness instructors said: no pain, no gain. The same applies to your boot camp experience too.

Boot camps are a popular and effective way of losing weight, getting fit, and boosting your mental health. But to get the most from your first boot camp, it’s important to prepare beforehand. Follow the tips above and start your fitness journey today.

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Hazel Jane is a freelance writer, university student, and an avid reader. She has a passion for writing, skiing, and traveling the world.

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