Four mornings a week I jump out of bed just before 5 a.m., lunge across the room to turn off my alarm, brush my teeth, slap contacts in my eyes, yank on my workout clothes and head to boot camp.
About halfway there I begin to wake up.
I’m a 50-year old boot camper and I spend most of my mornings combat crawling through wet grass, jumping on giant tires and sprinting with sand bags around my neck.
Yesterday, my teammates and I dragged a live body on a tarp up and then down a steep hill.
While I’m pretty sure I’m the oldest member of my outdoor boot camp, I’m not the only 50-year old who enjoys this kind of pre-dawn, go hard, scrape-mud-off-your-face kind of morning.
I’m all for going mano-a-mano with the young ‘uns, but I do think we 50+ boot campers have to exercise a little caution when we spend our mornings racing against people half our age.
Here are my tips (feel free to add your own):
1) Find a really good instructor. I’m not sure how regulated this industry is, so I’m a big advocate of careful selection. My current outdoor boot camp instructor, Rich Roehrick, is a former marine who is studying kinesiology and works for a reputable fitness club. I took a trial class before I signed on for the full run. To avoid the sad irony of a hapless fitness instructor who inadvertently puts you out of commission for the summer, do your homework. I have enough confidence in Rich that I can go all out and not worry that I’m going to get hurt.
2) Don’t wear your good shoes. If you’re exercising outside, your shoes will get wet. Then they’ll smell really bad. Save your good shoes for the gym, or a nice, long solo run. Boot camp shoes should be stored in the garage and thrown away at the end of summer.
3) Find your sweet spot. There’s a critical line between pushing yourself and protecting yourself, especially for the older participants. Don’t let your ego talk you into an avoidable injury.
4) On the other hand, don’t be a slacker. You dragged yourself out of your cozy bed for this. Stopping to catch your breath when your instructor’s back is turned? You’re only cheating yourself.
5) Stretch. Your muscles aren’t as springy as they used to be, so give them a break. Stretch with your class and then, if you still feel tight, stretch a little after as well. Loose muscles are happy muscles.
6) Dress comfortably. You’re going to sweat and get muddy; you might even bleed. You don’t want your clothes to get in the way of a good workout. I advocate dark colors, but that’s because I’m too lazy to spot treat.
7) Keep your alarm out of arm’s reach. Why tempt yourself to roll over and go back to sleep?
8) Don’t get discouraged. Shake off a bad workout and go harder next time. In a couple of weeks, you’ll find yourself getting stronger and faster than you ever realized you could be.
9) Enjoy yourself. You get to watch the sun rise while you accomplish things you never thought possible. A sense of humor helps, but so does a sense of humility. In the end, you’re really just playing a bunch of children’s games.
10) Be a good teammate. The older you get, the fewer chances you have to participate on a team. (You also have limited opportunities to get yelled at by a coach, but maybe you don’t find that as appealing as I do). Cheer on your teammates, and be gracious when they reach out to you. A big boot camp bonus is the people on the other end of those tire flips. Have fun.