The term “boot camp” seems to be all the rage in fitness circles. So, this week we sat down with Amber Bell, founder and director of Biddeford Saco Boot Camp, to discuss the particulars of her job.

Q: How does a beach boot camp workout differ from one offered at a gym?

A: You are outside, in the fresh air. We use full body exercises to burn calories and get the best results, while the gym machines tend to isolate muscle groups. There is a huge variety in routines and exercises at boot camp, not the same machines every time. This prevents boredom and doesn’t allow the body to adapt to the exercise, thus allowing the body to continue to improve. There is also the group aspect that provides accountability, camaraderie and a built-in support group. We combine cardio and strength training so you get the benefits of both without spending hours at the gym. And, you get personal training for a great price at boot camp.

Q: How did you get involved in this line of work?

A: I really need to give credit to Caroline Fitzgerald (fitness instructor and founder of Get Out There! Fitness of Kennebunk) for her support in helping me get started. She has been a great mentor. I went through her boot camp program after having my baby 13 months ago. I couldn’t get rid of those last 6 pounds. In just three weeks, I noticed a huge gain in physical strength and energy. I could run up the stairs and even jump off my front porch — like I did when I was a kid — without hurting. I began my own boot camp this past April. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done.

Q: What’s your personal fitness background?

A: I was very athletic in school, did intramural sports in college and played hockey. And, I’ve been a practicing physical therapist for eight years.

Q: How do the jobs of physical therapist and boot camp instructor compare?

A: In physical therapy, most people come to you because they have been injured and want to get well. In boot camp, people come to you because they want to get motivated to get into better shape.

Q: What types of people typically sign up for boot camp?

A: It’s a varied mix. I have a lot of triathletes who run, bike and swim and are looking to change that up a bit. Some are tired of their routine but still want a good workout. Others want to add to or supplement their routine to build core strength. I also have people who haven’t worked out in years who really want to be fit again. One of my regular members had lost a lot of weight but then hit a plateau. Since joining my boot camp, he’s lost more than 20 additional pounds.

Q: How many participants are in your class?

A: Fifteen to 17. I cap membership at 30 to allow for personal attention.

Q: Do you meet with individuals in advance to assess personal goals?

A: No. They come to the first class a few minutes early to meet me and discuss any medical issues that I should know about or physical limitations they may have and how we can modify their workout to avoid injuries.

Q: What does a typical session include?

A: A warm-up and fast walk or light jog, followed by stretching and a 20- to 30-minute planned routine.

Q: Do you work specific muscle groups on specific days?

A: No. We engage all of your muscle groups at every session: abs, back, shoulders and glutes. We meet every other day. So, muscles have had time to recover. I never do the same routine twice. You never know what you’re going to do when your get there.

Q: Why is that important?

A: Our bodies adapt to repetitive activities. If you’re always switching it up, your muscles don’t get used to it. You burn more fat that way and you see quicker results.

Q: Is it difficult to come up with exercises that people of every fitness level can do?

A: No. Every exercise is modified so that everyone can work at their own pace and be challenged — whether you are a triathlete or are out of shape. It’s a great equalizer. If I look around and see that everyone is dying during the workout, I’ll ease up a bit. But, if I see that it’s not challenging them, I may throw in a 60-second plank hold. But, I also cheer them on as they work out. I want them to succeed. Bringing fitness to others is my greatest joy and mission.

Q: Where are classes held?

A: At Fortunes Rocks, Biddeford Pool and two other beaches in that area.

Q: Why the beach?

A: Location, location, location. What gym can compete with a sunrise, fresh air and a soft breeze coming off the ocean?

Q: When are the workouts held?

A: Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays — from 6:15 to 7 a.m.

Q: What is the fee?

A: Ninety-nine dollars for four weeks. I offer one free week for individuals who want to come and check us out.

Staff  Writer Deborah Sayer can be contacted at 791-6308 or at:

[email protected]

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