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What it’s Like to Start a Bootcamp


It all started one day when I was browsing in a Halloween store, that a neighbor asked if I wanted to check out a bootcamp. I kept asking my husband over and over that night..”Could I really do that? I mean do you think I could do that…is that nuts?”

I wondered if I could get up at 5 a.m. in the dark and get myself together and drive to the other side of town. I remember that first couple of days…seeking out my personal space and copying what all the other ladies did. Weights there like so, mat laid out to face the instructor, etc. I followed their routine… the warm up, the weight exercises and then the run.

It felt exhilarating and strange to see houses with the occupants not yet awake. I commiserated about my sore muscles with the ladies and enjoyed our moving water cooler conversation. Did you see Idol last night..someone would ask? My daughter is driving me crazy..another gal said.

Before I knew it..the sun would come up and then there was the satisfied feeling of having completed the challenge. I enjoyed running while venting (as I could when I could breathe and whisper) to these new friends about our kids and husbands.

Then weeks turned into more than a year and a couple of the ladies asked if I would be interested in joining them on a run on the ‘off days’ when we did not meet at the boot camp. At that point, I was looking to get in great shape for my reunion and I wanted to be sleeker and faster.

I decided that the bootcamp regular routine wasn’t enough and I was determined to up the ante. One morning, I started with the women jogging up a hill and I felt a jolt in my left calf and decided that I must not be warmed up enough.. so I kept running.

Then the next week during another run at Bootcamp, I felt a sudden snap in my calf like someone had hit me from behind. I went down and hobbled to my car. The instructor thought that I would probably be back in a couple weeks, but that was not to be the case. Physical therapy would become my home for the next 6 weeks. The PT informed me that I had the perfect storm in my calf…it had been miserably cold that week, we had started running on an incline and I had decided to increase my milage.

I had no idea that this could happen. I had just wanted to be like the best boot camper on my right and now all I could do was hobble and hop up the stairs. I felt so depressed and kept re-playing in my mind over and over….”what if I had just not added those x-tra workouts.”

It took roughly a year and a half to recover from the 80% tear. This was not to be my only injury. One day, I inquired at a gym if they had a physical therapy type of trainer that could help me get back into shape. This seemed to help very much until one day I was lifting weights and felt a back spasm. Again, I just thought it was a sprained muscle and I kept working out. As the weeks went by, I noticed I had lower back pain which radiated down my leg and created sciatica. This prompted me to call a chiropractor who wanted me to go about 3 times a week.

I spent countless hours waiting to be adjusted. I sat in the waiting room more hours than I care to remember. This experience went on for almost 2 years until the pain was so bad I decided to have an MRI which revealed a disc had ruptured…thus the sciatic pain. I will never forget the horrible pain on my anniversary at Catalina and not being able to walk a few yards. A couple days after that, I had my surgery which is called a micro dissection and I felt relief the very next day. I was given strict orders not to twist or carry heavy items and to remember that I did not have the same body and use of it as before.

It has been almost 3 years now this Summer since my surgery and I have decided to keep moving and not to dwell on what could have been. I did sprint triathalons, the 5k’s, and spin classes largely because I wanted to challenge myself, but also because I didn’t want to let friends down. I was a joiner, a follower, and a supportive friend and cheerleader. So as you read my cautionary tale, I am telling you …please follow your gut, and your bliss. Do what feels right for your body and your spirit and don’t let anyone make you feel like their workout is the best or guilt you into being obsessive about getting in shape. If it feels extreme, it probably is.

When I started my journey of getting in shape I was in my thirties, and I wanted to push myself to the ultimate limit, improve my p.r. time and collect as many work out buddies as possible. I’ve got to say, despite my injuries, I had such a blast in that Bootcamp. Those ladies (many of whom were 10-20 years older than me) inspired me that I could embrace getting older. They showed me that I could go to concerts, travel, endure the teenage years and be strong not just physically but mentally.That’s the lasting impression I will always take away from my Bootcamp days.

I loved their positivity ..all the while going through divorce, kids moving out, parents getting sick, and funny (peppered with salty words) stories as well. I felt like I was getting a glimpse at my future and I was proud to associate with them. I am no longer in that Bootcamp but I have no regrets of anything that happened…even the injuries I endured. Today, I am the happiest I have ever been. I love that I choose the trails I take. I think every day how blessed I am that I do not have back pain. I can even jog a little. My go to workout is hiking because I love being outside. I go at my own pace and now I get the camaraderie I want from the others that smile and wave to me on the trail. I make my own schedule and find that I have plenty of ‘girl time’ with friends. I am no longer obsessed with knowing why I got injured or the repercussions from it, but instead I appreciate my health and what I can do.

I’m thrilled to be functional and pain free again and enjoy my life as an on- the -go mom.:) So the next time you think about challenging yourself with a bootcamp or extreme sport, find a healthy balance of fitness and fun camaraderie. If it is painful or taking a toll on your day to day life please re-consider. Your kiddos are counting on you and you owe it to yourself to feel fit and content.

Jennifer Jensen is a stay-at-home mom in Fullerton. She has three boys that keep her in constant ‘stand by’ mode in her car. She has been happily married for almost twenty years and she enjoys her chaotically entertaining household. She enjoys traveling, and going to every jazz concert, basketball, and scouting event her boys are in. She loves volunteering every month at a soup kitchen as coordinator and volunteering as an Art Docent for her son’s school. A self described, ‘Summer girl,’ Jennifer lives for sunny days when she can grill (her therapy), and blast her 80’s music in the backyard.
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