"I felt like I was hit by a truck!" That MUST mean I'm getting more fit, right?

I drove past a park at 6:30 a.m. the other morning, where 25 or so apparently eager individuals, who had all paid $5 to be there, were engaged in a sweaty bootcamp.

Most of them moved sloppily through half-assed squats and lunges with curved spines. They smashed their knees into the concrete with careless regard. Most appeared to go through the motions in an almost confused way, as if they had no clue why they were there or what their end-game was.

I decided to pull my car over and wait. Wait for the bootcamp to finish so I could speak to some of the attendees. I felt kind of creepy waiting in my car for half-an-hour for it to wrap up, but I felt a burning sensation to ask them WHY and WHAT: Why they were doing the bootcamp and WHAT they were getting out of it?

First, I approached a woman in her 40s first, told her I was a health and fitness writer and asked her if she had one minute to answer two questions.

Why did you sign up for a bootcamp?

She said: I wanted to lose some weight, and I heard bootcamps were really hard.

What are you getting out of it?

She replied: It’s really hard. I sweat a lot. Sometimes I feel like I’m going to die.

Next person:

I just needed a new fitness challenge.

It’s seriously the hardest workout of my life. I felt like I was hit by a truck today.

Next:

My friend convinced me. She does them all the time.

It’s a full body workout and makes me feel like a bad-ass.

And so on and so forth.

Since when did we equate fitness with needing to feel like we’re going to die? Since when is being hit by a truck a positive thing? Since when does something being the hardest thing you’ve ever done in your life mean it’s in any way good for you, or helping you become more fit for that matter? And since when did the fact that bootcamps are hard mean you're going to lose weight? Flawed logic.

About the only answer given to me by the 7 or 8 people I spoke with was the one about feeling bad-ass: In other words, there might be a legitimate argument for the emotional benefit these people are getting from a bootcamp. I agree: Pushing yourself hard and overcoming pain makes you feel good about yourself. It provides a sense of accomplishment to take with you into the rest of your day. After an early morning sweat session, you feel better about yourself and more capable of tackling what’s ahead in life.

But in terms of the chaotic, usually sloppy movements that happen at these things, that’s more difficult to embrace. There’s a much better, safer, healthier, more sustainable way of developing measurable fitness—traits like power, speed, strength, skill—that will translate into you living a better life...