If you’re wondering what Fitness Bootcamp is and why you should try it, I have the answer for you! Last year, one of my best friends suggested I try a new approach to exercise: boot camp! At first I balked at the notion of having to stick to a schedule or get up early to work out with other people. I’m a runner, a writer, a loner… I also envisioned some kind of harsh and boring military drill. Not for me, thank you.

But, good friends are insistent and persistent, and I like to think that I’m open-minded. One morning I laced up my running shoes and took myself to an outdoor boot camp to find out what it was all about.

The female instructor wore a tank top that showed off her toned biceps. I realized mine needed some sculpting. She greeted me with a smile and more energy than I could handle at 8 a.m.

“Do you exercise regularly?” she asked.

“I’m a runner,” I said proudly.

“Let’s go then!” she replied, and in what seemed like a nanosecond she was a mile ahead of me. The other participants—some obviously older than me—passed me as soon as they laced up their shoes. Eventually, I came in last.

That fast run, followed by trotting up and down stairs, sprinting, doing push-ups, biceps curls, walking lunges, circuit-training and a lot of input from Stacey, the instructor, was exactly what I needed to jump-start my day. The whole routine lasted an hour, by the end of which I was drenched in sweat.

I felt like throwing up after my first session—some people actually do—but the discomfort was worth the burst of energy that resulted after that day. I also enjoyed the camaraderie and the feeling of being surrounded by women and men who are also trying to improve their level of fitness. A few months later, I couldn’t believe that I was able to do 100 walking lunges or 50 push-ups non-stop and how much stronger I felt.

Stacey’s input, corrections, her cheerleading and even her concern when I tripped and fell during a short run were the fuel I needed to push my limits and feel empowered, not only on the training field but in my field of work—writing—and in life.

A boot camp coach will help you do what you would not push yourself to do. A good boot camp coach will not let you overdo it either and will help you pace your workout. You will see and feel results in a matter of a few weeks.

Boot camp has a lot in common with pursuing your goals. Sometimes it hurts, sometimes you fall, sometimes you think you can’t keep on going, but then your coach tells you that you can. She pushes you to do five seconds more, to run a little faster, to stretch a little further. And when you do, you feel ready to take on the world.

Want to Get in Shape? Try Boot Camp for Mental and Physical Stamina

• There are all kinds of boot camps. Ask to take a trial class. If you feel the instructor is too harsh and you’re not enjoying it, find another one. As a former fitness instructor, I know every person needs to exercise at his or her fitness level, or risk injury.

• Always take a bottle of water and a towel with you. Use exercise gear that has wicking properties. Cotton will weigh you down when you start to sweat.

• Keep in mind you’re not competing with anyone. In any case, you are competing with yourself. Over time you will build stamina. As your become fitter and stronger, it will become easier and more pleasurable. Consistency is key.