Health & Fitness Outdoor Boot Camps

Outdoor Boot Camps

Work out while the sun rises, even in the cold and snow

Early morning workouts with Portland Sweat Project look different each week, but they're always challenging and worth waking up early for. Photos courtesy of Portland Sweat Project

What is it about winter that drives most morning workouts inside? Is it the snow? The cold? The dark?

Waking up early to work out is certainly less enticing when it still looks like nighttime outside and you know it’s going to take 10 minutes of serious scraping to clear your car windows of ice.

But starting your workout under the light of the moon is pretty fantastic, and you’ll get to watch the sun light up the morning sky, which is invigorating in its own right. And sure, it’s cold to start, but you won’t be cold for long. A few planks and sprints and burpees and you’ll be shedding layers like no one’s business. And all that snow? It sure is fun to play in.

Working out with a lively group of people helps, too. If the idea of breaking a sweat at 6:30 in the morning on a 20-degree day isn’t motivating in itself, the camaraderie of friends and fellow early-risers often does the trick.

There are a handful of outdoor boot camps in Maine that run year-round. It’s a great option for folks who like an organized workout led by an instructor who will really push you, without having to navigate a crowded gym. Instead, you’ll get fresh air, plenty of space and some boot camp bragging rights, especially in winter.

In Portland on Wednesday mornings, check out the Portland Sweat Project. Fitness trainer Crystal Seaver started leading these morning workouts outside at Back Cove and the Eastern Prom last summer. The free (yes, free!) workouts continue all winter, come cold or snow, every Wednesday at 6:29 a.m. Most weeks the group meets at the Eastern Prom (park in the middle lot, just off the road headed down toward the beach and boat launch). But the location does sometimes change. (Portland Sweat Project’s Facebook page and Instagram will note each week’s location.)

The workouts change, too. One week you might be partnering up for wheelbarrow races and rounds of side planks and jumping jacks, the next you’ll be sprinting up the East End hill and using a hula hoop as part of a team-building group warmup. But one thing doesn’t change from week to week, and that’s the post-workout pride you feel for getting up early and doing something good for your body.

So go ahead, wake up before sunrise, pile on some breathable layers, and head out into the snow this winter. You might just love it.

6:29 a.m. Wednesdays year-round. Free. Check Facebook to see where to meet each week,

Shannon Bryan is editor of Maine Women Magazine.

Here are some more outdoor boot camps

Maine Boot Camp
Meets at Cheverus High School, Portland
Camps are run in four-week session

Get Out There Fitness
Typically meets at Mother’s Beach and Gooch’s Beach in Kennebunk
45-minute, high intensity, all body workouts

Biddeford Saco Boot Camp
Meets at Fortunes Rocks Beach, Middles Beach and Bath House Beach in Biddeford Pool
Interval, circuit and aerobic training


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