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Jill Tomich Thinks Barefoot Workouts Get Us 'Back to Basics'

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Welcome to Fitness Week: five days of workout coverage, so that you can start your New Year's resolutions off right.

Jill Tomich has led free-form, outdoor sweat sessions for nearly a decade with the fitness troupe she co-founded, Ultimate Bootcamp—but this month is the first time her schedule notes "No sneakers allowed." Last night, attendees arrived for their first barefoot workout at South Boston Yoga in an indoor, four-week barefoot bootcamp regimen—a modification playing off the barefoot running phenomenon touting increased foot strength and flexibility. We spoke with Tomich about the perks of shoe-less training and why she thinks the movement has taken shape.

You formulated this with the barefoot running trend in mind. Why do you think that has become a movement and how does it translate to a bootcamp environment?
I think the whole barefoot movement comes on the heels of everything going back to basics. Ten years ago when we started Ultimate Bootcamp that was the reason why we started it. People just wanted to get back to basics, back to things that were simple and effective. One of the things about barefoot training in general is that same mentality, going back to your roots with a primal workout mentality that's so popular right now.

CrossFit and the Paleo Diet also reflect that.
You're spot on. In our worlds of iPads, iPhones, and technology we're really just reaching to get back to what it is that is natural.

Describe a barefoot bootcamp session.
It really focuses strengthening your foundation. We're upright, we walk on two feet, and because all of us in Boston are shoved into big galoshes in the winter and our cute heels in the summertime, it really doesn't allow for our foot to gain the strength and flexibility that is has the potential to. It's at the bottom of our kinetic chain, and what I mean by that is all of our muscles are connected, so the research we've been finding is that by strengthening your feet can help reduce knee pain, back pain, and some studies even show that shoulder and neck pain are relieved just by having stronger feet.

Feet can be very vulnerable, especially when they've been previously injured. You say that the workout is great for injury-prone people. How so? How can those people avoid injury in a bootcamp workout?
I think a lot of people have that hesitation because their feet are covered up almost the entire day. We focus on a great warmup for your feet; not just getting your heart rate up and creating heat in our body, but also doing things like heel walks, walking backwards, sideways, stretching out calves and hamstrings in order to make sure your feet are stretched properly. We take extra time and even get in there to massage our feet a little bit. That helps the entire body relieve stress.

What should a first timer know before their workout?
We tell people to come with an open mind. Our trainers are great about modifying the workout or almost every fitness level. It doesn't matter if you haven't worked out in your life or if you won Ironman Triathlons. We've had all of those people in the same bootcamp class together. It's really about being open with your instructor about what your goals are and where you're starting.

Should the class be a success this month do you anticipate moving it outdoors in the spring?
We've had some discussions about that. Obviously safety is our number one concern, and one of the great things about being indoors is being able to control the environment. Outside you come across rocks, pebbles, grass, and who knows what else is on the Boston Common. We're doing it as a limited time test to see how the South Boston crew likes it. We've been getting a lot of great responses from runners, and of course from yogis who are used to being in their bare feet.

You can still register for the four-week program with either two-day or four-day per week options, all of which run from 6am to 7am at South Boston Yoga.
· Barefoot Bootcamp [Ultimate Bootcamp]
· Hottest Trainer Contestant #8: Jill Tomich [Racked Boston]
· All Fitness Week 2014 posts [Racked Boston]