To Bring Joy Back to Exercise, Try Approaching Fitness Like a Kid at Summer Camp

Photo: Getty Images/Viktorcvetkovic
A week at summer camp was filled with arts and crafts, time at the river or lake, song circles, hiking, and other idyllic childhood activities. There was a menu of enjoyable stuff your counselors sometimes chose for you, or that you sometimes chose for yourself. Either way, it was a chance to explore different interests, get to know people from other bunks, and fill your day with fun.

So much of that is missing from adult working life. We get up, go to work, fit in some exercise, scrounge up dinner. But maybe, for that time we’re devoting to fitness, if we approach it like a form of adult summer camp, we can bring some of that exploration, socializing, and joy to our lives.

That was one of the guiding impulses behind the creation of Tampa and Los Angeles-based community fitness space CAMP, says CAMP co-founder and yoga teacher Jamie Lanza. She wanted to create a place where adults could connect with each other while exploring different forms of movement in an intentionally playful environment.

“My business partner and I both grew up in summer camps to varying degrees,” Lanza says. “It was like liberation. It was like freedom. It was like walking into a space where you're like, I'm gonna be whatever I wanna be, and there's all these activities for people like us who like to do all the things.”

"I'm gonna be whatever I wanna be, and there's all these activities for people like us who like to do all the things." CAMP co-founder Jamie Lanza

While the original location is in Tampa, Florida, I got to explore the newly expanded CAMP Los Angeles in Santa Monica. The space feels like more of a campus than a gym. There are five fitness studios that all face inward toward a large central courtyard and lounging space. Each studio serves a different modality, one each for yoga, a HIIT circuit, a cardio-strength stations class, sculpt, and Pilates.

“The campus itself is a big part of our ethos,” Lanza says. “There is this crossing paths and you're getting to see a little bit of everything all the time and decide what else you want to be a part of in the campus space. A big part of it is we have outdoor lobbies, we have places to hang out and enjoy space together, rather than getting out as fast as possible.”

To make the space even more inviting, Lanza and team painted the buildings bright colors, with playful signage and paraphernalia like tire swings on the property. Driving down busy Lincoln Boulevard, CAMP stands out and definitely caught my eye and curiosity for months before I actually made it in.

Equally important to the environment is the variety. Getting to tap into what you’re feeling for the day and select what excites you—whether that’s a bootcamp or breath work—is all part of the summer camp spirit, says Lanza. A campus has allowed CAMP to bring the open-minded exploratory ethos of intuitive movement to the fitness studio. Incidentally, reigniting a sense of play and connecting with movement in the way you did when you were a child is one of the guiding ideas behind intuitive movement.

A community environment is what undergirds it all. CAMP hosts pop-up markets and food trucks in the courtyard, and classes encourage you to meet your fellow students, and include things like group sprints to build team spirit. It seems to be working—I ran into a friend who had only been going for about a month, and teachers and fellow students were greeting him right and left.

“There’s this feeling in LA that everybody kind of keeps to themselves or it's a little bit cliquey or like you only speak when spoken to,” Lanza says. “Here we lean in, we lean in hard so that people feel like, come on, let's go do this together. Let's drop whatever title we walk in here with and let's be human beings and get together like summer camp when we were kids.”

While not everyone has access to a studio like CAMP, reframing fitness as a way to physically go somewhere that's inviting and fun, tap into how you want to move, explore your own interests, and make friends at the same time, might help bring a spark of joy to your routine. So try something new, reach out to a fellow camper, and consider pursuing a summer of movement like you did when you were a kid.

The Wellness Intel You Need—Without the BS You Don't
Sign up today to have the latest (and greatest) well-being news and expert-approved tips delivered straight to your inbox.

Loading More Posts...