The Fitness Boot Camp Diaries

Health& Fitness, Fayette Woman, July 2009

I’m not a fan of reality TV, but there is this one show I’ve started watching. On “The Last Ten Pounds,” women trying to lose some weight are paired up with a professional trainer and a nutritionist for a month. After a being put on a new diet (the nutritionist throws out all their Ring-dings and vodka) and a month of fitness boot camp (the trainer pushes them through a miserably intense workout six days a week at the gym), we see them, at the end of the show, trying on a dress that is one or two sizes smaller than before, looking pleased and happy as they revel in their ten-pounds-lighter frame.

That show’s producers must have their pick of candidates for the episodes; according to the statistics, eight out of ten American women would like to lose weight or be in better shape. I’m definitely in the majority here. Blame it on baby #3 or a weakness for potato chips, but it’s been a long time since I was able to wear my favorite pair of jeans. I’ve been working out and making better food choices over the past six months—except when a bag of Doritos finds its way into my grocery cart—but I’d like to see more dramatic results, and I’d like to see them soon.

Enter my own personal version of “The Last Ten Pounds.” I hook up with Beckie Bell, one of the trainers at the gym I’ve been going to, and after a weigh-in and a discussion about good nutrition (which I translate as, “stop buying junk food or you’re wasting your time here”), I’m ready to start on the four-week fitness boot camp program: three days per week, one hour per day, of working out with Beckie and a few other “campers.”

Day 1: Beckie explains to us that the boot camp is designed to bring the heart rate up, then slow it down, then back up again, throughout the course of the hour. After the initial stretches to warm up, we start with jumping jacks, then do some calisthenics training, then some weight lifting. There is an elevated bench (like the kind I used to use in my step aerobics classes) and we use it for lots of activities, including push-ups, jumping on and off it, step-ups and sit-ups. Aside from the jumping jacks and push-ups, we rarely do the same activity more than twice, and we keep rotating the activities for about 30 minutes before taking a break. I am glad that Beckie is right there alongside of all of us, doing all of the exercises. She is full of encouragement. “It’s really hard for the first few days,” she says understandingly, “but it’ll get easier as you go along.”

After a short break, we do some more rotations of jumping jacks, calisthenics and weight lifting, then some lunges and something that Beckie refers to as “frog jumps,” that make me feel like I’m at a kid’s birthday party as I hop across the room. We do some sit-ups with a medicine ball, which are not as difficult as I thought they’d be. Toward the end of the session, we cool down with some deep stretches, which feel like a delicious treat after all of the intense exercises. I go home feeling revved up: I can do this.

Day 2: I wake up and wonder how I am ever going to make it through the day. Every muscle aches, especially my arms and my backside. I shuffle around the house as I get the kids ready for school, and think to myself that this is one of the major differences between my regular workout routine and boot camp: normally, I’d give myself the day off, satisfied that an achy body is proof enough of progress. But I made a commitment, and I go back for more. Day 2’s workout is similar to Day 1’s, except that the exercises are more familiar now.  I’m surprised to find that the achiness eventually goes away as I continue to work out.

Day 4: Today’s session went pretty well. We did lots of the usual exercises—weights, calisthenics, those goofy frog-jumps again—and a few new ones, too. The exercises that were strange and awkward at first are becoming familiar and a little easier to do, even though we’re doing more of them. I’m not as sore as I was the first week. While I can’t speak for the other boot camp trainees, I get the feeling that we are all a little proud of ourselves for having stuck it out thus far.

Last night my husband complimented me. “I can see a difference in you,” he said, and I hope he’s not imagining things.

Day 5: Workout (cardio, weights, calisthenics, repeat, repeat, repeat). The sessions are more and more fun; I’ve gotten to know some really nice fellow campers, and we support each other and push each other to work harder. Today I also weigh in: a couple of pounds lost, as well as several inches. Not bad for two weeks’ efforts.

Day 7: Beckie has been promising (or threatening, depending on how you look at it) that we’ll do “stadium training” as soon as it stops raining. Well, the skies have finally cleared and today we met at the high school’s track for the first stadium training session. The exercises are pretty consistent: run up and down the bleachers, do a set of push-ups, do some abdominal crunches, repeat. And repeat. And repeat. We finished the session off by running two laps around the track, alternating sprints with fast-paced walking. A hard workout, but one that will definitely help me toward my goal of fitting into pre-baby jeans.

Day 11: Okay, it’s been four weeks since I started this program, and I’ve come to several conclusions:

(1) Fitness Boot Camp is not a miserable experience, like they suggest on TV. As far as my List of Fun Things to Do is concerned, it doesn’t rank anywhere close to “margaritas with the girls,” but it’s actually a lot of fun.

(2) I like having a trained professional telling me what to do and pushing me to work harder. I get to ask Beckie questions about what we’re doing, how it helps, and whether I’m doing the exercise correctly. I also like the small class size; Beckie’s able to help each of us, making the exercises a little easier or more challenging, depending on who needs what.

(3) Boot camp is very effective. I’ve gotten stronger and more toned, and I’ve lost several pounds and about 10 inches overall. Yes, I still have a ways to go before I join that 2-out-of-10 minority, but I’ve come really far in a short time. And guess what? I said “hello” to my old favorite jeans yesterday. They fit just fine.

If you’re interested in trying out fitness boot camp for yourself, contact Beckie Bell at [contact info].