View Full Version : All they can be

03-21-08, 07:29 AM
All they can be
Want to whip a soldier into shape? Send him to boot camp. So why not apply the same technique to the rest of us?
Friday, March 21, 2008
By Chris Bynum

Health and fitness writer%%par%%Drop and give me 20!%%par%%As harsh as the command sounds, that military attitude is what att

Drop and give me 20!

As harsh as the command sounds, that military attitude is what attracts many to a boot-camp workout. If the Marines build men, then why can't a reasonable facsimile of their fitness regime build us all?

Boot camp-style workouts are nothing new, but they continue to attract the few, the plump. And since many (though not all) boot camp programs are outdoors, the workout also attracts those who dislike traditional gym or health club settings.

"They are best for people who need motivation," says Fabio Comana, exercise physiologist and spokesperson for the American Council on Aging. "Boot camp workouts provide a variety of exercises, and they provide options for people who lack a level of motivation and would otherwise not push themselves."

Locals who participate in boot camp-style workouts say it's a great way to jump-start a new or lapsed fitness lifestyle. But they're definitely not for everyone, Comana says.

"Examine how you think and feel about exercise," he cautions. "If you are pushed to the point of pain, that probably won't transcend into exercise adherence."

Not only should a potential participant ask around for the style of boot camp workout that suits his or her fitness philosophy, Comana says, but the instructor needs to be able to identify the needs of the group he leads and be able to modify the workout to fit the team.

To get a firsthand feel for this unique brand of fitness, four Living section staffers, each bringing her own unique exercising style, completed trainer Jonas Deffes' four-week New Orleans Adventure Boot Camp.

Read their stories, and vicariously share in their crack-of-dawn workouts.


Staff writer Chris Bynum can be reached at cbynum@timespicayune.com or (504) 826-3458.


The 'former fatty'

By Maria Montoya

Staff writer

Age: 30

Why I did it: I had gastric bypass surgery four years ago, so maintaining my weight is particularly important to me. As a "former fatty," I fear not a particular number on the scale; the mere thought of ever having to wear size 28 panties again was all the motivation I needed to rise at 4:30 a.m. for four weeks. Besides, with two teenagers to tote around, my afternoons and evenings are no longer my own. So the early morning hour was very appealing to me.

What I learned: I went into boot camp thinking I wasn't in too bad of shape, as I take Spinning classes regularly and have adapted a pretty healthy eating regime. After one week of boot camp, I felt like I was completely out of shape and have a long way to go to get to where I want to be.

The results: I definitely feel the difference in my abs and arms, which are still really flabby and weak due to the extreme amount of weight I lost after my surgery. At the end of every workout I always felt better about myself, but after a recent change in job hours the 4:30 a.m. wake-up call started to wear me out.

What now? The class certainly made me feel like I have a ways to go to become more physically fit. I turned 30 this month, so my new, more elusive goal is to become stronger. At the same age I am now, my own mother's health was very poor; she passed away only a month after her 40th birthday. I would love to enter my 40s in sound health and confident about my physical strength and stamina. I now plan to make aerobics and free weights a regular part of my workout mix.

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Staff writer Maria Montoya can be reached at mmontoya@timespicayune.com or (504) 826-3446.


The post-Katrina couch potato

By Ann Maloney

Staff writer

Age: 45

Why I did it: I can't blame everything on Hurricane Katrina, but I will say that I have never sung the poor-me-I-deserve-to-overeat blues like I did after the flood. I felt extremely sorry for myself (never a good thing). If I wanted potato chips, onion dip and a cold beer as I sat in my FEMA trailer after work, by God, I was going to have it. After all, hadn't I been through enough?

The result was usually a bad night's sleep, swollen fingers in the morning and -- over time -- serious weight gain. I might have felt justified and comforted as I munched, but it didn't make my world better.

What I learned: The buddy system works. Friends depending on me to show up made me show up and they made the class fun as we compared notes on the changes in our minds and bodies.

I also realized that I am not being hard on myself when I push myself to exercise and carefully consider what to eat; I'm being hard on myself when I don't. So, now, I am striving to be conscious of what I eat and why I choose to turn over and go back to sleep rather than get up and go to the gym.

The results: The physical progress was actually fairly dramatic and rapid. It came because I was committed to this experience; that coupled with the trainer's personal attention and my workout buddies' support made this effort more successful than previous ones.

I feel stronger, more positive, flexible and coordinated. My balance is better and I have fewer aches (believe it or not). While I am still wearing the same size, my clothes are more comfy because I have lost about 7 pounds and about an inch in my hips and waist.

In four short weeks, I went from gasping and panting after less than a dozen squats to almost enjoying pushing myself past my comfort zone.

Now what? Four weeks of boot camp is a jump-start. The only way to change and maintain my physical and mental health is to make a lifelong commitment. Can I do it? I have kicked bad habits, such as nibbling in front of the TV and drinking that additional glass of wine. I have continued doing exercises at home and I sporadically go to the gym, but I've lost that day-in, day-out requirement of going to class and that's a problem.

I remember getting down to a size 8 and saying: "OK, this is it. I'm staying at this weight," but 10 years and three sizes later . . . I can't help wondering where I'll be six months from now.

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Staff writer Ann Maloney can be reached at amaloney@timespicayune.com or (504) 826-3453. To read a daily blog of her boot camp experiences, go to www.nola.com/living and click on her picture.


The reluctant starter

By Karen Taylor Gist

Staff writer

Age: 48.

Why I did it: One of the great paradoxes of exercise is that some of us don't do it because we're in such bad shape. "If I could lose 5 pounds first," we tell ourselves, "I'd feel a lot better about starting an exercise program." That's why, after mostly failing at sticking to a regular exercise routine for almost a decade, I went to boot camp. Getting rid of those first 5 pounds there, I reasoned, would make me feel better. Which would make me keep exercising. Which would lead to better health and more energy and a body that fits into clothes that can't double as shower curtains. I would feel (note to my teenage sons: If you're reading, cover your eyes here) more attractive, harking back to those days long ago and far away when the arrival of swimsuit season didn't put a knot in my stomach.

What I learned: It's actually easier to get up and leave at 5 a.m. to work out than it is at, say, 6:30 a.m. At 5, expectations are low: You just throw on sweat clothes and go. Brushing your teeth is as close to being well-groomed as you get. The hour also negates a common excuse for not exercising: With class so early, it's easy to get to work on time. I'm certainly never doing anything else at that hour.

I also learned that I have a competitive streak -- not necessarily with all the PYTs in the front row who didn't miss a rep, but with myself. The program was tough -- there were lots of sore muscles in that first week -- but any real pressure to complete it lift-for-lift, crunch-for-crunch and lunge-for-lunge was mostly internal. If I was supposed to be lifting some body part or crunching some other, I really wanted to do it as well and as many times as I could.

The results: The progress I made in four weeks at boot camp would have taken four years on my own. Poor little out-of-shape, closing-in-on-50 me never would have pushed myself the way the instructor's rigorous program did. Enough pounds and inches melted away to be noticeable, even though I didn't stick to a strict diet. I'm more energetic, and feeling stronger improves life in small, unforeseen ways every day, from carrying the groceries to bathing the (large) dog.

What now? I'm going to return three days a week for the next boot camp session. After that, I'll be looking for other classes, because I'm quite sure I'll never push myself hard enough on my own.

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Staff writer Karen Taylor Gist can be reached at kgist@timespicayune.com or (504) 826-3467.


The short attention span exerciser

By Judy Walker

Staff writer

Age: 55.

Why I did it: I have Exercise Attention Deficit Disorder, the inability to stick with any kind of diet or exercise for any length of time. The buddy system is the only thing that has ever helped me commit to a sustained fitness program. So when a co-worker asked if I wanted to take a women's boot camp class with her, I figured I could stand anything for a month.

What I learned: The first thing I was relieved to learn is that there is no yelling. It turns out the instructor is more like a serious surfer than a drill sergeant: laid-back and no-nonsense at the same time.

The class turned out to be secretly thrilling. I was one of the oldest people in it, if not the oldest, and I could do it! Most of it, anyway. Chronic problems with my arms keep me from putting my weight on them. After two days with free weights I had to put them away. But everybody in our little group had some kind of limitation, so I just did the best I could.

The instructor warned us before class started that we would be sore, as happens with any type of new exercise program. Ibuprofen and hot mineral salts baths really helped. My husband turned up the hot water heater temperature for me after the first day of class, one of many supportive gestures. (He even made breakfast for our little group after the last class, and told us all how proud he was.)

The results: Sure enough, after four weeks of effort I was wearing pants that had been too snug at Christmas. To me, the class proved that exercising five days a week had huge benefits, no matter how big a pain it is to make the effort.

What now? Although I wouldn't rule it out in the future, I didn't sign up for another boot camp, because I hated going to bed so early. But I do have a new exercise partner. My husband has been wanting to change his own fitness routine, so we're walking in the park for an hour, three times a week.

Plus, I'm thinking about belly dancing.

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Staff writer Judy Walker can be reached at jwalker@timespicayune.com or (504) 826-3485.