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[whitespace] Community BootCamp
Photograph by Kathy De La Torre

Basic Training

Who says humans don't secretly crave pain?

By Shari Kaplan

IN LOS GATOS and Saratoga, more and more people are doing it.

The quiet neighbor down the street with the manicured front lawn might be into it. So could the cheerful mail carrier who brings bills and catalogues to everyone on her route, or the busy engineer who hunkers over circuitry all day. In fact, without asking them, it's impossible to know just who has been lured into the fold.

But the numbers are growing.

No, it's not some cult or "alternative lifestyle"--it's Community BootCamp, an innovative group fitness program run by TimeOut Services Inc., which also runs fitness services for Bay Area companies. And although it lacks actual combat boots, drill sergeants and demerits, it does make its "soldiers" pant, sweat and grunt, and it does require them to show up at ungodly hours without complaint. The only catch is: These soldiers are paying for the experience. And at the dawn of a new year, even more troops are enlisting in an effort to keep their resolutions about healthy lifestyle changes. Real changes, too, not the just-for-show kind.

"We jokingly say, 'no Spandex allowed,' but we also kind of mean it," says BootCamp's architect, Patty Gash. "We don't want this to be a fashion show. We don't want people to worry about looking good at that hour."

That hour, huh?

Most camps offer participants--who range from teenagers to senior citizens, with women slightly outnumbering men--a choice of working out from 6 to 7 a.m. or 7 to 8 a.m. Locations are on the campuses of high schools, community colleges and universities throughout the Bay Area. Some of them offer evening workouts. All camps are held rain or shine, so, depending on the season, participants may show up in anything from tank tops and shorts to warm sweats and rain slickers.

"People know they have no excuses at that hour--no luncheon meetings or appointments yet," says Gash. "They just roll out of bed, show up and be told what to do. I've had people tell me they're not morning people but they find they love BootCamp so much that they become morning people, at least somewhat," she says, laughing.

Every session, which runs Monday through Friday, begins with a warm-up, followed by the day's given exercise activities, which can include cardiovascular activities like running up bleachers, walking around a track, jumping rope or using hula hoops; resistance and weight training; exercises to increase flexibility and tone, such as sit-ups and push-ups; and fitness testing. Instructors spur their charges to stick the class out through encouragement, humor and yes, sometimes even yelling--but never in anyone's face. And of course the participants, like all good soldiers, encourage each other.

"It's a non-threatening environment," says Los Gatos BootCamper Frank Oliver. "It's your middle America--a great group of people who want to get back in shape and need a little motivation to do so. The instructors help you push yourself. I needed this kind of jump start to my day," says Oliver, a real estate agent who admits he used to put off exercising when he belonged to a health club.

"I think [BootCamp] is great--they dialed in on a great idea that appeals to a lot of people. You can do it at your own pace, and you get out of it what you put in," he says. He also likes the strong, lean muscle the program has helped him build--even though he hasn't lost weight, he says, many friends have inquired if he's shed some pounds.

"People become more than teammates; they become friends very easily," says BootCamp regional manager Fran Philip. "There's a great social underlying current. If someone moans or complains, someone else will say, 'What was that?' One time someone answered, 'It's not a moan. It's an observation!'"

Philip notes that despite the earliness of the hour, the enthusiasm of the group is infectious. "Even if you're not smiling by the first half, you will be by the second," she says. "Most people tell me, 'It just feels good,' mentally and physically. Part of it has got to be doing it outdoors--watching the sun rise is really something!"

Appropriately enough, the Community BootCamp logo is neither military- nor fitness-related. It is simply a rising sun.

For information on fees, class times and other locations, call 408.996.9660.

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From the January 6-12, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 1999 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.

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