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Boot Camp style fitness programs are all the rage these days. Here in Prince Edward Island, there are so many on offer it is hard to keep track. This style of exercising is popular because it offers variety and challenge to participants in a format which requires commitment.

Some programs are competitive in nature, encouraging competition between participants and/or competition between groups. You can find programs based solely on bodyweight training while others might employ obstacle course training or use built and natural environments to work the participants. You might have to supply some of your own workout equipment. Nutritional counseling can be included, weigh-ins and before/after pictures might be part of the package.  The boot camp can be indoors or outdoors. How frequently the program runs per week is another variable.

I’m engaged in my second spring/summer/fall of outdoor boot camp programming. I love offering outdoor workouts … for so many different reasons.

1. Taking folks outdoors and having them experience engagement with our natural world.  Exercising outdoors has demonstrated physical and mental well-being benefits.  Increased energy and greater enjoyment, as compared to indoor exercise, is documented. Enhanced engagement and greater likelihood of repeating the activity; decreased tension, depression, anger and confusion. This is without mentioning the fresh air, the stunning sunrises, the brisk breezes, the inspiring vistas, the refreshing rains, the early spring and late fall invigorating bite. Put your bare feet, or bare hands in grass or on the earth and feel the connection with the natural world. These connections offer undeniable wealth to our lives.

2. Camaradarie & building relationships within the group. Running a boot camp on a session basis (as opposed to drop-in) allows for the building of relationships, the development of a group identity, built-in fun competition, a sense of sharing, accountability and obligation. I have the great good fortune of watching relationships build and flourish amidst burpees and sprints. The desire to encourage, support and be inspired by each other is evident every day.  And, every one fits in: folks who need to be quiet and reserved , those who are more boisterous and convivial; folks who are fit and fast along with those who are just (re)venturing into fitness, others who are nursing injuries or coaching chronic health issues.  To a person, the boot camp experience is inclusive and rewarding.  This cohesiveness and sense of team can’t be achieved when there is a drop-in option to boot camp participation.

3. Early morning workouts. All sorts of time and frequency options exist for boot camp. I’ve been involved in boot camp programming as part of a larger picture of service, rather than as the primary service. So, when breaking in to the boot camp scene in PEI one of my primary goals was to not compete for the same participant market as the existing boot camps. At the time, the earliest programming was at 7am three times a week in an 8 week format. Thanks to a wonderful Personal Trainer, Boot Camp Instructor and, most importantly, incredible friend, I picked up, with permission, a model she offered in Camden, Maine which was not being offered in PEI.  Four mornings per week for four weeks — I went for a 6:00am offering. I am grateful to JourneyFit Boot Camp (formerly BodyQuest Boot Camp) for allowing me to use their model of programming.

I am a morning person and have my best energy early in the day. For those who can fit a 6:00am workout into their lifestyle, this boot camp model serves them well. Get a jump start on your day, complete your intense workout early on, and have loads of energy for the day ahead of you.  I love it.

4. Creating the workouts.  Aside from the relationships amongst and with boot camp participants, this has to be my favourite part of running a boot camp. I relish structuring the workouts each week. Researching agility drills and sprint training protocols, ensuring a balance of muscle groups worked in an hour, running burnouts on particular muscle groups, mixing in active recovery activities, building in intensity and complexity across the weeks…and the many other factors which go in to 60 minutes in the park over four weeks. The technical aspects of training have always engaged me and I love spending hours each week on the layouts, creating the intensity and balance of work to recovery, being mindful of overtraining issues and taking in to account the fitness levels and health issues of the participants.

I love finding a spark in an odd place, something that will trigger a theme or flow for a morning’s program. Searching out novel ways of using the body and creative ways of using the environment can pass happy hours for me.  Each program I run has rhyme and reason.  I make notes following the workout about how it flowed, what needs tweaking, how well it served the needs of the participants. It is a tremendously satisfying endeavour for me.

So, don’t hesitate to seek out a boot camp fitness program which will meet both your training goals/needs and your life. They are so plentiful and varied right now that it is like picking from a tree laden with juicy, luscious cherries…reach out and find your sweet spot.  I hope taking boot camp training is as fun for you as offering it is to me.

If you’re interested in this particular boot camp, MOVE IT! Outdoor Boot Camp has a tab at the top of my blog…click there for more information.

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kettlebell as a social event

This is a guest post by Beth Johnston.  The ‘fit neighbour’ to which Beth refers is a previous guest blogger and persuasive (read charming) friend to many. Beth’s first kettlebell class was in March of this year and she has continued to show up with enthusiasm, laughter and determination.  That is what makes her such an amazing woman.  Oh, and the fact that she is totally infatuated with mothering her two sons and successfully balances an interesting career in communications with her family devotion and huge capacity for friendship. I am very grateful that she took time to write this guest entry.  Thank you Beth. for your inspiration.

It was January and a nagging knee injury from a long-ago car accident was making life in the winter more painful than usual. Because of the pain, I had stopped exercising and was gaining weight. I knew I had to do something about it. Motion is lotion, as they say. But after a diagnosis of a torn meniscus and a scheduled surgery date in the very distant future, I was feeling pretty discouraged.

My fit neighbour had been talking about kettlebell — her latest workout passion. I listened enviously as she talked about the “good sore” she was feeling and how this workout would make you sweat and increase your heart rate without impact.

I had been trying other aerobics-type exercise classes and feeling clumsy and nervous I’d further injure my tender knee.  The idea that I could get a cardio and strength workout in 45 minutes without pounding on my joints intrigued me.

The first evening I climbed the stairs to The Whole Way Health and Fitness Studio and met Wendy, I knew this was going to be a different exercise experience for me. Her earthiness and sense of humour instantly put me at ease. When I explained my painful knee problem to her, I saw understanding, not pity in her eyes. Her confidence reassured me. “I have lots of people with knee problems, hip problems, shoulder problems, back problems,” she explained matter-of-factly.

She watched me carefully as I tried my first few swings, coaching me on proper alignment and form and modifying a few exercises for me.

My first few squats were basically knee flexes, I really couldn’t go very far. Wendy coached me to “stay with it.”

kettlebell lunge in Victoria Park

I did stay with it.

For six months.

I signed up for two of Wendy’s MOVE IT! Outdoor Boot Camps in Victoria Park. For eight weeks I started my days with a group of inspirational women in the park at six a.m.  It wasn’t always easy, but man, did I ever feel great after.

I can now squat my butt almost to the floor, I am pain free, the locking and clicking in my knee joint have ceased and I have gained so much core strength every move I make is easier. I can peddle my bike faster, heave laundry baskets higher, climb stairs without railings, pick up my kids and swing them in the air and even get up from a seated position without using my hands.

Wendy has a great teambuilding skill, there is so much camaraderie among her clients, it feels like a team. Her studio is filled with energy, inspirational quotes and she practices what she preaches, a holistic, healthy lifestyle filled with daily meditations and gratitude.

Although many people in the class are super  fit, this is not an intimidating gym for the California body set. It’s not a place where people obsess about appearances or measurements or weight. These are real people, focusing on health, wellness, fun and getting what Wendy calls their “sacred sweat” on.

I laugh as much as I sweat every time I go.

If I keep exercising this way I am optimistic I won’t need the orthopedic surgery I am scheduled for in July, 2011. Fingers crossed — and kettlebell in hand.

Almost a week has passed since my last entry.  Oh dear, that is not so good.  Even my partner is nudging me to get another post up!

The week has been eventful, to say the least.

boot camp at sunrise

It was the 4th and final week of our first MOVE IT! Outdoor Boot Camp.  It has been a blast!

For four weeks, 27 women have joined Kathryn Burke and I four mornings a week at 6:00 am in Victoria Park.  Each day has been an hour of physical effort, personal growth, camaraderie and transformation.  From running and sprinting to  lunging and squatting (um, ad nauseum it might have seemed), from Big Ropes and water jugs to agility drills, from push ups and grass stains to carrying around picnic tables, these intrepid and spirited women took the early rays of the sun and spun them into a wonderful golden memory replete with good health and vitality.

On the first and last day of the Boot Camp, each participant performed a fitness test:  a 1 km run, 1 minute push up test, 1 minute crunch test, max rep assisted pull up test, and flexibility test.  The changes in 4 weeks were significant!  Wow!  I have been receiving emails and fb messages about lost inches and changing clothes sizes.  And good on each and every one of them!

Last night some of the Boot Campers gathered to enjoy a slide show of their mornings which I put together.  We had some laughs and some ohs of awe.  And then Kathryn presented each of them with an award and a special gift.  Some of us headed off to Fishbones for dinner and drinks.  I wasn’t feeling well yesterday, but it was a great day and such an honour and pleasure to share this time with these inspiring women.

Early in the week I was in a motor vehicle accident and was tidily hit from behind while waiting to make a left turn.  The driver at fault didn’t even see me, so he didn’t touch his brakes.  Cell phone texting?  I don’t know.  It doesn’t much matter. I didn’t see it coming but I clearly remember the sound of my jaw snapping shut…. it ached for two days.  The accident wrote off my car, sadly, and sufficiently damaged his front end that his car couldn’t even be pushed off the road.

Now, if you know me, you know my life is mundane in a lovingly planned and very much appreciated sort of way, but rarely boring.  It seems that life works to keep me entertained and amused, even during stressful times.  The accident was no exception.

Monday afternoon was a warm, sunny holiday afternoon.  Some of us worked while others milled the local neighbourhoods, chatting and lingering, soaking up sunshine and a great sense of community, reveling in the wonder of a warm spring day.  I stood, a bit shaky and dazed, in the parking lot of the motel across the street from the studio.  Joshua, the other driver was attached to his cell phone.  As we were only a couple of blocks from the police station, they were there quickly.  It must have been a slow afternoon as, at one point, there were 3 marked and one unmarked cars on the scene.  Traffic did need to be directed until the tow truck arrived.

It turns out Joshua works in delivery. ..he was delivering KFC.  That stuff, it is now proven, is dangerous in more ways than one. It also seems whoever was to receive this particular delivery was desperate enough for his deep-fried-death to come to the accident scene to pick up his order!  Seriously.  STEP AWAY FROM THE BUCKET SIR AND NO ONE WILL GET HURT! The exchange of the red insulated bag of grease for cash happened before my eyes in the parking lot.  Yeah.

As I stood in the hot sun, the police officers writing their reports in their car, a man wondered up to me and asked if I had jumper cables.  I recall saying no and turning slowly toward him.  He was cradling a sleeping baby raccoon in his arms and I asked if it was real.  It was a surreal moment as I realized the raccoon was sporting purple nail polish on all of its claws as well as a matching bindi – a spot on its forehead.  I know, I know… this sounds bizarre.  It was bizarre.  Enough so that I couldn’t even comment on it at the time and was perplexed.  And, as I’ve related this story over the course of the week, I get very oddly sympathetic looks at about this point in the telling…

Anyway, at the exact moment when I am pondering the nail polish, a woman passing along the sidewalk spots the raccoon, scoots over and quickasawink pulls a camera from her bag, snuggles the raccoon and poses.

Eventually the tow truck arrives and hauls the broken green car onto its flatbed.  The driver crawls under my car to make sure my exhaust is still breathing…yeah, I don’t know what that mean either, but I hoped it meant I wouldn’t asphyxiate if I drove the poor bugger.  The flatbed then pulls into the studio parking lot, as I watch slightly confused, and provides a jump to the dead battery man, for whom the raccoon man was scouting.  It all makes sense, really.

I limp my much appreciated now defunct  ’97 saturn station wagon across the avenue and climb the stairs to the studio….sore and bewildered.

at the scene

Days later, as I relate the afternoon’s events to one of my personal training clients, she interrupts me just as I reach the cusp of bizarre and am about to bamboozle her with the manicure/pedicure/bindi details.  Stealing my now-not-so-thunderous-thunder, she announces/questions if the raccoon was sporting nail polish!  My recovered jaw likely went slack.  Turns out she is fb friends with the paparazzi woman and saw the photo on fb.  I have, somewhat ashamedly, creeped the photo.  I claim it is in defense of my now questionable sanity.  The photo does not provide enough detail to discern the amateur aesthetitian’s services, but it does lend credence to my version of events.

Next week I will see a physiotherapist and a massage therapist.  That will be good.  I hope they don’t have a baby raccoon.

bright & beautiful

This morning, one of the boot campers stopped by the studio with some gorgeous spring flowers.  Thanks.

May 7/10 arriving at the park for boot camp

I love early morning.  I especially love it as the days lengthen.  My waking is in concert with the fading of early morning stars on the western edge of my life, overseen by a tiring but still regal silver lamé  moon.  The eastern horizon, spectacular in a silken robe of sunrise, seeps through my skin, lifts my chest, and dizzies my mind.

May 12/10 from Hillsborough Bridge enroute to boot camp

For the past couple of weeks, I have been fortunate to co-instruct an early morning boot camp fitness program.  Called MOVE IT! Outdoor Boot Camp,  I get to share morning sunrise with 29 other fitcrazy funloving totally remarkable women.  Sunrises so shared are ineffably stunning.

May 14/10 boot camp sunrise

MOVE IT! Outdoor Boot Camp runs four mornings a week – Tuesday through Friday – in four-week sessions, from 6:00am to 7:00am.  In the spring freshness of Victoria Park, overlooking the cranes and herons of the Hillsborough River – known as Mimtugaak by those who came before us – we frolic (well, there is some sense of play in it ) in a frenzy of fitness.  Sprinting in the fields, rearranging picnic tables in the playground, punishing tennis courts with big ropes.  Feeling chilled, getting grass stained, relenting a bit of self-consciousness about bed head, forging new friendships, marveling at each others’ efforts and accomplishments.

May 14/10 waiting for boot campers to arrive

These are, indeed, mornings of our own making.  Every one of us awakes earlier than we thought we would, our alarms insistent that we not be late.  We do it repeatedly.  Some of us leave our slumbering blushing homes empty and still resting.  Others tip toe quietly past the doors of softly breathing children, maybe with a short-lived regret for disturbing our partner.  Yoga mats, water bottles and damp sneakers hold a special allure in the soft gray light of our morning home, their scent alerting all our senses.  This is the smell of change, of dedication, of commitment to self.  It is the mark of  confidence and adventure and it nurtures us so that we can nurture the parts of the world which most matter to us.

a 7pm swing thru the park to suss out the morning

I love early morning.  I love it solitary. I love it shared.

May 19/10 from the Hillsborough Bridge

I am blessed with good fortune.

Wow!  This week I have been practicing what Karl Marx conceptualized as ‘class consciousness’I taught, or co-taught, 24 fitness classes this week and my self-awareness of this is apparent…in many of my energy spheres and a few muscles too.  In addition, I had loads of private client work, a couple of meetings, and the ever-present paperwork tango too!

Okay, Marxist theory doesn’t really apply to this kind of class, but I thought I should have some sort of intelligent theoretical perspective underpinning my blog post…

MOVE IT! Boot Camp started this week.  Kathryn Burke and I are, as I call it, Co-shouting this fitness program.  Four mornings a week for four weeks at 6:00am in the beautiful and inspiring Victoria Park.  Leading 26 dedicated women in sunrise workouts has rocked my world!

My alarm clock has been set for 3:30am all week as I have about a 40 minute drive to Victoria Park.  With only one morning a bit wet and gray, jumping jacks as the morning sun breaks the horizon, bouncing corals off the water, silhouetting the unpretentious city skyline and placing the boot campers in relief against a ruckus of a dawning day, any alarm clock misgivings have been put to shame.

Robillard's book

This week also marked the advent of my barefoot running adventure. Working along side Jason Robillard‘s sort-of program (I call it a sort-of program as he tells us our feet are our best coach and he is right about that), I have been on three barefoot runs.

I began about two and a half weeks ago with some pre-running exercises.  Learning to lift my feet instead of pushing off the ground was a great shift in my world view.  The result of thinking about lifting is a softer landing – the ‘foot kiss’ – as Robillard calls it.  Keeping a focus on relaxing my legs and arms – loose like wet noodles –  while using the strength of my torso has been interesting and a bit of a challenge.  Working at ‘feeling’ the movement rather than ‘thinking’ the movement has not been a new nor difficult concept for me; rather second nature.

I have spent a good portion of my life barefoot and the soles of my feet are already accustomed to feeling the earth below me.  The smooth, leathery soles I already possess have served me well in the pre-running stage and I do not need to get over any anxiety about the tenderness of where I root most solidly to this planet.

step up to foot health

My first barefoot run was last Sunday.  It was chilly, with the temperature just below zero (on the celsius scale) and a heavy frost.  I loved the run despite the sting of the cold asphalt.  Focusing on my form and feeling an integral part of the environment diminished the bite of the cold.  On Wednesday, after teaching three classes, working a personal training client, and approving the proofs for t-shirt silk screening, I headed to Victoria Park boardwalk for a second go at unshod running.  The noon time weather was welcoming and the boardwalk made for a great surface.  As  a coastally raised girl, it is hard not to feel energized, relaxed and totally comfortable next to a body of water, so this run was pure pleasure.

Yesterday I completed my third barefoot run.  I had a bit of time between teaching a Kettlebell Class and a Seniors’ Fitness Class in a gym (not my studio), so I slipped total tootsies on to a treadmill.  This gave me the perfect opportunity for practicing the cadence of my strides per minute.  According to Robillard, it should be somewhere between 180 and 200 spm.  I thought that was  a lot and I wanted to test it.

If you want some idea of 180 bpm check out The Vapors’ Turning Japanese. Run to this beat. ☺

Though I downloaded metronome beats at 180, 185 and 190 bpm, I did not load them on to my ipod.  I just don’t have it in me to ever again stick earbuds in my ears and run.  Running is a beautiful meditation.

So, treadmill digital clock in front of me, I ran and counted my foot lifts.  30 seconds count, 92 lifts.  At first I had to work to get my pace up to 180 spm, but it became fairly easy to maintain the pace after a couple of tries.  This stride speed means short strides and this helps keep the foot fall under my body’s centre of gravity, thus preventing the need for a push off instead of a lift.  It felt okay.  I can work on this.

the not-so-inspiring box gym

The treadmill belt underfoot was not as pleasant as the freshness of early morning asphalt or the slightly creaking boardwalk of the park.  Nor was my physical view inspiring – a bank of mindless television sets, aging Nautilus machines and an area that was drywalled and crackfilled at least 8 months ago which has not yet been primed and painted. On the other hand, I didn’t much notice my surroundings as I attended to my biomechanics, my foot lifts and my strides.

I am very much liking the barefoot running and today decided I want to build up sufficient barefoot mileage over the summer to train for the 10k of the 2010 PEI Marathon — barefoot.  For those of you who followed my training for the 2009 10k, you will know that I am not a runner.  But, who knows, maybe running barefoot will allow me to claim the title.

My week has been full, in a most satisfying way.  Thanks to the so many wonderful people who have directly and indirectly contributed to my cheshirecat smiles this week; I sleep content, awake rested, and move through my weekend days with satisfaction, calm and anticipation.

You have the gift.  You do.

You have what it takes to make it through 4 physically and mentally challenging weeks!  To be part of a group who pulls together, who becomes a team, to accomplish a goal.  To cheer others on and be motivated by their determination, just as they will be motivated by your determination.

Take your fitness goals outside.  Enjoy the inspiring company of others, the exhilaration of the fresh air, and the results-oriented workouts of this amazing opportunity.

Be confident. Be strong. Push yourself.  Don’t sell short.

Come out the other side fitter, stronger, bolder than you started.

MOVE IT boot camp

4 great weeks in May

beginning May 4th and culminating on May 28th

4 mornings a week, Tuesdays through Fridays

Victoria Park

6:00am to 7:00am

MOVE IT boot camp will be run by Kathryn Burke and myself (please note, if you are unaware, that I come from a feral lineage)  The cost is a bargain at $175. and registration will begin the week of April 12th.  You can hold a spot until then by letting me or Kathryn know of your intention.

To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift. ~Steve Prefontaine

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