BOULDER — The U.S. Army has earned the biggest, baddest boot camp reputation by building 98-pound weaklings into powerhouses and trimming tubby folks into studies in lean, mean musculature.
Now, though, local civilians can get a taste of harder-core fitness success minus the drill sergeant, whistles and profanity, although it’s still an o-dark-thirty venture. Some Outdoor Boot Camps meet at 6:10 a.m.
And David Clair, the chief instructor and founder of Boulder-based Fitness for Living, which runs the camps, offers beginner, intermediate and advanced modifications for most of the exercises.
On Monday, nine women met at Burke Park in Boulder just after dawn as part of the four-week, eight-session camp commitment that started in mid-September.
Traffic droned in the background. But it would be another 30 minutes before nearby geese would start honking.
The group jogged around in a circle marked by orange cones through the fog to warm up. Then they turned sideways and grapevined through the damp grass.
Once warmed up and stretched out, the interval class — one that flip-flops between strength and cardio training — took off.
Clair, 45, led participants through some standard intervals: jumping jacks broken up by push-ups. But he also pulled out props and games to up the boot camp’s fun factor.
One cardio component called the “Fish Bowl” involved running from one end of a field to the other to pull an instructional slip of paper out of a so-called fish bowl — really an old promotional cereal bowl for Kellogg’s.
The words “The best to you each morning” scroll the lip of the bowl and seemed written for people just like the ones panting from the run.
With slip in hand, the participant then ran back to the group’s home base to read the directions.
Sometimes the slip called for an arm workout with rubber bands. Other notes asked the reader to do push-ups made tougher when done with feet on a ball or hands on mini-dumbbells.
“It’s like life,” Clair said. “Whatever you get, you get. It’s like a candy bowl.”
But it’s one that results in burning calories versus storing them.
Other parts of the boot camp reverted to the more traditional basketball workout known as ladders — running from the end court to the free-throw line and back, then to center court and back, etc. Clair called the exercise “suicides” for its cardio and flexibility challenge.
When he announced the drill, the sun was rising on the Flatirons and the day was shaping up to be a beautiful one.
But the group exhaled and some muttered, “Oh, no,” at his suggestion.
“What do you mean, ‘Oh, no?’ They’re all ‘Oh, no,’” he said.
“Come on! Tempo! Tempo!” he added as the group ran the exercise in fits and spurts.
By the time the yellow buses rolled up to the park’s adjacent elementary school, it was almost quitting time — but not before playing a team sport.
That programming aspect pleased Boulder resident Karen Cook the most.
“I would never do that on my own,” said Cook, 28. “I wouldn’t feel comfortable joining an organized sports team.”
“When I ask people why they want to go to the camp, the word ‘rut’ comes up,” he said.
That was true for Boulder resident Laura DeLuca, 41.
The former health club member remembers pedaling on a stationary bike for a half-hour while reading Newsweek magazine.
“This was to kind of wake up my exercise routine,” she said.
Her neighbor, Bonnie Madison, invited her to join to tweak her fitness and enjoy a pleasant change of scene from club workouts.
“I like breathing the fresh air, not being confined in a room with fluorescent lights or being confronted with the noise of a TV or stereo system,” said Madison, 46.
Clair said the recovery heart rate drops by 10 to 15 beats per minute and core strength jumps up 40 to 50 percent in a faithful participant by the boot camp’s end.
To improve before and after comparisons, Clair also said he helps participants outline specific goals.
“Most people say they want to get into better shape. That’s interesting,” he said. “But that’s not motivating because they are not picturing anything.”
The next boot camp starts Oct. 10.
Pam Mellskog can be reached at 303-684-5224, or by e-mail at email@example.com.