There’s the shiny new Edge Body Boot Camp building on Frederica. The YMCA has a boot camp too. Then there’s another boot camp at Atlantis Health Club. None of which have anything to do with the military. So what’s the deal with all these “boot camps” around town?
“When we say boot camp,” says YMCA boot camp instructor Josh Booker, “you can expect to work hard, sweat a lot, do some long duration exercises, and maybe run a certain distance. It’s a little more intense.” Boot camps at the Y either run 18 sessions or 12 sessions. “We start with body stats and fitness level tests in the beginning and then do them again on the last day so campers can see their progress,” Booker explained.
There are lots of reasons why people join fitness boot camps. Some people join to lose weight, inspired by TV shows like The Biggest Loser and Extreme Weight Loss. Others join to maintain body weight after a significant loss. Some just want to “up their game” so to speak and take their workouts to another level. Some boot campers prefer a group dynamic rather than one-on-one instruction with a personal trainer.
Booker applies his own military background as he leads boot camps at the Y. “I went through real boot camp with the Kentucky National Guard myself,” says Booker. “I’ve always had a knack for training soldiers and it seems to come naturally to me.” Already a fitness instructor and personal trainer, Josh was hired to lead some of the evening boot camp sessions at the Y and now is the primary boot camp instructor at the Y.
Dustin Edge, founder of Edge Body Boot Camp, found a similar way into boot camp instruction. “I worked at health clubs and fitness centers and starting noticing that 90% of members don’t go consistently or stopped going altogether. I started thinking ‘Why don’t we see our members?’” Things came together for Edge when he attended a conference that introduced the boot camp strategy. He heard two things that really made him believe in the concept: #1) boot camps are cheaper than traditional memberships, and #2) the support of group accountability. With that, the idea for Edge Body Boot Camp was born.
“We started a camp in Louisville, and I also wanted to start one in Owensboro since I’m from here,” Dustin explained. Most of Edge Body’s early growth came from offering free boot camps in parks and charity events like the “Love for Lydia” (Haycraft) boot camp and the benefit boot camp for Robbie Boarman. Dustin remembers the early days of 10-15 campers who were mostly his personal friends and family. But eventually the Edge Body family grew until it found a temporary home at Atlantis Health Club. Today, Edge Body has a newly renovated facility on Frederica Street and about 150 regular campers.
Sarah Hayden leads a smaller, more intimate boot camp based out of Atlantis Health Club. “We have a group of six, and four of them come from Jagoe Homes right down the road during their lunch break,” Hayden said. She also worked with the Brescia University softball team this summer. Like Dustin and Josh, Sarah started out as a fitness instructor and personal trainer, but she began leading boot camps when she moved back to Owensboro from eastern Kentucky. Sarah likes to put a personal touch to her sessions and adapt certain things to the group.
“I love it. It’s very motivating to see the changes in people,” she said.
Josh Booker tries to be attentive to his groups as well. “My goal is for everyone in the group to feel like I’m their own personal trainer,” Booker said. “I’ve found that people work harder when you get to know them and they feel like they know you.”
All three instructors I talked to agree that the popularity of fitness reality TV shows have had a tremendous effect on how Americans view fitness and nutrition over the past several years. “I hear a lot of comments at our workouts,” said Josh Booker. “People will make comparisons with some things we do and say ‘I saw this on Biggest Loser’ or whatever. I take it as a compliment if they mention Jillian or Bob and compare what we do here to what they see on the shows.”
Said Dustin Edge, “Those types of TV shows, and even shows like Dr. Oz, are almost like free advertising for us because they get people motivated about health and fitness. I think they show people what you really can do when you put your mind to it.” Edge’s only concern about the shows is that they can give viewers a bit of an unrealistic expectation. “You have to realize that the people on those shows work out eight hours a day and they have nutritionists, doctors, and chefs on staff. Where most people, if they’re really serious, might work out two hours a day. So they’re basically getting in a day what our people are doing in a week.”
After talking to these three instructors, I think what appeals to most boot campers is the mix of both the personal attention and the group dynamics they find at boot camp. Apparently there’s something to this; the three boot camp instructors I interviewed are all seeing growth and sensing more interest all the time. The boot camp phenomenon is alive and well in Owensboro and getting healthier by the day.
Maybe it’s time for the rest of us to “weigh in” too.