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Boot camps offer short-term goals, long-term benefits
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Kristin Bettencourt lifts a kettlebell weight during a 5 a.m. boot camp session at Forever Fit by Deonne Culala. Bettencourt said nothing worked for achieving her fitness goals until she started boot camp. - photo by KRISTINA HACKER / The Journal

This is the second installment in a series of stories about getting fit and staying fit. Each story will highlight a different way local residents are choosing healthier lifestyles.

It was 5:30 a.m. on a Friday and Curt Andre Park was filled with the sounds of grunts and groans that are common with physical struggle. A group of about 10 was lugging a weighted duffle bag 50 feet — bear-crawl style —while another group was running laps, and still another holding a plank pose for as long as each person could.

During all of this activity, a coach shouted instructions and encouragement while keeping a watchful eye on her charges. After a few rotations of the drills, and a verbal confirmation of what each person was striving to achieve this week, the group of sweat-drenched and exhausted participants were dismissed for the day.

This was not the scene of a high school varsity sports team from nearby Pitman High doing two-a-days to prepare for league competition. The ‘coach’ running Friday’s drills was Jennifer Neal from ABC Fitness and the participants were local residents looking to achieve their fitness goals through Boot Camp.

“It’s a new way of life for me,” said Heather Pierson, a five-time veteran of ABC Fitness’ Boot Camp. “I tried going to the gym, taking classes and doing it on my own. None of them worked like the all-encompassing boot camp that has nutrition and exercise.”

Boot camp fitness programs mix traditional calisthenic exercises, interval and strength training with military-style motivation — a strong coach, and team mentality.

Most boot camps are offered in four to eight week intervals and cost about $200 a session, depending on the program.

 Each “camper” has a beginning consultation complete with measurements and nutritional counseling. During each week of the boot camp, participants are then counseled on reaching his or her individual goals and given tips on how to stick to a healthy diet. Homework is also common for boot camp participants, such as taking the steps instead of the elevator at work or running an extra mile after dinner.

And, of course, there are the grueling five-day a week group exercises.

At the end of the course, another consultation reveals the physical results of all the hard work put in during the past four to eight weeks. Many find the short-term goal making and rigorous physical regime that is the foundation of boot camps the perfect thing to stay motivated when it comes to fitness.

“When I decided to do boot camp, something just snapped,” said Kristin Bettencourt, a camper at Forever Fit by Deonne Culala. “It’s one of the best things I’ve done for myself.”

What really motivates Bettencourt to continue boot camp is finding success in other people.

“We’re a small group and we really support each other,” she said.

Bettencourt used to be a walker, but she said she wasn’t consistent with it and didn’t see any results.

Since starting boot camp a year and a half ago, Bettencourt has lost 17 percent of her body fat — and is still seeing results every week.

“I’ve been amazed at what my body can do,” she said.

For others, boot camp was just the change they needed in their normal fitness routines to remain motivated.

“I’ve been a runner for years,” said Sharon Jaureguy, an ABC Fitness Boot Camp participant. “This is a different type of workout. I use muscle groups I never knew I had.”

Jaureguy also appreciates the benefits of not exercising alone.

“The camaraderie is nice, but the coach is phenomenal,” she said. “I’m not going to do all these sit-ups by myself.”

While boot camps are organized in specific time frames, fitness coaches emphasize that working out and eating healthy is a long-term commitment.

“Diet and exercise is a lifestyle, a 24-hour thing,” said Neal. “For an hour you come and bust your butt and then you have 23 hours to make healthy choices. Yeah, you’re going to have mornings you sleep in, but you get up the next morning and try again.”