The alarm next to your bed goes off at 5:30 in the morning and as tempting as it sounds to just hit snooze and enjoy the comfort of your warm bed, you decide against it. It’s pitch black outside and your room is icy cold but somehow you force yourself to stand up. The holiday season is upon us but there is no excuse to gain that warm winter weight. Throw on some workout clothes and hurry up because you’re about to burn off last nights sugar cookie(s) and don’t forget to grab a water bottle and a small towel because your first boot camp class starts in 30 minutes.
It is too early to function and your eyes can barely stay open. Standing next to a handful of other people, who look equally as tired, you wonder what the hell you got yourself into. You cannot remember the last time you have been awake this early.
“Welcome to operation rapid response! Arms up, level with your shoulders. Elevate your knees to your hips on each kick. Keep your back straight. Keep going!” START fitness instructor Bianca Buresh yells.
Suddenly you’re running in place and the blood starts flowing. There’s really no time to think because the instructor transitions quickly through exercises. Today’s work-out consists of thirty minutes of indoor training, then thirty minutes outdoors. Many boot camp classes can be both indoors and outdoors and can be for people of all fitness levels. Today’s indoor training class focuses on muscular strength, stamina and overall aerobic conditioning while outdoor training includes running, sprinting and focuses on developing aerobic efficiency.
Loud music begins playing in the background. You start to wake up. The music helps you get focused motivated. “Mountain climbers! Lets get down on the ground!” Bianca yells out. She shows everyone what to do by getting in the push-up position and alternating her right knee to your chest and then the left knee, then tells everyone to do the same and as quickly as possible. Thirty seconds of this and you’re back on your feet jumping up, then dropping to the ground doing push-ups. Twenty more repetitions! Jumping, dropping to the ground, push-ups; it feels never-ending. Bianca instructs everyone to shout ‘hoorah’ after the last push-up. Everyone begins counting down from ten and then finally you get to the last push-up. Yes, almost finished!
“I didn’t hear everyone shout hoorah!” Bianca says. “You’re going to do ten more repetitions! Don’t forget to yell hoorah this time.” There are no breaks to get water or let you catch your breath. It’s up to you to excuse yourself to do either of these. Once the indoor session is finished everyone hurries outside.
Instructors at START fitness do not yell at people to do an exercise and are trained to motivate and coach people by demonstrating proper exercise techniques. Boot camps are not just for the military anymore. Many boot camp fitness groups are located around San Francisco, usually downtown, along the Embarcadero, at Crissy Field and in the Marina district. People actually pay to attend these intense fitness boot camp classes.
Army National Guard Staff Sergeant, Ken Weichert, and his wife Stephanie Weichert, founded START fitness, one of San Francisco’s first civilian boot camps. The boot camp formed in 1997 and is the longest running boot camp in the country. It is a group exercise program and incorporates military-style workouts.
Imagine jogging alongside a six-time soldier of the year, master fitness trainer and veteran of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Desert Storm. Probably not in one of your top three things to daydream about, or imagine yourself adding to your Tuesday’s to-do list. For a small group of individuals living in San Francisco, this has become their favorite way to work out.
Sgt. Ken has devoted his life to promoting fitness, resilience, leadership and getting people into shape. So move aside yoga classes, there’s a new, bad-ass fitness group in town. Maybe there’s something about a tall, military-looking guy that really motivates an individual to push themselves as hard as they can. These military trained instructors are one of many reasons boot camps are becoming more popular.
The training techniques used by START fitness instructors are also practiced by the U.S. military. Ken and Stephanie have trained thousands of soldiers through Operation Fit to Fight, a fitness instructor training program they started. This program was was created to train soldiers for basic combat training. Many exercises from this program are similar to those in that are in START fitness workouts. Ken and Stephanie also produce health and fitness programs for GX Magazine ( a National Guard Magazine), and programs for the National Guard and Military websites.
The exercises are created to target target specific muscle groups and a person can burn between 600 and 800 calories in one sixty-minute class session.
Sgt Ken has been has served the military for seventeen years and travels around the country to train soldiers before they are deployed. Ken is usually in San Francisco for one week out of a month.
So, you just wrapped up the first thirty minutes indoors of the fitness boot camp class, now you’re outside and it’s time to work out for another thirty minutes. Bianca instructs the class to do lunges uphill for one block then continue jogging uphill another three blocks until you reach Lafayette Park located at Sacramento and Gough Streets. There, the class jogs up a flight of stairs, does push-ups at the top, jogs back down and is told to do suicides. This continues until the end of class.
Your muscles are shaky and you feel a little nauseous but you can’t help but smile and feel good about yourself.
According to multiple Yelp reviews, the START fitness boot camps,”really kicks your ass!” Whether you make this a daily routine is up to you. Six in the morning is early, but at least you get it out of the way and still have time for school and work. Maybe thinking about all the bad food you want to eat this season will be enough motivation.