July 2, 2008

Camps Not for Beginners



You don't have to be an athlete to participate in Boot Camp, but these exercise sessions are not for sissies.

Twice a week at 5:30 a.m. sharp, people from all walks of life and various ages are at Nautilus in Kanawha City for a rigorous exercise class geared to those in fairly good condition.

"This is not your grandma's aerobics class," said drill sergeant, er, personal trainer Cher Milovich, who heads the sessions.

She offers allowances for the few with bad knees, backs or hips. But beginning exercisers tend to weed themselves out quickly.

"Boot Camp is a high-intensity workout for all major muscle groups using a variety of exercises, techniques and equipment," she said. "I combine weight training, upper and lower body, plyometrics, agilities and overall conditioning in each class.

"You can count on most of the classes involving movements such as push-ups, grass runners, squats, thrusts, planks, pop squats, jump lunges and more."

While it may sound like most folks would prefer to be sipping coffee at such an hour, there is a waiting list to enroll.

"There is such a diverse group of people in my class with ages ranging from 25 to 65," Milovich said. "There are stay-at-home moms, doctors, counselors, and financial advisers, to name a few."

Milovich started the classes more than a year ago, offering them in 10-week intervals.

"There is a beginning and an end," she said. "People can focus. They are stronger, healthier and more confident. People like it because it's one big team. They cheer each other on. They all go through the same torture to get through the 10 weeks."

Participants actually find the early hour appealing, she added.

"People get their workout in before they know they are awake," she said. "It gives them a good burst to their day."

Boot Camp enrollees are encouraged to exercise between classes as well as during summer break. The latest 10-week session just ended. There is a waiting list for the one that begins in the fall.

Dr. Steve Bush and his wife, Margi, have attended every class. She is a Marshall graduate student majoring in human resources. He is an obstetrician/gynecologist.

"With our schedules, we're too busy to exercise in the evenings," Margi said. "This is the most physically and mentally challenging thing I've ever done exercise-wise. I love it. Maybe I'm addicted."

She adds that she's not really a morning person.

"It is a crazy hour," she said. "When I tell people about it, they think I'm crazy."

The tradeoff for those early hours: she feels better mentally and physically.

Karen Woodrun, a teacher at Kanawha City Elementary, said it takes some organization to head to the gym that early and be at work by 7:30 a.m. But it's worth it.

"It's life changing," said Woodrum, 52. "I feel pumped up. My kids know I'll be in a good mood on the days I went to Boot Camp. People are happier when they exercise. The endorphins get going. There is a physical and mental impact. You don't have any stress. I feel like my muscle tone is better."

Victoria Kitts of Poca is a nurse anesthetist who just finished her third 10-week session and is looking forward to the one in the fall. Like other participants, she makes a point to keep working out between Boot Camp classes to stay in shape.

"It's amazing how much stronger I feel and I have more energy," she said. "It's a lot of fun. I'll be 59 next month. I've always worked out a little, but nothing on this level."

While the class at Nautilus is on summer break, a brand new Boot Camp has just begun at the YMCA on Hillcrest Drive, open to members only.

The class is led by fitness instructor Debbie Sizemore, who also teaches the dance-oriented Zumba.

"Debbie exercises nonstop and is perfect for the position," said Cindy Boggs, fitness coordinator for the Y.

"We are taking advantage of the good weather and taking it outdoors. That adds a new perspective."

The class is 9 to 10 a.m. on Wednesdays with lots of basic exercises from jumping jacks to pull-ups on the jungle gym. Participants warm up by climbing a hill, and Sizemore uses a whistle to switch them from one exercise to the next.

"It's not for the weak of heart," Boggs said. "You need a basic level of conditioning. We have a group of 20 to 30 women and men from college age to baby boomers."

Contact writer Charlotte Ferrell Smith at [email protected] or 348-1246.

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