This ain’t no day at the beach

The Washington Post Sunday - - F4 - — Doug Betts, di­rec­tor of train­ing

from F1 of re­al­ity shows such as “ The Biggest Loser,” many places that once were more spa than boot camp have de­vel­oped rig­or­ous pro­grams that are light on the pam­per­ing and heavy on the pain.

I could tell from the health ques­tion­naire I was asked to fill out be­fore I even boarded a plane that the train­ers at Core Fit­ness weren’t the cod­dling kind. (Sam­ple ques­tion: “Do you use al­co­hol?” I stopped­my­self from re­ply­ing: “Yes, I in­ject white wine into my veins.”)

Hav­ing just overindulged in a hol­i­day week­end’s worth of food and drink, I could think of no bet­ter time to start a detox. So I filled my suit­case with sweat pants, T-shirts and Motrin and said good­bye to glut­tony.

I wasn’t look­ing for­ward to my weigh-in, and not just be­cause it was sched­uled for 6:25 a.m.

As a teenager, I used to weigh my­self ob­ses­sively. Any fluc­tu­a­tion on the scale would send me into a calo­rie-count­ing tizzy. So in my 20s, I made a de­ci­sion: I would never weigh­my­self again.

Doug was kind enough to let me step onto the scale back­ward. But ev­ery time I looked at him, I knewthat he knewthe one thing I didn’t want to know.

And he found out a few other things that I didn’t want to know: the per­cent­age of fat on my body and the size of my waist and my arms. I looked away as he wrapped the mea­sur­ing tape aroundmy stom­ach. It was all too much to take be­fore sun­rise.

“Happy Mon­day,” said Linda Mullins, the founder of Core Fit­ness, as she ar­rived for our first ses­sion. “We’re go­ing to crush you.”

She was jok­ing, I think. But I didn’t laugh. Nei­ther did Tony, an en­gi­neer­ing con­sul­tant from At­lanta, nor Robin, a res­i­dent of South Florida. Tony, once an avid skier, had fallen off the fit­ness band­wagon af­ter in­jur­ing his knee. He was ea­ger to get back into shape so that he could ski again. Robin had an even more press­ing rea­son for be­ing there: She was in line for a kid­ney trans­plant, but her doc­tors had told her that she had to lose weight be­fore her surgery.

Linda’s clients run the gamut from the over­weight to those who are fit and want to stay that way, the cat­e­gory I fell into. I ei­ther run or take spin­ning classes four times a week, but lately I’ve been lax about ex­er­cis­ing my up­per body. And I have ter­ri­ble eat­ing habits. I rarely cook. I eat out a lot. And I love sweets.

“It’s about lead­ing a healthy, bal­anced life­style,” Linda exde­pri­va­tion plained to me later in a phone in­ter­view. “ The idea is be­ing bal­anced in mind and body and nu­tri­tion.”

As part of the nu­tri­tion por­tion of the pack­age, a chef pre­pared health­ful meals for us. A sam­ple break­fast: Greek yo­gurt with berries. Lunch: A tur­key burger with cole slaw. Din­ner: Mahi-mahi with brown rice and broc­coli.

Linda in­structed us to eat all our food. “It’s only 1,400 calo­ries a day. You’re burn­ing lots more. Your body needs fuel,” she said.

Each day, we had four to seven fit­ness classes, some last­ing more than an hour. Some were te­dious; lift­ing weights in a gym isn’t my idea of fun. But other ac­tiv­i­ties, such as box­ing and ten­nis, didn’t even seem like ex­er­cise.

Our first ses­sion was at a park about a mile from camp. I was still groggy and walk­ing slowly, but Linda would have none of that. “You’re a run­ner,” she said. “Let’s run.”

It was un­sea­son­ably cold, so I was ac­tu­ally happy to pick up the pace. At the park, Linda and I warmed up by throw­ing an eight­pound medicine ball back and forth. Then we all stood in a cir­cle and did squats. Next we each stepped on an elas­tic re­sis­tance band while hold­ing an end in each hand and walked side­ways across the bas­ket­ball court, mak­ing sure not to step off the band. It was much harder than it looked.

“Come on, big­ger steps, Nancy,” Doug shouted.

I ex­tended my leg as far as I could and al­most lostmy bal­ance. Side steps were just not my forte. Nor were push-ups, which came next.

We al­ter­nated be­tween pushups and ab­dom­i­nal crunches, try­ing

“We’re here to kick-start you. . . . We give you the tools to go out there and make bet­ter de­ci­sions.”

to get as many as pos­si­ble done in 30 sec­onds. After a few beats of rest, Doug made us go for an­other 30 sec­onds, re­peat­ing this so many times that I lost count. Fi­nally, he let us stop.

“I could use a Scotch now,” said Tony.

“Some­thing to drink?” the waiter asked.

“We’re only al­lowed wa­ter,” Robin replied wist­fully.

We stared long­ingly at the bas­kets of bread and half-filled mar­tini glasses on the ta­ble next to us at Salt Rock Grill, a wa­ter­front restau­rant in nearby In­dian Shores.

We were hav­ing din­ner with our nu­tri­tion­ist, Gay Poe, who was teach­ing us how to make health­ful choices even when eat­ing out.

“ Think mind­fully,” she said. “ This is not an op­por­tu­nity to go wild.”

The wildest any­one got was a steak with salad. I or­dered tuna. Our choices for side dishes were a baked potato, mashed pota­toes and orzo. “Carbs should not be eaten at night,” Doug warned.

I asked for grilled veg­eta­bles. But thenmy tuna came doused in a thick, sweet soy sauce, mak­ing it taste more like can­died fish than a health­ful piece of pro­tein. I scooped the sauce off with my spoon, wish­ing I’d asked ex­actly how the fish would be cooked. “Les­son learned,” Doug said. “Don’t be afraid to ask ques­tions.”

I asked plenty of ques­tions dur­ing my one-on-one ses­sion with Gay. What do you do when faced with a buf­fet ta­ble at a party?

“Scan the spread,” said Gay. “Pick two things. Sit down and try to make it an oc­ca­sion in and of it­self. And only go for the home­made things.”

I could live with that. But I can’t live with­out caf­feine. My body is used to cof­fee first thing in the morn­ing, and by my sec­ond morn­ing at camp, my head was aching.

When we hit the beach, Linda in­structed Robin to walk on the hard sand. She and Tony would walk on the soft sand, and I was to run to and from the pier two miles away.

I was fi­nally alone, and I had 45 min­utes formy four-mile run. On the way to the park the morn­ing be­fore, I’d spot­ted a Dunkin’ Donuts. If I ran fast enough, I thought, I could pick up a cup of cof­fee on my way back and drink it be­fore 8:30, when Linda had in­structed me to meet ev­ery­one back at the gym.

I sprinted to win my re­ward: a medium cof­fee with cream and sugar. My head stopped hurt­ing, and I felt more awake. But I also felt guilty. Had I re­ally just bro­ken out of boot camp for a cup of cof­fee?

“If you’re not squat­ting, you’re not try­ing,” said Faizal Enu, our ket­tle-weight trainer.

I’d never even seen a ket­tle weight — a cast-iron ball with a han­dle — be­fore, but now I was stand­ing on the beach, swing­ing one be­tweenmy legs while squat­ting and then lift­ing it up to shoul­der height.

It wasmy fi­nal morn­ing at boot camp, andmy arms felt as though they were go­ing to fall off. It was cold on the beach, and I was tired and grumpy.

“I can’t be­lieve we’re ac­tu­ally pay­ing for this,” Tony said as we each dragged a ket­tle weight at­tached to a rope be­tween two poles spaced sev­eral feet apart. I was los­ingmy willpower. Then I had my fi­nal weigh-in. Once again, I turned my back to the scale.

“You’ve lost 41/ pounds,” Doug said, giv­ing me a high-five.

I was thrilled. But then I thought: Any­one can lose weight if they work out non­stop for three days and cut out sweets and booze and just about any­thing else that tastes good.

I con­fronted Faizal and Doug. How sus­tain­able is this? I asked.

“We’re not a con­cen­tra­tion camp for weight loss,” Faizal said. “We just want you to come here and find ac­tiv­i­ties you like.”

“We’re here to kick-start you,” agreed Doug. “ Yes, you’re in a bub­ble here. There’s no work stress. There are no friends try­ing to get you to go out. But we give you the tools to go out there and make bet­ter de­ci­sions.” Sure, they call it boot camp, but this def­i­nitely isn’t your typ­i­cal mess hall. Pearl Res­tau­rant chef owner Karim Chi­admi talks with Lin­daMullins, cen­ter, and guests Robin Scar­bor­ough and Diana An­do­nian while mak­ing a health­ful meal for them. Above, his scal­lops proven­cal.

Be­fore I left, Doug sat down with me to dis­cuss my post-boot­camp work­outs. Later, he emailed me a de­tailed work­out reg­i­men, down to the ex­act ex­er­cises I should do.

“We’re not look­ing for per­fec­tion,” he said. “We’re look­ing for bet­ter. If you look at this as a short-term pro­gram, then you’re set­ting your­self up for fail­ure. You have to think of it as: This is the rest of your life.”

The rest of my life be­gan at Tampa In­ter­na­tional Air­port that night.

It was din­ner­time, and I grabbed a ta­ble at Sam Snead’s Tav­ern. Look­ing around the room at din­ers munch­ing on typ­i­cal air­port fare — burg­ers, pizza, french fries — I des­per­ately craved a pizza.

The wait­ress stood over me as I stud­ied the menu for sev­eral min­utes. Fi­nally I put it down.

“I’ll take the chicken, cheese and nut salad with the dress­ing on the side,” I said with a sigh.

“And please hold the cheese.”

PHO­TOS BY DIRK SHADD FOR THE WASH­ING­TON POST

It’s a hit with the fit­ness crowd: Guests Ju­lia Lenoir ofMadeira Beach, Fla., left, and AlixHenry, who’s vis­it­ing from Bel­gium, punch tar­gets held by Doug Betts, di­rec­tor of train­ing at Core Fit­ness So­lu­tion Beach Boot Camp, dur­ing a kick­box­ing class.

Above, guest Kath­leen Beach, left, re­sists as Core Fit­ness So­lu­tion’s Lin­daMullins makes her way down the beach in Florida. Right, AlixHenry works on her abs in the fit­ness cen­ter.

PHO­TOS BY DIRK SHADD FOR THE WASH­ING­TON POST

Car­dio ten­nis play­ers run a mini-slalom to the net af­ter each point, then race back to the base­line at Bard­moor Golf & Ten­nis Club.

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