Fitness boot camp: the camaraderie of sweat & the benefits of fitness
by Bill Clough
May 22, 2011 | 3002 views | 0 0 comments | 23 23 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Boot camp drill instructor JoJo Gonzales checks the stopwatch during one of the boot camp’s exercises at the tennis courts of Coastal Bend College.
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Run a computer search for “fitness boot camps” and you get more than 250,000 returns. But none in Beeville.

Until now – thanks to a 33-year-old fitness expert and Beeville native, JoJo Gonzales.

The concept is simple: a group of people who share the desire to be better fit gathers three times a week for four weeks and goes through a series of exercises.

By mixing calisthenic and body weight exercises with strength and interval training in a group setting, the program resembles a military boot camp.

Gonzales is the drill sergeant.

His appearance befits the title: shaved head and wearing black clothing that strains to contain muscles toned by years of training.

He guides more than 50 people through a series of 90-second exercises – seven in all – for an hour, five days a week.

About 30 attend an evening session Monday and Wednesday; another 15 at the same time on Tuesday and Thursday and a handful Tuesday and Thursday morning. Then, all attend a morning Saturday session.

The sessions, rain or shine, usually are at the tennis courts at Coastal Bend College.

They come for many reasons, Gonzales says, but all want to change their lifestyle.

Sixty-four-year-old Stephen Lott of Berclair, for instance: at an afternoon session on the courts, he is the oldest and appears to be working the hardest to complete all the exercises.

“I’m feeling every bit of it,” he admits after a series of push-ups. “But I’m here so I’ll feel every bit of it when I’m 94.”

Another, Grace Rodriguez of Pettus, signed up for a different reason.

“I’m going to enter the annual ‘Beach to the Bay’ event in Corpus Christi.”

In two weeks of training, she says, she has more strength. “I’ve just turned 40 and already I’ve lost inches.”

Gonzales switched majors a number of times (computer science, accounting, business management) before earning a degree in exercise and sports science at Texas State University. He explains that the boot camp program is for those who cannot afford a training program at a local fitness facility.

“It’s a way to get everyone involved,” he explains. “And I adapt the regimen to just about anybody.”

Translation: A customer isn’t expected to be as fit as Gonzales to attend. Just the contrary.

That group stress tends to create a reinforcing bond among participants is well known in the military. The same occurs in a fitness boot camp.

“Pardon the language,” he warns, “but the program is for those who give a DAMN – Dedication, Accountability, Motivation and No Excuses.

“They become dedicated to a change in lifestyle.” They become accountable not only to themselves but to the others.”

Beeville, he says, is a perfect target for the boot camp program because it is the epicenter of caloric abuse.

“It’s right in the center of three of the fattest cities in the country: San Antonio, Corpus Christi and Houston.”

As evidence, he cites a disturbing statistic: “We have more dialysis centers than gyms in Beeville.”

When he is not conducting boot camps, Gonzales privately trains individual clients at Anytime Fitness as an independent contractor.

Fitness instructors nationwide have discovered the advantages of conducting boot camps – booking multiple clients who are trained in a public space with a minimum of equipment.

The popularity of the boot camp program is evidenced not only by inches lost or stamina gained but by economics.

“All a student needs are two dumbbells, a water bottle and a mat,” Gonzales explains. “When we started the class, Walmart sold out of dumbbells.”

Each participant pays a fee in excess of $100.

Gonzales credits social networking for the success of the program – one person telling another on the Internet.

“The boot camps are for those who want to improve their self-confidence, who want to get off the couch,” he says.

Even his phone number carries a fitness message: 318-3488. The last four digits spell “FITT” which stands, he says, for “Frequency, Intensity, Tempo and Time.”

Bill Clough is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 122, or at
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