Taking It Outside

Fresh-air fitness boot camps

Boot camp exerciser Karen Calura knocks out a few pull-ups in Sunnyvale’s De Anza Park as part of an AlaVie Fitness class.

Photograph by Lane Johnson

For some, it’s hard to get much enjoyment out of an exercise regimen if it means spending hours every week working out in a dreary, crowded gym.

With summer just around the corner, now’s a great time to look at local options for outdoor fitness, including high-intensity boot camps and mellower hiking-oriented exercise classes. These classes, held mostly in South Bay parks, focus on providing a wide variety of exercise options, with the soothing scents and sounds of nature offering motivation you won’t find inside four walls.

Operation Boot Camp
Having just celebrated their one-year anniversary in San Jose, Operation Boot Camp is a national franchise with locations all across the country. Their outdoor fitness program at San Jose’s Hellyer Park promises big results to any participant willing to “give 110 percent effort to self-improvement.”

During the camp’s 30-day course, male and female participants run, walk, skip, squat, crunch, crawl, and jump their way to fitness. Participants pay $350 to work out four or five weekday mornings during the month-long period. The early-morning workouts—held rain or shine at 6 a.m.—are intense, but according to instructor Lisa Daniels, the intensity can be adjusted for all fitness levels.

“One of our big mottos is there is no camper left behind,” says Daniels. “Regardless of your level of fitness, you will get a good workout, and you are never going to feel like you are not doing as well as others. [The environment] is very supportive.”

Operation Boot Camp puts a big emphasis on nutrition. Campers are taught how to eat right and are required to keep a daily food log so they can be held accountable for their progress.

“The key thing is that it is not dieting,” Jill Romo, another camp instructor, says. “It is just learning how to eat properly and eat right, permanently.”

“This is a complete lifestyle behavior modification program,” Daniels says.

Exerciser Sophie Gines of San Jose says that the nutritional training is one reason she keeps coming back to Operation Boot Camp.

“After doing this program,” Gines says, “I know that it is 70 percent nutrition, 30 percent fitness. You can work out as much as you want, but if you go home and have a hamburger, you just wasted your time. They explain that to you so you can understand the science behind what you eat and how it affects your body.”

All of Operation Boot Camp’s instructors are former program participants, a protocol designed to give them greater empathy with their students. That’s helpful when it’s time for the class to do routines like “the pyramid,” which consists of 100 each of squats, push-ups, sit-ups, dips, and leg-raises, with two minutes of running in between each exercise.

To learn more about the program, go to operationbootcamp.com or phone .

AlaVie Fitness
Since 2004, AlaVie Fitness has helped thousands of Bay Area residents meet their fitness goals through AlaVie Boot Camp. Like similar indoor boot camp programs, this outdoor class incorporates a dynamic mix of calisthenics and resistance training in order to build muscular strength and increase cardiovascular fitness. Each four-week program includes a variety of workouts to keep the one-hour sessions fun, engaging, and challenging. Participants take part in activities ranging from jumping rope to navigating obstacle courses to “racing” in team and partner challenges, as well as more traditional regimens like Pilates floor work exercises.

The AlaVie program prides itself on its team-oriented environment, establishing a comfortable, friendly atmosphere in which all participants work together to support each other’s goals.

“We try to get people to get to know each other in class, so you feel a little bit of motivation from the others,” explains Heather Glenn, co-founder and CEO of AlaVie Fitness. Both Heather and business partner Mary Beth Gonzales know what it is like to be on a team, and they wanted to bring that dynamic into the program.

“Being on a team was part of our values,” Glenn says. “We wanted it to feel like you were back in high school training for something, working hard to get there, and being able to cheer each other on.”

The program is open to participants of all ages, abilities, sizes, and shapes, and workouts are structured so that they may be performed at different levels of intensity. Camps meet at Campbell Park, Morgan Hill Community Park, Palo Alto High School, Willow Glen’s Bramhall Park, and Sunnyvale’s De Anza Park, as well as several locations on the northern Peninsula and in San Francisco. Although some classes are for women only, the Campbell, Palo Alto, Willow Glen, and Sunnyvale locations offer co-ed classes.

Start times are typically between 5:30 and 7 a.m., but a few 9 a.m. classes are also available. Rates are typically $180-$260 for clients training three, four, or five days a week during the four-week-long camp. About half of AlaVie’s clients are on an annual membership, taking part in multiple four-week camps over the course of the year.

Kay Gallagher of San Jose is a regular participant. “I tried going [to the gym] on my own for a while, but I didn’t push myself as hard as in boot camp. And, I enjoy working out outside.”

For more information on AlaVie’s programs, visit alaviefitness.com or phone .

San Jose Adventure Boot Camp
With three South Bay locations and an award-winning staff of trainers, San Jose Adventure Boot Camp has been helping women achieve their weight loss and fitness goals since 2006. This four-week-long, women-only camp was named “Best Fitness Boot Camp of 2009” by the Metro Silicon Valley newspaper. Brett A. Riesenhuber, President and CEO of the camp, was awarded “Best Personal Trainer in Silicon Valley of 2009.”

Adventure Boot Camp begins each 30-day program with an online nutrition seminar to start women off on the right foot.

“You can’t do the program and not eat healthy and correctly and get results,” Riesenhuber says. “It gives people a set of general guidelines on how one should intake food and gives people a foundation for getting fit.”

Classes are held at Bret Harte Middle School in Almaden Valley, Edith Morley Park in Campbell, and Los Gatos Fitness in Los Gatos. Each four-week-long camp costs $200-$300 for instruction three, four, or five days a week. Classes begin at 5:30 a.m.—before the sun rises much of the year—but in Campbell, a later session starts at 9:30 a.m.

During the course of the program, daily workouts steadily increase in intensity, with the goals of building muscle, increasing endurance, and improving cardiovascular strength. A typical morning workout might include running, weight training, a core workout (exercises targeting the abdominals and back), and navigating through obstacle courses. Like at many boot camp courses, push-ups are a regular part of the routine. For variation, participants will sometimes go on a rigorous hike.

Riesenhuber says that San Jose Adventure Boot Camp helps women lose pounds and inches and gain strength, endurance, and confidence. A key element is the personal attention paid to each and every participant.

“Everyone has their own set of wants, needs, and desires,” says Brett. “Finding it is the hard part, and then I hit their triggers to motivate them. It’s not easy, but that is one of the things I do—find out who the clients are, what they want, why [they want it], and help them achieve their goals.”

San Jose Adventure Boot Camp also offers three-week camps for women who don’t want to commit to the longer sessions. For more information, go to sanjosebootcamp.com or phone

Also read: A Walk in the Woods: Hiking to Fitness