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Bootcamp: Take it like a man

By David Toussaint

It’s not just for porn anymore. Bootcamp workouts, designed and nicknamed after those very same training drills, are all the rage in fitness circles these days. The good news is, you don’t have to enlist in the Army or Marine Corps to get in on the action. You just have to know how to take orders like a man.

Something tells me most of you have had years of experience.

The idea behind Bootcamp is two-fold: Keep your routine from getting dull and shock your muscles so that you’ll look, and feel, the best you have in ages. Since the classes are a combination of cardio and weights, Bootcamp is designed more for the man who wants to look like ripped meat, not a meat head. Now that summer’s approaching, you might want to mull that one over before trying to pull off this season’s Prada swimwear.

Joey Gonzales, General Manager and instructor at Barry’s Bootcamp in West Hollywood, where the boys go to get drilled, says that Bootcamp workouts are a return to the idea that pain and pleasure come hand in hand.

“No matter what level you’re at, you’re going to feel pain,” he said. “To get in really good shape, you have to realize that there’s always more than you thought you could do. We take you to that moment where you think you’re going to die, and then we take it up a level. We call it The Zone. It’s about pushing yourself to the ultimate limit. It’s also a lot of fun.”

If this sounds a little reminiscent of Jane Fonda’s “go for the burn, no pain, no gain days,” it is—to a point.

“People are still obsessed with the 80s notion that to lose weight and look great, it’s all about cardio. I have to show them otherwise. We go from treadmills to abs to free weights, then back to treadmill.”

The advantage that Bootcamp training has over other fitness regimens is that it’s all-inclusive in one studio. Typically, one instructor will do one day of, say, chest and abs, one day of legs, and one day of arms. As long as you keep coming back, you’re getting the whole kit to shape your caboodle.

At Pure Power Boot Camp in Manhattan, if you don’t come back, they stalk you. “You sign up for a Tour of Duty,” says owner and instructor Lauren Brenner. “If you miss three classes, we call you in the middle of the night or at your office.” Brenner’s studio is actually a 6,500-square-foot-loft in Chelsea (where the boys go to find drills), complete with camouflaged walls, monkey bars, hurdles, tires, and simulated barbed-wire crawls. The changing rooms are World War II tents. But don’t let that scare you.

“It’s about empowering people,” says Brenner. “Unlike real Bootcamp, where they break you down, we just bring you up. There’s nothing like 15 people screaming your name when you’re attempting to get over that wall.”

With the exception of Brenner, who used to work on Wall Street—“I traded in my heels for a pair of fatigues,” she says—the five instructors at her studio are former marines, who know a thing or two about whipping people into shape.

“The moment you walk in, you’re forced to get down and do push-ups,” says Brenner. “What you do for a living gets thrown out the window. You’re part of a platoon. Each obstacle we have is emulated after Fort Knox Military Base in Louisville, Kentucky.” As more people are complaining of workout plateau syndrome, Bootcamp training’s mantra is that repetition of the same reps is deadly. Both Brenner and Gonzales never do the same workout twice.

To give you an example, a 60-minute class at Barry’s Boot Camp (which could include anywhere from 12 to 50 people) could start with treadmill work, then chest, then push-ups, some abs, some more chest, and back on that treadmill—and that’s just Chest and Abs Day. The next session will be completely different.

At Pure Boot Camp, it’s an hour of “blood, sweat, and tears,” says Brenner. How you get those tears is the surprise. “You don’t what you’re doing when you get here,” she says. “We might do all abs, or hand-to-hand combat, or all cardio. There is no such thing as a typical class.”

“It’s like circuit training,” adds Gonzales. “But I use new songs, new exercises, new arm workouts. It’s interactive group fitness. We even hang out afterward.”

That last bit of information should be incentive enough to sign up, as Barry’s takes pride in being the camp that put the boot in Jake Gyllenhaal’s Jarhead-bod. Anyone who saw The Mountain Boy’s butt naked scenes in that flick will know why Ennis Del Mar came with his own inflatable pup-tent.

To learn more about Bootcamp training, visit www.barrysbootcamp.com (818) 784-6262, and www.purepowerbootcamp.com (212) 414-1886. You’ve been warned. David Toussaint is the author of Gay and Lesbian Weddings: Planning the Perfect Same-Sex Ceremony. He can be reached at www.davidtoussaint.com.