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Elev8 your body and mind

Fitness boot camp demystified

BOOT CAMP: Elev8 Fitness incorporates balance into strength training, giving you the complete package. Courtesy photo

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This summer I watched a woman do over 30 military push-ups at the Weekly Volcano's Best of Tacoma party. Impressed with her abilities and form, I wanted that strength for myself. I contacted Kjersten Salzman, owner and lead trainer at Elev8 Fitness, and enlisted in a month-long boot camp session. Participants, called recruits, can report for fitness duty (one-hour small group fitness classes) up to six days a week - frequency is based on individual desired results. I opted to take full advantage of the experience and issued a personal challenge to attend every day but Sunday ... even God says we need a rest day.

Bill Sonnemaker, M.S., an award-winning exercise physiologist, personal trainer and educator, defines a quality boot camp program as one being designed and led by a personal trainer certified through one of the five accredited and recognized organizations: ACE, NASM, PTA Global, NSCA, ACSM. Five key elements to look for are program design, location, scalability, accountability and nutrition. Elev8 Fitness covers these and more. Just as consistently attending boot camp is important for recruits, Salzman ensures the boot camp experience offered at Elev8 Fitness delivers on Sonnemaker's key elements by requiring staff to adhere to her protocols of how classes are conducted - it's the method to her madness.

Variety and level of mental and physical challenge are also at the forefront. Classes consist of stretches and warm-up followed by ever-changing featured exercises, intermittent cardio breaks to keep calorie burn high.  Classes end with stretches and admonishments to drink water and do more light stretching. Featured exercises include push-ups, squats, lunges, plank holds, bicep curls, shoulder press, tricep raises, crunches, burpees and more. A focus is placed on developing coordination and engaging different muscles groups simultaneously for maximum efficiency.

Day 1: Salzman meets with me privately to take body measurements, a fat percentage, talk goals and recommend I get rid of my weight scale. "I want to gain strength and lean out," I share, meaning increase muscle mass and definition while decreasing belly fat. Salzman kindly assures me that spot reduction and quick fixes don't exist, but strength and fat loss will happen as part of the overall boot camp program. The first class is a solid mix of exercises I already knew ones that challenge me. Wondering if I've lost my mind, I decide to shoot for 5 a.m. classes.

Day 7: Predictably, 5 a.m. is killing me. Motivation plummets along with hours of sleep. Salzman and Elev8 staff Heath Nicholls and Michelle Cvitanich provide positive motivation by reminding me boot camp isn't meant to be easy. As I struggle and feel like puking, I repeat in my head one of Salzman's mini-pep talks, "This is where change happens."

Day 14: As promised, classes are hard. They are also 100 percent modifiable and scalable to range of motion, ability and current health level. Not able to run and jump due to severe shin splints, I soon discover easy replacement exercises were not what I'd get instead ... and I'm glad. Kjersten and her staff make adjustments based on my limitations, yet still make full class participation possible. Reinforcing accountability, other recruits and I are constantly reminded that not completing exercises only means cheating yourself. Sheepishly, I acknowledge there are some get-honest moments. "You will be sore" seems to be the way a smiling Salzman says "Have a good day."

Day 21: I realize I can do 20 consecutive military push-ups without thinking I will die. I see signs of muscles in my shoulders I'd never had before. "The only effective approach is to work toward strength and overall fitness," says Salzman during a particularly grueling class ... and she's right. This means incorporating cardio, weightlifting, diet and nutrition, flexibility and rest. "Eat lean meats, more vegetables and constantly drink water" and "Sleep is crucial to fat loss and your body's ability to repair itself," are two motivational sound bites heard between exercise sets.

Day 30: Immersion in boot camp six days a week brings about serious changes in my physical form and strength. I meet with Salzman to measure my results and I am amazed at how my body has reshaped itself in a month. I have lost 4.18 percent of body fat (dropping to 16.09 percent) and gained  over seven pounds of muscle. Though these statistics are important, I know my health and self-worth are not defined by them. Through the wisdom imparted by all of Elev8 Fitness's staff of focusing on gaining overall health rather than simply losing weight, I have developed a better awareness of my physical and nutritional needs and what my body can do. The level of intensity I am able to achieve is excellent. Finishing strong, I stick it out to achieve my goals and graduate boot camp with the honor of being the first recruit ever to complete a full month of attending all six days weekly. I win!

Ele8 Fitness

3403 N. Proctor, Tacoma

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