- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 28, 2001

Working out faithfully requires an inner voice, a constant mental dialogue that tells you when to hit the gym, how hard and frequently to do so and when to stop.
Some Washingtonians are letting Patrick "Sarge" Avon and his troops supply that voice for them.
Mr. Avon and his instructors run boot-camp-style fitness groups at gyms and in open fields and parks around the D.C. area.
The particulars of boot-camp fitness can vary from program to program. Its key components include early-morning start times, exercising outdoors when feasible and working at a steady, deliberate pace in a circuit-type routine.
And if a boot-camp client doesn't do that final push-up or lap, he or she is going to hear about it.
As the name suggests, boot-camp leaders can sound like erstwhile drill instructors as they put their charges through their sweaty paces.
"Our clients want one thing. … They don't want to think. They want results," Mr. Avon, a former Navy petty officer, says of the stern, no-nonsense approach dubbed the Sergeant's Program. The program operates in recreation centers around the local area.
Mr. Avon joined an existing Rockville-based boot-camp service as an instructor in the late 1980s and shortly thereafter bought out the fledgling program and gave it its current name.
At most gyms, clients can stop by the weight room, do a few peripatetic laps around the machinery, then leave. No one will know they are neglecting their workouts.
Sarge knows — and so do his minions. He'll send you an excoriating e-mail or even knock on your door himself until you wake up if you miss too many classes.
"If they don't show up on time, they're gone," the 38-year-old says of new clients.
Clients like it like that.
"The accountability is a huge issue. It's a main reason they join," Mr. Avon says.
Teresa Telecky, 43 of Rockville began the program about four years ago when she became fed up with her escalating weight gain.
"I immediately just loved it," says Ms. Telecky, who weighed 190 pounds when she took her first boot-camp course. "It was hard initially … but there's something fun about being yelled at."
She says she had gained the unwanted pounds slowly after graduating from college.
"It was so progressive I didn't know it was happening," says Ms. Telecky, who easily volunteers that her current weight is about 145.
Working outdoors proved another incentive.
"I never liked working out in a gym. It's stuffy. It smells," she says.
The program introduced her to others fighting weight gain, "many of whom made the same mistakes I did," Ms. Telecky says.
She liked the training regimen so much she eventually became one of Mr. Avon's instructors.
Now, if a "recruit" arrives late to one of her classes, Ms. Telecky might work his or her tardiness into the workout cadence, adding a bit of embarrassment to make sure it doesn't happen again.
She also occasionally calls clients she suspects are sneaking fatty foods into their diets to make sure they don't succumb to temptation.
Ms. Telecky says she doesn't fear pushing her clients too far because she knows each client's limit.
"We approach people as individuals. I know what their abilities are; I know what their weaknesses are," she says. Ms. Telecky, like her fellow instructors, wears the program's trademark military-style hat, camouflage shorts and training T-shirt while instructing.
Part of the workout's appeal, Mr. Avon says, is its variety and playfulness.
"We have fun. We take them to Dunkin' Donuts and do a series of push-ups outside so they'll never forget that," he says. The excursions make clients associate unhealthy foods with the vigorous workouts needed to shake their inherent calories.
All clients must pass a modified Marine Corps fitness test, which consists of a one-mile run completed in less than 10 minutes, 100 abdominal crunches, 35 bench dips and five hanging pull-ups or 15 modified pull-ups. Then they can move on to a maintenance program. The cost to enroll in boot camp comes to $345 for a three-week session, and monthly maintenance fees are $120 for a three-month program, including uniforms.
Mr. Avon introduced coed workouts to the previously all-male workouts and slightly toned down the heated rhetoric.
"The concept had wheels," he recalls. His program is expanding across the Washington area and also extends to Chicago and its suburban market.
Jane Elizabeth Greene, aka "G.I. Jane," brings a boot-camp-style intensity to her workout center on Capitol Hill.
"The most overlooked audience in America comes to me, the obese," Ms. Greene says in a calm, pleasing voice. "They want to avoid the intimidation of the gym."
Armed with a whistle and an aggressive attitude, she takes clients on mandatory two-mile walks at nearby Lincoln Park.
"I don't care if they walk or crawl it," she says. Her motto: "Work until failure." This retired U.S. Air Force major and grandmother whittled her own frame from a size 20 to a svelte size 5.
"I'm in their face. They want that," Ms. Greene says. "They don't want to hear the whistle."
Her classes, which have six students each, begin at $250 for three-times-a-week sessions, which run for four weeks. She says she has a three-week waiting period to join one of her classes.
District resident Sandy Schwarz, 51, came to Ms. Greene's classes three months ago to rebuild muscle tone lost as a result of kidney failure. She says her skin drooped dramatically from her arm and legs.
"I started walking and going to the gym, but I wasn't getting the results I wanted," says Mrs. Schwarz, who received a new pancreas and kidney during double transplant surgery last September in Pittsburgh.
Enter Ms. Greene's workout program.
"She pushed me as far as I could be pushed," Mrs. Schwarz says. "I'm very tight now. I have a lot of muscle in my arms."
Even proponents of boot-camp fitness programs agree their intensive atmosphere isn't for everyone. The proliferation of mind-body workouts, such as yoga, appeal to a portion of the public interested in relaxation as much as in muscle tone.
Some area clubs have it both ways, offering boot-camp-type classes that feature a no-frills blend of cardiovascular work taught outdoors but without instructors barking orders.
Lee Anne Graeub, director of training and marketing with City Fitness on Connecticut Avenue NW, says her club offers a few such courses. Her customers, she says, aren't looking for the "in your face" style of boot-camp fitness.
She isn't surprised, though, that many area residents have turned to Sarge and his ilk for their fitness needs.
"There's definitely a need for it out there. It's been proven," Ms. Graeub says.
Robert Karch, chairman of American University's Health and Fitness Department, says the workouts carry another appeal. Many high-powered executives spend their days barking out orders. The change in the flow of command appeals to them.
"The other 23 hours of the day, they're telling people what to do," Mr. Karch says. "When the boot-camp instructor turns the tables on them and says, 'Gimme 20,' they kind of like it."
The term "boot camp fitness" has become part of the fitness industry, even though not every class under its moniker is run as tightly as Mr. Avon's ship.
"People think it's a trend. We're celebrating our 11th anniversary. It's growing," he says.


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