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Boot Campers Brave Weather, Early Hours

By Beacon Staff

Starting June 14, while much of the Flathead slumbers, a dedicated group will converge on Lawrence Park for a robust set of calisthenics.

Now in its second session of the year, Mountain Physical Therapy and Fitness’ four-week-long Bikini Boot Camp aims to ready its participants for the summer season.

Typically geared toward time-pressed women, boot camps have become a popular activity at gyms across the country. Part of their popularity stems from their short duration and promise of quick results. Catching onto the trend, several other gyms in the valley offer their own boot camps.

The boot camp at Mountain Physical Therapy and Fitness, however, doesn’t revolve around looking svelte in a bikini, and men are welcome to participate, according to boot camp trainer Janelle McCracken.

“To be honest, I don’t even wear a bikini,” she said. “It’s just about a group of people getting together, getting a really good workout in and having fun outside.”

Fun might be a relative term, given that the class starts at 5:30 a.m.

McCracken says the early hour not only allows participants enough time to exercise and get ready for work after, but it also guards against skipping a workout.

“Most people cringe at 5:30 a.m., but at the same time they know that if they don’t get out of bed and do something, they’ll find some excuse not to do something later,” she said.

While the early morning hour is a conquerable obstacle, the biggest opponent appears to be the finicky weather. McCracken says that her first boot camp session had the misfortune of getting caught in a snowstorm.

“That was not fun, but with fingers crossed, we are going to have glorious sunshine so it will be that much easier to get out of bed,” McCracken said. “It’s definitely a little bit of a struggle when it’s cloudy outside, but we will meet rain, snow or shine.”

For those willing and able to brave early hours and questionable weather, but remain leery of entering a boot camp atmosphere, McCracken says her bark is worse than her bite.

“I would call myself a very encouraging instructor who is probably louder than most people want to hear at 5:30 in the morning,” she said. “I don’t get in faces, but I do push people to their limits; but it’s in a very encouraging manner.”

People of all fitness levels are encouraged to join the boot camp.

“We had several people that didn’t work out before they joined, but they were able to do everything,” she said. “I can take anyone and everybody and make it so everyone has the ability to do it.”

McCracken tests the participants’ fitness levels at the beginning and end of the boot camp.

“When we go back to retest, they are amazed,” she said. “They might not like me during, but they love me when they’re done.”

McCracken says the class is held in Lawrence Park for its central location as well as its change of scenery.

“A lot of people get bored being in the gym by the time summer rolls around, but they don’t want to quit doing something,” she said. “Because this is outside, it’s a lot more fun.”

Other benefits include the park’s diverse topography and playground equipment.

“It has a fantastic steep hill in it that we’ve used and it’s got stuff to play on,” McCracken said. “We use the tires that are stuck in the ground, we’ve used the benches and the balance rope.”

The class meets three days a week, but for those left wanting more, the option exists to meet at the gym on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

“It’s a little more intense and focused with the five-day week,” McCracken said, noting that most people opt for the three-day plan.

Lindsey Meade enrolled in the boot camp during May. She says she enjoyed it so much that she has signed up for the second session.

“The hardest part is getting up, but it gets progressively better,” she said. “It seems to stay the same intensity because you’re getting stronger as it goes.”

Meade confirms that McCracken keeps an eye on her students and even calls them if they don’t show up for a class.

“She texted me the first day to make sure I was coming,” she said.

McCracken says space is limited for 30 participants and that prior registration at Mountain Physical Therapy and Fitness is required. The cost for non-members is $125 for the 3 times-a-week option and $175 for the 5 times-a-week option.

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