Issue 429/430: December 18, 2003–January 1, 2004

THIS IS HARD-CORE

Old-school workouts such as Olympic lifting and boot-camp training are an adrenaline-inducing alternative to typical cardio-strength regimes

By Lauren David Peden

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Stacy's Boot Camp

Using Central Park as her gym (weather permitting), fitness pro Stacy Berman leads five to ten students through rigorous one-hour boot-camp sessions: cardio (running around the reservoir, sprinting up and down the stairs at Bethesda Fountain, "stepping" on park benches), strength training (hundreds of push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, lunges, "bear crawls" and "crab walks") and a flexibility cooldown.

"My class is a back-to-basics approach to training," says Berman, who was motivated to design her own gentler military-inspired workout after taking a similar class led by a Navy SEAL two years ago. "It was brutal," she recalls. "I felt like I was being punished rather than motivated. So I'm gonna kick your ass, but I'm gonna do it with love."

Berman's tough-love approach works, at least according to life coach Glenda Brown, who recently enrolled for her fourth three-week session. "Initially, the concept scared the pants off me," Brown says. "I was afraid I wouldn't be able to keep up. But you never leave her class feeling like, 'Uhh, I couldn't do that last push-up.' It's really positive."

Camaraderie and team spirit develop among the participants, who coach each other through the rough spots and partner up for buddy drills, such as jogging while a classmate rides piggyback. And Berman modifies every exercise so that it suits each participant's fitness level. "Stronger runners may do sprints during a group jog," Berman says, "and if doing squats using your own body weight is too easy, I'm gonna jump on your back."

Glenda Brown, who had been working out five times a week at a gym for the past two years, has dropped 15 pounds and two dress sizes since enlisting in Stacy's Boot Camp ten weeks ago—and she's cut her weekly workout time from eight hours to three.

"It's amazing," says Brown of Berman's quality-versus-quantity ethos. "My body has changed completely. I am doing things I could never do before. The reason it's enjoyable is because it changes every time, so there's zero boredom."

Stacy's Boot Camp, 212-531-3531; stacysbootcamp.com. Mon, Wed, Fri, 5:30–6:30am and 6:30–7:30pm in Central Park. $250 per three-week session (nine classes). Discounts for returning students.