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Bootcamp challenge comes to Callicoon

By Jeanne Sager
CALLICOON — March 28, 2008 — Sometimes all it takes is someone telling you to get off the couch.
That’s the premise behind the newest workout program in Sullivan County.
Boot Camp Challenge is exactly what the name implies – a workout regime with a quasi-drill sergeant at the helm.
Only this isn’t a spit-in-your-face, call-you-a-girl’s-name sort of drill instructor.
Opening at the Flex Appeal Gym at the Villa Roma in Callicoon, the program is in the hands of Jim Caruso, a former New York City cop turned personal trainer.
Caruso can get loud.
But he’s the guy known around Flex Appeal for offering gentle advice on how to get the most from your workout or how best to use the equipment.
That’s what the folks who sign up for the first six-week Boot Camp Challenge should expect – three days a week, half an hour a day.
“It’s just fun, polite encouragement with a louder tone,” Caruso said with a grin.
A professional body builder in the 1980s, Caruso knows plenty about crashing and burning on an exercise program.
“Unfortunately, with a body building mentality, it’s all or nothing – that’s the way it is,” he recalled.
That’s hard to sustain, and Caruso said it’s the way a lot of people approach exercise and dieting.
That’s why they lose weight only to pack the pounds back on, he said.
What people need is a paradigm shift, Caruso explained, to fit exercise and proper nutrition into their lifestyle.
It was a fluke that he was watching FitTV when a Boot Camp Challenge workout was airing.
But Caruso was intrigued.
Designed by an Army veteran turned fitness educator, the program brings personal training to the group level.
Small classes – a maximum of 12 participants – are lead in a 30-minute workout by their instructor who shouts out orders in the staccato manner of a drill instructor.
Certified by the International Sports Science Association, Caruso will be planning the workouts at Flex Appeal to be as fun as possible while still working the muscles and strengthening the body.
Each session will be different – sometimes boot camp will be outside, sometimes it will be inside. Sometimes they’ll be jogging the hills of the Villa. Sometimes they’ll be running the bases at the resort’s diamond.
Penalties of push-ups or sit-ups will be issued for infractions – such as tardiness – similar to a real boot camp.
But Caruso is quick to point out the penalties will be constructive, a way to help people get in shape, not to tear down their self- esteem.
His goal is to create a workout that will help everyone.
With small class sizes, Caruso said neophytes will have the same personal training attention as folks who are already in shape.
In fact, he’ll be crafting routines that can be done by folks at every level at the same time with only small modifications.
“Everyone works at their own pace, but they get encouragement at my pace,” Caruso explains. “Those who are advanced get one heckuva workout, and so do those who aren’t.”
Crucial to the success of the program will be the food log that every “recruit” is required to bring to boot camp for each session.
Keeping a log will help participants see what they’re really eating and its effects on their bodies. When they see results, they’ll be able to tie them to the choices they’re making in their diets.
The program will begin with a body assessment – measurements and a body fat ratio.
There won’t be a weigh-in, but at the end of six weeks, a second assessment will give participants a true marker of how far they’ve come.
“In exercise, you hate to use quick fixes,” Caruso said. “But this is a great program because, for lack of a better word, it is a quick fix.”
What makes it different from a crash diet, he said, is its sustainability.
Incorporating nutrition into the program means people walk out with knowledge of what goes into their bodies and how to make life changes.
Caruso himself has dropped his cholesterol from 234 to 154 in 10 weeks using only the Boot Camp Challenge model – no medicine.
He’s not yet at his goal weight – the shape he was in back when he was bodybuilding – but why he’s still working out and still eating right.
He’s dropped from 328 pounds to 285, and he’s still going down.
Boot Camp Challenge is for people who want to lose weight – whether it’s a few pounds before bikini season or 100 pounds to improve their health.
It’s for people who want to feel better, to look better, he said.
For folks who just want that “quick fix,” who just need that push to lose a few more pounds, it can happen in the six weeks.
For people who need more, Boot Camp Challenge can put them on the right path.
He guarantees results – even if it’s just a boost in self-esteem and an improvement in how people approach eating and exercising.
Flex Appeal Manager Christine Dolce said she sees Caruso bringing something to her gym that people need in a day and age when people don’t have a lot of spare time.
“They want something where you’ll see great improvements and have fun,” she said.
“We have a lot of really fit members, but we have a lot of people who don’t really know much about fitness,” she continued. “They come in, they don’t know what to do, and they give up.
“This is a stepping stone for them,” she said.
A cheaper alternative to one-on-one personal training, this will ease people into a routine with a personal trainer showing them the ropes and a group of fellow “recruits” acting as a support system.
“They’ll come in, see results, and they’re gonna go on,” Dolce said. “Besides, Jim won’t let them quit.”
The first sessions of Boot Camp Challenge, which will be offered three times a day to fit people’s varied schedules, are set to begin in mid-April.
Folks need to call now to sign up, Caruso said.
For more information, please give him a call at his home in Youngsville at 482-4915, on his cell phone at 649-4015 or call the Flex Appeal gym at 887-4880, ext. 7504.

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