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Local fitness boot camps are designed to produce results — regardless of whether or not you're fit when you start. 

Photo courtesy of New Orleans Adventure Boot Camp for Women

Women go through a series of early morning exercises at Jonas Deffes' New Orleans Adventure Boot Camp for Women.

For some people, the term "fitness boot camp" conjures images of intense training regimens designed to firm, strengthen and increase endurance in a short period of time — a notion that's appealing to those who want to see changes quickly. But it also can be intimidating for the uninitiated. Fortunately, local fitness experts who run the camps and those who participate in them say the benefits far outweigh any trepidation a novice might experience.

  Boot camps, which range in size from about 10 to 30 participants and take place outdoors early in the morning, are designed to accommodate a wide range of fitness levels. Whether someone wants to lose weight, tone and strengthen, train for a marathon or simply start the day with an energizing group exercise program set against the rising sun, the programs can help them realize their goals.

  "When people hear 'boot camp,' they think of a hard, military workout," says personal trainer/exercise physiologist Monica Kinnan, who started her early-morning camps in Audubon Park a decade ago. She says fitness boot camps are based on the military model in that they're about "going back to basics" and are conducted outdoors. That's where the parallels end.

  "It's not that this is going to kick your butt," she says. "It's basically what you make of it. If you're a beginner, it's modified in such a way that you can still complete the workout."

  Trainer and fat-loss expert Jonas Deffes owns New Orleans Adventure Boot Camp For Women (, the largest of such businesses in the area with locations in Mandeville, Lakeview, Metairie and Uptown. He agrees the level of the workout is up to the individual, each of whom usually has a specific goal in mind. "A highly advanced athlete can do it, and a 60-year-old woman can do it," he says.

  "It's not boot camp in the military sense," says personal trainer, Pilates instructor and life/wellness coach Nolan Ferraro, who runs Salire Fitness' boot camp ( "We're not yelling at anyone. We've designed boot camps to be upbeat and up-tempo so that everyone there feels like they belong, no matter how fit or unfit they are."

  To dispel the myth that the camps are too strenuous for beginners or those who aren't optimally fit, Kinnan and partner Caroline Brady are introducing a new workout this month that substitutes the kinder, gentler "fit camp" ( for the harder-sounding boot camp. "We're trying to get people healthier," Kinnan says. "It's a whole lifestyle change."

  Deffes and Ferraro say fitness boot camps appeal largely to women, who seem to appreciate the social aspect of group exercise and the support that comes with it. Some campers attend with buddies or family members, while others make new friends during the sessions. In fact, Deffes' camp is exclusively for women. "There can be a sense of disconnect in a gym," he says. "In a group setting, you actually become part of a community. It's more than just working out; it's about commitment and staying focused."

  Kinnan and Brady say there also are numerous benefits for men and young people, and they are trying to attract more men to their camps and are starting an after-school fitness camp for teenagers.

  Another consideration is the cost. A personal trainer charges $50 to $60 an hour for one-on-one sessions, but boot camps cost $8 to $20 an hour. While clients don't receive the same degree of individualized attention at a boot camp as with a personal trainer, they do get more monitoring and pre- and post-class evaluations than with ordinary exercise classes. Those who sign up for Deffes' camps also receive emails, newsletters, nutritional guidance and access to a network of 500 members.

  Ferraro says having campers set goals, then monitoring their success helps them achieve the levels of fitness they desire.

  "Everyone needs a stakeholder in their life," he says. "[Boot camp trainers] can hold [participants in the camps] accountable as a catalyst to change as they decide where they want to go."

  Working out outdoors also has benefits: lifting spirits, eliminating toxins from your body through sweating, and getting campers into activities such as jogging and sprinting that require open spaces. The idea is to provide a full-body workout through a combination of cardio exercises, calisthenics, light weights, light jogging, functional training and agility drills — all of which are performed in a fluid manner without a lot of stops and starts, and can be modified for individual needs.

  "From the beginning, I saw better results outdoors than I did indoors," Kinnan says. "Women need to be challenged more cardiovascularly, and the outdoors is good for that."

  Deffes' and Ferraro's Web sites are filled with testimonials from people who have completed at least one camp. Their stories include losing inches and pounds as well as gaining energy. Lanay Stockstill, 32, who was introduced to the program by one of her sisters, is enrolled in her eighth boot camp with Deffes in just one year. Like many others, she originally joined to fast-track her way to being stronger and more fit, but the benefits she experienced have kept her — along with three of her sisters and her mother — coming back. "My goal was to feel stronger and be happier with my level of fitness, and that has definitely been achieved — with some perks," she says. "I lost a dress size, I sleep better and I don't feel bad when I overindulge. People get addicted to the results and how good they feel, and they become repeat customers. I see a lot of familiar faces there. It's more than a quick fix."

  Ferraro's camp even provides a community benefit: One-third of the profits from the camps go to charity. In August, Salire Fitness presented a check for $13,500 to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. Starting in September, participants can choose one of three charities they want to benefit from their registration: the Komen Foundation, City Park or Desire Street Ministries.

  "We have embraced becoming a community-oriented business," Ferraro says. "A lot of people are still dealing with weight gain from Katrina, loss of family and belongings. We preach a holistic approach, and boot camps are a practical way for us to bring to them what we preach."

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