Birdies chirping, bodies working: Smythe Park is Boot Camp Central!
“YOU CALL THAT A BURPEE?!?” “MY NANA SQUATS LOWER THAN THAT!” “I HOPE THAT’S SWEAT FALLING FROM YOUR EYEBALLS!!!” These are things you may or may not hear at boot camp. Lucky for fitness-focused Daniel Islanders, they are not things you will hear at a Smythe Park boot camp. Dotted throughout any given day of the week are a number of groups getting fit around the perimeter of Smythe Lake. These pop-up programs are led by local trainers and designed to get humans healthy, not humiliated. Three of these outfits operate on a regular basis: Gaia Fit, Fit Mommy Charleston, and the BenefitFocus Boot Camp. Each brings a little something different in terms of fitness focus, but what they offer in tandem is the opportunity to work out in nature’s gym. The sun replaces fluorescent lighting, the breeze operates as the fan and A/C, and - let’s be honest - the fresh air replaces the four-walled funk. Gaia Fit: all facets, al fresco Established in late 2010, Gaia Fit’s tagline is “fitness, nutrition, and the pursuit of happiness,” and it aims to make fitness fun, functional, and simple. States owner and head trainer Mary Patterson, “Taking down the walls and barriers of a standard health club or studio, we like to incorporate nature and the great outdoors into training, helping people attain their goals for optimal life-long health and fitness.” The Daniel Island resident actually runs four signature programs: Gaia Fit Boot Camp, small group/personal training, Gaia Fit Run Club, and nutrition challenges. The organization also works in conjunction with its branding partner, Shaklee, to provide its clients and members with the best wellness products – from vitamins and shakes to skin care and home goods - to create the foundation for a longer, healthier life. Patterson, a New Jersey native and almost four-year local, has worked as a Personal Trainer for 13 years and certified Nutrition Counselor for seven years. She has earned numerous fitness certifications, including A.C.E Personal Trainer, A.C.E Group Exercise Instructor, Level 1 CrossFit Certification, and specialty accreditations in pre-/post-natal fitness, water aerobics, and health coaching. She is the lone female in the household she shares with husband Rich and their second- and third-grade sons. Her initial launch of Gaia Fit was boosted by such sites as Groupon and Living Social, and the group’s client base continues to expand from referrals, social media, local print advertising. “Referrals is the number one way we get the word out about our programs,” states Patterson, who goes on to say that despite the fact that the majority of her participants are female, “We have a strong core belief in family fitness and like to find ways to get the entire family involved in our programs.” Her drop-in classes average $12 to $20, depending on the program; however, multi-session packages permit attendance for as low as $6 to $8 per class. So, what is it about a Smythe Park workout that trumps a trip to the gym? “Smythe Park has everything - the scenery cannot be beat!” Patterson exclaims. “Watching the sun rise at 6 am is priceless!” She explains that her program also benefits from the trail that loops around the lake, as well as the nearby obstacles and elements, such as the bordering short wall, stairs, and benches that can be employed for various movements. The boot campers can use the shade of the trees to find relief during the hot months, but also have a big open field at their disposal to get creative with circuits and drills. “Connecting with nature has such amazing benefits for one’s health inside and out,” asserts Patterson. “It also provides us an opportunity to educate our clientele that you don’t need a lot of ‘stuff’ to get and be fit and healthy.” Though participants can be seen hoisting dumbbells, tossing medicine balls, and pulling resistance bands, they use more organic implements whenever possible. An alligator sighting or fresh swarm of mosquitoes can bring them a bit too close to nature at times, but a little “mutual respect” with the former and repellant against the latter allows the conditioning to continue as scheduled. Patterson’s most prominent driver may not be to encourage the ticker of our teens or our wedding day dress size, but rather turning back the clock on our whole approach: “I believe exercising outside really keeps us young - on the outside and inside! It allows you to ‘play’ again!” Learn more about Gaia Fit and view the current schedule at gaiafit.com and on Facebook at Gaia Fit and Gaia Fit Boot Camp Charleston. Movin’ baby weight at Fit Mommy Charleston Two Virginians-turned-Lowcountrians, Rachel Parker and Devon Guensch, held their first Fit Mommy Charleston class in 2014. Their participants work out with their stroller-seated children, weaving cardio intervals with body toning and strengthening exercises. Incorporating not only the strollers (with passenger, of course), but also resistance bands, the one-hour class delivers a full-body workout adaptable to a range of fitness levels. “It is designed to address the needs of post-partum women,” asserts Guensch, “whether you had your baby six weeks ago or five years ago!” The Fit Mommy mission is to make fitness fun and convenient for moms while setting a good example for their kids. And the benefits are weight loss, improved posture and strength, bonding time with baby, and an opportunity to socialize with other moms. For its founders, Fit Mommy was born from some pretty simple logic. Parker, a National Academy of Sport Medicine-certified trainer, has a two year-old daughter and Guensch, a former health and PE teacher, has a four year-old son. The two wanted to find a way to meet, in one efficient package, the many goals of a new mom: (re)gain fitness, get out of the house, get their kids out of the house, meet other moms, and have some quality time with their little ones. And they’ve found that Daniel Island, not only with Smythe Park but also the trail system, provides the perfect setting toward those objectives – with a little something extra. “Every time we workout we come across birds, squirrels, moths, fish…” muses Guensch. “Our workouts turn into a mini nature adventure for the kids!” Fit Mommy has been involved with the Mom’s Run on Daniel Island for the past two years, which has helped spread the word about its program. The group also uses social media to reach new members and communicate class schedule, events, and fitness tips. An unlimited monthly pass is available for $35, or participants can get a ten class pass for $100. Fit Mommy meets four days a week from 9:15 to 10:30 a.m. Visit Fit Mommy Charleston on Facebook to get in touch with trainers and learn more about the classes they offer. Focusing on the benefits of the BenefitFocus Boot Camp It’s no secret that Daniel Island-based software solutions company BenefitFocus has historically placed a premium on the general wellness of its employees. From the trails around its campus, which encourage a biking commute to work or stroll at lunchtime, to stress-busters and perks like a casual dress code, “mommy rooms,” free Starbucks coffee, and “bring your dog to work,” this is an organization that clearly walks the walk. In keeping with this philosophy, Daniel Island resident Amanda Roush heads up the BenefitFocus Boot Camp, which is open to any employee of the company. Roush, a veteran trainer of 15 years, specializes in weight loss and has even worked with contestants from NBC’s show “The Biggest Loser.” She holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Kinesiology with an emphasis in exercise physiology and a minor in health promotion, and a Master’s in Performance Enhancement and Injury Prevention, in addition to being NASM and AFFA certified. The mom of four began her career in California, but has called Daniel Island home for six years, and has developed a fast love for training here. “Smythe Park offers a beautiful setting with great trees and space suitable for an outdoor workout,” she observes. The BenefitFocus workouts consist of total body conditioning. Participants are divided up into smaller groups to cycle through cardiovascular and muscular exercises, concluding with mobility work all together at the end of the hour. Roush loves that not only are her Boot Campers forging friendships and getting fit (she’s seen many participants lose 15 pounds or more in six weeks), they are learning all-level, excuse-free ways to get in shape, even away from the park. “Working out outdoors provides a fun and creative place to exercise regardless of your skill set, fitness level, or knowledge base,” attests Roush. “Little equipment is necessary to provide participants with the tools they need to continue it on their own at home.” But with a setting like Smythe, who wants to work out at home? BenefitFocus employees interested in attending a Boot Camp can find more information in the employee newsletter.