Fitness industry veteran Dulcinea Lee Hellings's goal is to bring a high-quality, effective exercise regimen to people who don't love big gyms or can't afford personal trainers. In 2004, she realized that mornings could be used for more than hitting the snooze button over and over for two hours, and founded Boot Camp "Morning Crunch!" to help fledgling exercisers whip into shape.
She designs her all-levels programs to be scream-free morning motivators⎯the first stop in her patrons' journey of daily accomplishments. The fast-paced, ever-changing circuit of strength and cardio exercises keeps bodies guessing and minds from becoming bored. Each of the boot camp's 12 outdoor locations has a different dedicated trainer who gets to know each student personally, remembering their names and memorizing any interesting freckle patterns. They complement their morning routines with a smattering of evening options for those who prefer to work out after the day's activities.
Joe Decker isn’t your ordinary fitness trainer. He might just be the planet’s fittest human, at least according to Guinness World Records. He earned the title of World’s Fittest Man in 2000 after mastering a 24-hour challenge comprising a 100-mile bike ride, a 10-mile run, 1,100 pushups, and other exhausting feats. Today, his boot camp program, Gut Check Fitness, helps exercisers tackle goals that are just as lofty with outdoor workouts that have won accolades from TrailRunner magazine and the attention of Coca-Cola's fitness programs.
Each ever-changing workout leads participants into the great outdoors, where they discover the true meaning of “gut check,” a military term used to denote a test of courage, character, or determination. With the help of several talented trainers, Joe propels athletes through a gauntlet of fitness drills that torches dozens of calories and fortifies muscles throughout the body. The classes’ main piece of equipment is the earth, which provides hills for climbing, gravity for resistance, and solid ground for sprints and bodyweight exercises. In addition to basking in the trainers’ shouts of encouragement, the group cheers one another toward each milestone, fostering friendships while creating an ongoing incentive to achieve.
At her first ballroom-dance lesson, DeeLynn Fields learned, "If you can spell, you can dance." Working through tango steps, she stopped and unpacked t-a-n-g-o. By seeing the word for its individual parts, she reasoned that she could do the same with the dance. Soon after mastering each step, Fields felt them flow together, and a smile bloomed across her face.
That moment—when a student begins to grasp a dance and cracks a smirk—is what Fields lives for and now endeavors to cultivate at Crystal Ballroom Dance Studio. She and her fellow instructors teach beginning and intermediate-level dancers both smooth and Latin forms of ballroom dance, including tango, foxtrot, and other dance forms named after military lingo, and the team's expertise has garnered multiple awards, including a Best of Silicon Valley award from San Jose Mercury News in 2013.
The staccato beat of conga drums rises over the deep voice of a bass guitar and the higher trills of the timbales and piano. Head dancer Evan Margolin and his bevy of experienced instructors lead students in classes that take beginners through basic footwork and salsa rhythms, with intermediate and advanced sessions offering salsa aficionados more challenging instruction. The social class structure—partners rotate throughout every session—creates a low-pressure learning environment and keeps dancers from scrambling to locate a partner or human-shaped tupperware container. The one-hour beginner classes are mostly filled with salsa novices and new dancers, and Dance SF's experienced and engaging local salsateers are patient and friendly when showing new students how to bust well-timed moves. During intermediate classes, which require six months or more of social dancing experience, students focus on timing and cross-body leads with turns. After some evening classes, new dancers are invited to join an all-night salsa party where they can put their new moves in practice. Students should wear comfortable clothing, which includes dancing shoes, but does not include rear-flapped onesie pajamas.
Professional photographers Jonathan Mathis and Carlos Guzman nurture and support budding photographic talents with their classes and workshops. During the six-hour Point & Shoot digital photography workshop, budding shutterbugs maximize camera potential as an expert instructor discusses the basics of camera operation while shining light on the various camera modes, menus, and zoom features. In both Point-and-Shoot and DSLR camera classes, instructors also cover the fundamentals of editing, cropping, printing, and storing. At the end of each workshop, apprentices review their photos from the session and discuss them as a group, pointing out strengths, weaknesses, and skillfully camouflaged Waldos. Other classes and workshops have included sessions on topics such as studio lighting, documentary photography, and digital editing. Creative Digital Workshops also hosts low-cost lectures and demonstrations to inspire communities to see and capture their worlds through a camera lens.
Golden Gourmet Catering proprietor Liza Kilgariff schools students in culinary techniques and a smorgasbord of regional cuisines during three- to four-hour cooking classes. Technique-based Thrill of the Grill sessions instruct tyros in the art of cooking comestibles over a flame, seasoning meats, and penciling singed eyebrows back in. Alternatively, embark on a culinary voyage with Szechuan, Mandarin, Hunan, and Cantonese fare in the regional Chinese class series, or learn to bundle Chinese tea dumplings in a dim sum class. Before journeying back to their collective kitchens or wood-burning toaster ovens, students sup on menu samplings and receive copies of the recipes prepared; at many evening classes, they can also purchase wines supplied by Grocery Outlet (not included in today’s Groupon).