Travis Watkins bridges the gap between two seemingly disparate professions: personal trainer and poet. His experience as a physical education teacher, youth sports coach, and strength-and-conditioning mentor have given him an expert understanding of the body. It was, however, his time as a spoken word artist and Teach for America member that refined his skills in supportive communication, which he incorporates into his training persona.
Today, he guides clients of all ages through customized workouts and boot camps. He might meet them in their own homes for an equipment-free exercise circuit, during which he'll demonstrate moves that utilize bodyweight as resistance. Or, he might teach them proper weight-lifting techniques for boosting muscle mass. When it comes to kids, he leads group classes full of games and obstacle courses as part of Fit Kids Academy, as well as sessions geared toward student athletes.
Thomas Volmer credits his wife, Rachel, for inspiring them to start helming boot camps. She wasn’t always a fitness guru, though. "She was a commercial banker and she was 70 pounds overweight," Volmer recalls. Once she started to reclaim her life, "she just fell in love with fitness," he says. She eventually dropped 80 pounds with proper exercise and nutrition, spurring her to earn her AFAA personal training certification and pursue a career as a full-time trainer.
Personal experience lends Rachel and the other trainers—including Sharon Monk, who lost more than 200 pounds by exercising and eating healthily—empathy and a motivating demeanor when working with campers. At each location, they get groups doing pushups, swinging kettlebells, and flipping tires in a positive environment that's focused on teamwork, rather than competition. "You start as a group, you finish as a group," says Thomas. "But the activities that you do in between might be different based on your abilities."
In addition to leading sessions, Rachel creates easy-to-use online meal plans (including a vegetarian plan), which campers can customize to help them stay on track. Options range from the simple, such as cereal with fruits, nuts, and flaxseeds, to the creative, including honey-sweetened oatmeal peanut-butter cookies. She also includes the calorie count for each recipe. Users can pick from simple meals made for one person or larger entrees designed with an entire family or pet elephant in mind.