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.
Black Megaformer machines line the sunny studio as trained instructors guide students through core-strengthening Pilates classes. Drawing inspiration from the strength and flexibility of bamboo, the instructors format the classes to push all muscle groups to capacity. They strive to achieve muscle failure, a process that stimulates a great number of muscle fibers and steps up the body’s metabolism. In addition, the instructors teach students to perform slow and controlled movements at a consistent level of tension in order to build the most muscle possible. They place emphasis on the rest needed to reap maximum benefit from the session, encouraging new students to stick with two or three classes a week in order to avoid overloading and metamorphosing into a muscle-bound butterfly.
Fitness specialist and certified nutritionist Ron Lyons wasn’t always so svelte. Before he became a health guru, Ron was a police officer, but his 240-pound frame didn’t fit with the position. It wasn’t until a suspect in a DWI case resisted arrest and outran Ron, leaving him unable to call for backup, that he buckled down. Now, 16 years later, he helms Ultimate Body Studios, sharing the fitness and nutrition skills he has learned and mastered along the way. He leads seminars, grocery store tours that teach healthy shopping habits, and a weight loss and exercise program that combines healthy eating with effective exercise techniques. With continued dedication to the program, some of his students have lost more than 150 pounds, or roughly one ACME cartoon anvil.
At Sunstone Yoga, students radiate calm and self-awareness as they practice ancient poses designed to stretch, strengthen, and purify the body. Instructors complete 500 hours of training in yogic techniques, teaching, and physiology before leading classes, so they can hand out researched, tested tips on safety and alignment. Most classes come in 30-, 60-, and 90-minute varieties and focus on energy or restorative relaxation. A two-class introductory series welcomes beginners with basic standing poses, and the popular fire series explores up to 34 poses in a 99-degree room that loosens muscles to facilitate deeper stretches as it ousts toxins. Filled with soothing music and 90-degree temperatures, the water series cultivates more serenity than getting a massage from a singing whale.
Private Workout's efficiency-focused staffers draft half-hour workout regimens specifically designed to meet each client's physical needs and personal-health goals. The trainer explains the workout and introduces all equipment, then evaluates clients' fitness and helps them set goals. Members can then return for their 30-minute sessions, which are held nearly every day between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. The workouts are designed to keep heart rates up for 30 minutes, which helps stave off disease and ramp up metabolisms. Guests who'd like more individualized attention can also sign up for personal-training sessions to work toward milestones, whether they'd like to tone up for fingerless-glove season or lose weight.
Before he founded Bradshaw's Boot Camp, Justin Bradshaw was a deep-sea diver for the U.S. Army. The rigorous training, diving missions, and underwater construction jobs building fish schools inspired him to motivate others to push themselves to reach their fitness goals. At Bradshaw's Boot Camp, he designs ever-changing workout routines for his high-intensity boot-camp classes, incorporating nutrition to create well-rounded lifestyles for his clients. The plan works—he's been featured alongside one of his many successful weight-loss clients on ABC's The View and serves as the official trainer on MTV's I Used to be Fat.