Sweat and Sand at Beach Body Fitness
Boot camp fitness classes are everywhere, including Winnetka's Tower Road Beach.
Recently, I saw an ad for Pilates Boot Camp and realized that the term “boot camp” had officially become over-used in the fitness world. What's next, yoga boot camp? Meditation boot camp?
I'm embarrassed to admit, however, that despite the plethora of boot camps, I had yet to try one. To rectify that, I went to Tower Road Beach one day last week for a traditional-style boot-camp class, Beach Body Fitness, offered through the Winnetka Park District.
The idea of a beach boot camp at Tower Road started back in 2008, when local fitness guru Jennifer Solberg taught the first session, which quickly became a popular offering for the Winnetka Park District. The class has waxed and waned since then, but this year it has a new format: it's offered five times a day on a drop-in basis.
The new structure allows scheduling flexibility for clients and, depending on the day and time, may result in very small groups, which means lots of individual attention. Of course, that can be good or bad, depending on your perspective.
I found myself with just a handful of other participants under the watchful eye of instructor/drill sergeant Dana Leonard at Tower Road Beach at 8:00 AM. Dana, a motivating and energetic woman, had us warm up for about ten minutes before we moved to the “stations” which were set up throughout the playground area. We were to spend two minutes at each station, 60 seconds doing a strength component and 60 seconds doing a cardio component.
My first station had me doing pushups with my feet raised up on a tire. About 20 seconds into the segment, I realized how long one minute could seem. Just when I was absolutely unable to do another pushup, the whistle sounded and I transitioned to the cardio component, doing toe taps on the tire. Dana blew the whistle again, and it was time to move on to the next station: burpees with an overhead press using a medicine ball, followed by suicide runs. After that came bicycle-style crunches for a minute, followed by side-stepping on an agility ladder in the sand. Then some moves using the TRX suspension ropes, followed by mountain climbers. This is where I have to point out that all of these exercises are substantially more difficult on the sand. For example, when doing mountain climbers on a hard floor, you can get a little momentum to spring your legs forward. Not so when your feet are trying to push off loose sand. It was exhausting.
Fortunately, since we were only spending 60 seconds doing each exercise, we seemed to always be ready to move on to the next thing. I was fatigued, but the time passed quickly. Finally, after moving through the stations, it was time for some wrap-up core work and stretching. We lined up on the beach and did some planks. It was then I noticed how much I was sweating. So much, in fact, that sweat was dripping off my forehead and pooling inside the lenses of my sunglasses while I was in my plank.
I left feeling like a kid after a day at the beach: hot, tired, happy, and covered in sand.
Dana said the program will be running through the summer and into fall, possibly through October if the weather cooperates. Classes are offered every day except Sunday, with four options in the morning (6:15, 7:10, 8:00 and 9:15) plus an evening class at 6:30 PM. The classes all follow the same format, so you can mix and match as needed for your schedule, something that is sure to be useful during the unstructured days of summer. Best of all, the first class is free.
I think the Beach Body Fitness program will be popular this summer. It was a great all-over workout with lots of variety, and being outdoors next to beautiful Lake Michigan made it even more appealing. The beach setting also means that the truly adventurous can hop in the lake for a swim workout afterwards. Or, if you're like me and would only swim in the event of a Titanic-like disaster, bring a beach chair and a book for some post-workout relaxation. Trust me, after this boot camp, you'll need a rest.