Without the boots, rifles or bad food, Bree Wiegel’s “Women’s Boot Camp” fitness classes are a long way from Army life.
But the handful of ladies that turned out for her aerobic and strength-training classes last Wednesday at James D. Kriegh Park appeared every bit as serious about fitness as an 18-year-old private.
“It keeps you on a schedule,” said Michelle Casey, 37. “You look at working out differently.”
Casey, a Marana advertising executive, uses the class to help train for events like the Chicago Marathon. She also likes showing up for Wiegel’s itinerary, which is changed regularly to stave off boredom.
“I’ve had distance runners and people recovering from multiple knee surgeries show up,” Wiegel said. “So it’s important to keep things flexible and fresh.”
Allergies kept a few of Wiegel’s students home for the afternoon. For the dedicated ones, flexed-arm hangs, crunches and bleacher runs on the adjacent Canyon Del Oro track provided a good sweat during the 75-minute workout.
“I’ll even count the little ones,” Wiegel said, as the class began push-ups.
Wiegel’s been a physical trainer since 2002, earning several accreditations along the way. She specialized in private lessons for a time, until customers began inquiring about group training. Thus began her idea to provide classes through local parks and recreation departments.
As the instructor realized the “boot camp” tag might intimidate some women, she began changing the her course’s moniker. For her Marana classes, she’s already adopted the tag “Women’s Wakeup Workout.”
Either way, the afternoon still brought the burn for Oro Valley mom Amy McElwe, who’s been attending the class for a couple months now.
“Honestly, I’m glad I don’t drive a stick shift to this class,” McElwe said. “My legs end up like Jell-O.”
The less-than-formal atmosphere and outdoor environment is a magnet for women like McElwe, who find gyms “intimidating.”
To them, the array of classes offered by the Marana and Oro Valley Parks and Rec Departments offer an alternative to cages of sweaty exercisers. Attendance varies, but over a hundred women take part in each town’s classes each week, according to records provided by the agencies.
Among the Oro Valley strip plazas that nestled taco joints and Middle Eastern fare on a recent morning, a hip-hop tune about unrequited love motivated ladies attending a local Jazzercise class.
As one patron slacked on her assignment of stretches, lunges and kicks, instructor Annette Lyons called her out over the PA, echoing off the hardwood floor.
“I see it all,” Lyons warned from the podium. “I’m a mom — I have to, right?”
Oro Valley residents Sharon Noll, 64, and Cynthia Hale, 68, both appeared younger than their years, as they kept pace with the routine. While the highly rated exercise program could be credited, the pair admitted they come out just as much for the social aspect.
“I just came to get out of the house,” Hale said, who like Noll, is a five-year Jazzercise veteran. “What I found was that I have a nice group of ladies in the area.”
Most members come to the classes twice per week, though head instructor Shawna Dorame said there’s a few “hardcores” who turn up each weekday.
A former cheerleader and dance enthusiast, Dorame began teaching Jazzercise shortly after taking up the workouts to stay in shape. And as the classes are franchised, vacationing ladies from across the country drop in, knowing they can count on a workout they’re comfortable with.
Still, it’s the new members that get Dorame fired up.
“Don’t get discouraged,” she tells newbies. “Once you’ve been here a couple weeks, you get hooked.”
Just as addicted, but less structured, the ladies of the Oro Valley Walking Club assembled at Riverfront Park on an overcast Friday morning that coaxed sweatshirts out of summer’s early retirement.
The thrice-weekly fitness ritual circulated rumors of an impending Jerry Bob’s breakfast, so it may have seemed that chicken fried steak was a bigger motivator than target heart rates.
If so, the ladies earn it, as four laps around Oro Valley’s Riverfront Park equal three miles. It’s doubtful that anyone else at the local coffee shop had posted as much by 8 a.m.
Led by Oro Valley resident Joyce Alocer, the club’s roots trace back to 2001. The Dorado Mom decided she needed an outlet for the energies brewed for raising her budding softball star, Dana, who now pitches for Purdue University.
“You want to stay motivated for fitness,” Alcocer said. “Plus, we do come for breakfast.”
Endorphins increased during the ladies laps, as conversation — mostly about the chilly weather — became more spirited toward the end of the haul. While newcomers drop in all the time, the club’s core constituents range in age from 40 to 80 years old.
Friendship is the real payoff in a town pitched with retirees. Besides wearing out sneakers together, the group’s members will frequently run each other to the airport or doctor.
Call it a fringe benefit of fitness.
“It’s a wonderful support group,” Alocer said. “And that’s what’s most satisfying over the years, is that these ladies cultivate relationships.”