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New Menlo Fit Boot Camp helps locals tackle resolutions to get in shape – with a little help from friends

by Chrisie Wendin on January 5, 2011

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The timing couldn’t be better. With the start of a new year and renewed vows by many of us to exercise regularly, Menlo Park welcomes a new fitness program that may just be the ticket. Based out of the new Arrillaga Family Gymnasium at Burgess Park, Menlo Fit is one of a new breed of boot camp programs that go beyond jumping jacks, push ups, and military-inspired exercises. Instead the focus is on total body fitness — and fun. The other key ingredient? A group of like-minded people that support one another.

“For most people, trying to get fit on their own does not work. The boot camp model is awesome for building community and adherence, and it’s less expensive than a personal trainer,” says Menlo Fit Programming Director Brien Shamp, a personal trainer and nutrition and lifestyle coach who has developed and run successful boot camps in Belmont.

Menlo Fit makes the most of the group dynamic in its 50-minute classes, which always begin with warm-ups, followed by instructor demonstrations of the day’s exercises and challenges. The programs, which are different every day to prevent boredom, are a blend of core, cardio, strength, and agility training, taking advantage of the spacious gym, as well as equipment like medicine balls, resistance bands, and weights. A typical week might feature three days of what Menlo Fit calls a total body workout, with a couple recovery days of core and cardio. (Contributor’s note: You’ll still work plenty hard on those recovery days!)

During each class, there are several exercise stations where participants — attendance ranges from about 10 to 20 per class — who are split in pairs or groups make their way around the circuit. Throughout, the instructors make the rounds, helping out with form, modifying exercises for those who need it, offering motivation, and making sure everyone’s having a good time.

Beyond the swimming pool

Menlo Fit is actually part of Menlo Swim and Sport, the organization that operates Menlo Park’s swimming facilities at Burgess Park and is run by Tim Sheeper. The city was looking for programs to fill the new gym and Menlo Swim and Sport, like other groups using the space, rents it by the hour. The organization created Menlo Fit to be its dry-land sports arm that could include not only Boot Camp, but kids programs, nutrition, healthy living classes, and more. Menlo Fit quietly launched in November, shortly after the opening of the new gym, with the goal of fine-tuning its programs for 2011.

One of the unique aspects of Menlo Fit is the flexibility, with four daily classes to choose from (6:00 am, 7:00 am, 8:00 am, and 9:00 am). So, you might do a 7:00 am class one day, then sleep in and do the 9:00 am the next. And on Saturdays, Shamp teaches a community class at 7:30 am, which is free and open to the public. The popular class is a great way to check out the program.

While each class follows the same routine — as outlined on the blackboard that’s front and center — each has its own vibe, courtesy of the different time slots and instructors. A Wednesday 6:00 am class, taught by Jeff Caceres, who has a background in gymnastics coaching, is likely to be a little more low-key and education-focused, than, say, the 9:00 am slot taught by Pilates specialist and personal trainer Shannon Doyle who cranks up the music and the verbal motivation. (Other experienced instructors at Menlo Fit include Kevin Defro and Ron Torres.)

Whatever the time of day, there’s a mix of ages and ability levels. As instructor Caceres sums it up, “It really is about community, and you won’t find that at the local gym.” He points out some of the different people that have signed up to exercise together: a father and daughter, a husband and wife, sisters, swimming buddies, neighbors, and friends. And while many at Boot Camp come solo, they quickly grow accustomed to the camaraderie.

“Everyone struggles with this exercise thing. Our goal is to make it as easy as possible to help people fit in exercise as part of their daily lifestyle, and the structure of the program gives people what they need to be successful,” says Shamp.

January Boot Camp deal

To kick off the new year, Menlo Fit is offering 50 percent off of the first month if you sign up by January 31st. In addition, it has a referral program that gives you 50 percent off a month’s dues for each friend that signs up. Register at www.menlofit.com.

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