Looking to lose weight? Go to boot camp

Workout alternative promises higher rate of fat reduction

By Chris Azzopardi

With Mark Thiesmeyer's boot camp-style workout regime, there's no reason to keep those extra pounds. Just witness the mid-60s woman enrolled in the Better Living outdoor weight-crunching program, who also participates in the 10-minute Frisbee and soccer scrimmages Thiesmeyer incorporates to break up the strict routine.

"That type of thing takes people's mind off of the perpetual aerobic exercise and gets them into game mentality," says Thiesmeyer, owner of the gay-run Better Living in Ann Arbor. "People start working harder than they were before, the competition strikes, and that 60-year-old woman all of a sudden becomes a beast."

She wasn't always like that. In fact, when she first joined the boot camp, she told Thiesmeyer: "I can't jog." But he started her off with brisk walking and then, after a couple of months, she began jogging.

"What I've noticed from the people who've done it from the beginning of the summer, they've really progressed to great new levels," he says. "But I get that all the time, where someone says, 'I couldn't do that. I'm not in good enough shape.' But, really, anyone is in good enough shape to do boot camp."

During the one-hour workout sessions, which are individualized to suit a person's ability, weight shredders reach steep peaks and then descend to a more moderate level of physicality. It's a beneficial alternative to regular workout routines, Thiesmeyer says, because it forces participants to levels of higher and lower intensity.

"It's designed to be interval training, which is very, very effective for becoming leaner and losing body fat," he notes. "You're able to pull body fat out of your fat cells more efficiently and then give your body a chance to use it."

He decided to launch the boot camp - where participants call Thiesmeyer "Captain Mark" and they're his "cadets" - at Better Living, which he's run for nine years, because he noticed solely strength training and sending clients off to perform aerobics wasn't yielding premium results. Though the cadets perform pushups and bench dips, the sessions are particularly geared toward people who want to become leaner, not necessarily those who are trying to build muscle, he says. But, as Thiesmeyer notes, those trying to obtain solid arms and a firm chest usually increase protein and carbohydrate intake - and, oftentimes, up their chance of gaining a potbelly. That's where Thiesmeyer's program comes in.

"Doing something like boot camp at the same time ... would help strip down their stomach, to have better washboard abs," he says.

The class also allows Thiesmeyer to strength-train more people (the class has between five and 10 people enrolled) at once, since he's limited in how many he can train individually per week. Right now, a mix of gay men and straight women comprise the classes, which baffles Thiesmeyer a bit.

"It's the most bizarre thing to me because Ann Arbor is such a lesbian town," he laughs.

Better Living, Ann Arbor


(734) 644-5483

Chris Azzopardi is the entertainment editor of Between The Lines. To reach him, send an e-mail to chris@pridesource.com.

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