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Seventy-five minutes of butt-kicking running, climbing, cycling, jumping, pushing and pulling at Boot Camp Fitness Brooklyn NYC, and beads of sweat are falling, muscles are burning, and blood is pumping.

Just ask Lisa Robertson.

A feeble "Whoo!" was all she could muster after 20 minutes of ups and downs on the treadmill, including a large chunk of time spent at a 15-percent incline. Although the beats of house music pumped loudly in the background, Robertson heard only one voice - that of Certified Personal Trainer and militant butt-kicker Darren Taylor, 35.

"I like the motivation," says Robertson, 35. "I appreciate knowing that someone’s watching me during my workout. It forces me to work harder."

That’s exactly why Taylor started an outdoor boot camp fitness program in Prospect Park on a chilly spring morning in 2002.

"I wanted to help people change their lives and get out of the same old routine," says Taylor.

So he distributed flyers throughout Brooklyn promising a full-body, military-style (Taylor is a former U.S. Army private) workout - rain or shine. Curious people of all ages, shapes and sizes dragged their half-awake bodies out of bed before dawn and made their way to the park for a series of drills and thrills. What began as just a weekend agenda slowly became a daily routine.

Now, nearly four years later, Taylor and his partner Jeffrey Sidnez, 29, who joined Taylor in 2004, have taken the program indoors to satisfy new and old "recruits" year round.

"We want to target as many people as possible," says Sidnez. "Plus, weather-wise, we can workout everyday. There are no excuses for indoors."

Sidnez knows about excuses. He spent his early 20s overweight and out of shape as a result of a car accident and poor health choices. He lost 85 pounds, took his new attitude to a local fitness club and began training clients. Once Sidnez and Taylor teamed up, the Boot Camp Fitness Brooklyn NYC program truly fell into place.

Nicole Monroe, 49, who also knows about excuses, is grateful for their collaboration. She can remember a 15-year period in which she didn’t work out at all. That all changed one year ago when Monroe came across a program flyer. Although initially apprehensive about giving some strange men money in a park, she trudged down to the green and hasn’t looked back. Monroe’s a lifer and prides herself on having lost 25 pounds and dropped six dress sizes since enlisting.

"It’s a way of life for me now," says Monroe. "Darren and Jeff want to see results, and I like that."

Pay your dues ($425 until March 20) and six weeks of boot camp fitness results can be yours, too. That includes three classes per week, one-on-one guidance from Taylor and Sidnez, and a team of fellow recruits to motivate and swap success stories. There’s even a team captain, the one who keeps everyone in check. Miss a class? There’s sure to be a phone call home.

"We all push each other," says Javier Vazquez, 37, another lifer. "The intimacy and motivational aspect of the small group setting is what keeps me going back."

No frills

That and the fact that Boot Camp Fitness NYC isn’t your average gym. There are no TVs flashing music videos, ESPN or the evening news. No racks of gym attire or refrigerated beverages for purchase. No magazines and newspapers for a leisurely ride and read. No sign-up sheets for occupied cardio machines.

There isn’t even a front desk.

It’s all black and white - literally - with the exception of one exposed brick wall. What you see is what you get - a focused, monitored training session.

"There’s no way to concentrate on the intensity of your workout if your mind is somewhere else," says Taylor.

"We want this to be a place where people come to achieve goals - that’s it," adds Sidnez.

Each six-week session begins with a fitness assessment including push-ups, sit-ups and pull-ups. Expectations are discussed and goals are charted. Emphasis is placed on increasing muscle strength, flexibility, stamina, circulation and self-esteem. With the treadmill, bike and drill-based rotations, no muscle escapes scrutiny.

The facility can hold a class of 30 recruits at one time, although most sessions are much smaller. In April, both the indoor and outdoor programs will be in full swing. While Taylor and Sidnez’s main focus will be the indoor facility, three other trainers will keep the outdoor program running.

Keep moving

"Our philosophy is: Make use of every second of your workout," says Sidnez. "Let not one second go to waste."

They aren’t lying. Although they encourage breathers, between sprints and lunges there’s barely enough time to grab a sip of water. No breaks. No frills. Just pure adrenaline pumping through your veins, and the occasional echo of a "motivational outburst" (as Sidnez prefers to call yelling) in your head.

In between jumping rope at one-minute intervals and chest presses, Robertson sneaks a few gulps of water that give her 15 seconds - max - of breathing time. No time to relax - just time to keep it moving.

"I already feel stronger - sore, but stronger," says Robertson. "I’m using muscles I haven’t used in a while, and I’m not complaining."

Both Monroe and Vazquez are prime examples of this keep-it-moving philosophy. They return each and every session because they love the way they feel. They like that no two workouts are the same. They like that everybody knows their names. And they’re most excited that they can now get in a great workout on any day of the year - indoors or out.

"It’s the best and most thorough program I’ve ever done," says Vazquez. I’m going to keep on riding the Boot Camp Fitness craze for as long as I can."

Freelance writer Chiara Cowan is currently training for a half-marathon (13.1 miles).


Boot Camp Fitness Brooklyn NYC is located at 172 Flatbush Ave. at Fifth Avenue in Park Slope. Six weeks of three classes per week, $425 (through March 20, 2006). After March 20, $525 per session. For more information on session dates and class schedules call (877) FIT-LOOK or visit

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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