News & Media

Getting to the Corps of Fitness

by Debra Elliott Haynes
The Commercial Appeal - Monday, October 8, 2001

Midtowner Jim Steiner and Steve Dawson of Cordova run in a U of M parking garage as part of Tony Ludlow's 5:30a.m. fitness class.  "It sets the day for me," Steiner says.

Jim Steiner was an avid runner and cyclist when, his wife enrolled him in an exercise boot camp. Steiner, 56, now rises before the crack of dawn on weekdays to join a group gathered near the University of Memphis field house in an hour long workout of pushups, abdominal crunches, sprints, weight training and similar exercises.

"It sets the day for me," Steiner said. "(Afterward) You're home, you're wide awake and feeling good."

No-nonsense military-style fitness training programs, commonly called boot camps, are gaining participants in the Memphis area and across the country.

Fitness experts say boot camps are attractive to people because they focus on basic exercises most anyone can do.

Beginning students typically stick to the basics, such as jumping jacks, sit-ups and pushups, while advanced students perform more difficult variations on the same exercises.

Participants say they get results, meeting fitness goals they were unable to reach alone.

"Variety is the spice of exercise," said Richard Cotton, a spokesman for the American Council on Exercise, a nonprofit organization that promotes healthy lifestyles. "People desire change. They get tired of doing the same thing, especially men. Many don't like choreography."

Cotton said such classes also draw from the military's philosophy of teamwork.

"Your team is only as good as your slowest participant," Cotton said. "There's a motivation that is simple."
Steiner attends a five-day-aweek class run by Tony Ludlow, a former Marine Corps drill instructor, who also is athletic director and varsity basketball coach for Memphis Catholic High School.

Ludlow's drill begins at 5:30 a.m. with a warm-up, such as a gentle stepping in place and stretching, and moves to cardiovascular exercise, such as fitness walking or running. Weight training is performed Tuesdays and Thursdays. The classes also are offered at 6 p.m.

Ludlow assesses a participant's level by testing each on the number of sit-ups and pushups done within 2 minutes, and the time it takes to run or walk a mile. The aim of the class is to improve initial results.

The fitness levels of members of Tony Ludlow's 5:30a.m. Classes at U of M is determined by testing each on situps and pushups done in two minutes.

Ludlow keeps attendance records and calls or E-mails clients who skip too many classes. Participants also get a grade at the end of each week.

"Part of it has to do with accountability," Ludlow said. "Whatever someone is capable of doing, that's what I'm interested in getting them to do and pushing them a bit," Ludlow said.

Steiner's wife, Carol Steiner, who is also a runner, said she immediately noticed a change in her husband's body.

"He's much more muscular, slimmer and has a much better humor," she said. "I noticed changes within weeks."
Boot camps aren't for slackers.

Experts say boot camps apparently are working by offering people another way to work out.

Others point to the military as an examplefor the program.

"Anybody and everybody responds to the program if they stay at it," Ludlow said. "It's been working for the Marine Corps for 25 years."