Success Stories

What do members of "The Platoon" have to say about USMC Fitness BOOT CAMP?

Sarah - BeforeBefore I applied for the challenge, I had already decided that it was time for me to lose some weight, but as usual I was not truly putting in the time or effort required. When I applied, I did so with the thought that “all I needed was a little push to help get me going and if I was picked I would be happy with any amount of weight loss because anything was better than nothing, right?” I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed when Tony first told me I had not made the initial list of selected challengers and had been placed instead on a list of alternates. A few weeks later, however, I received an email from him offering me a spot. I will forever be thankful to Tony for the opportunity to participate. What I thought was going to be just “a little push” has turned out to be a life changing experience.

I told myself when the challenge started that I would be happy (i.e. content) to lose an average of two pounds per week. I had done the math and figured out that there were 27 weeks in the challenge and if I lost an average of 2 pounds per week, I would lose 54 pounds. That was the only goal I had going into this challenge. At the kickoff party I realized I was probably smallest person in the room and knowing that the smaller you are the harder it is to lose weight, 54 pounds actually seemed kind of daunting. For about a month, I kind of coasted along, working out my required 3 times per week and watching my caloric intake. I was happy I was losing weight, but after seeing I was in 3rd place on the first published weekly weigh-in report, I started feeling like I might actually have a shot. The next week I started making big changes in my efforts. I started working out two times a day (morning and evening), being extra critical of the food I put in my mouth, and I even started running!

Anyone who knows me knows I’ve NEVER been a morning person, I LOVE food, and I’ve always HATED running. Yet, I am now so used to the routine of getting up to workout in the morning and working out on my way home in the evening that if I miss a workout for any reason my whole day is thrown off and I feel like something is wrong. I can pass up the Friday doughnuts at work, the celebratory cakes, the random cookies, etc without a second look and don’t feel as though I am missing out on anything because of it. I find that I can enjoy social events without having to eat or drink what’s available and know that if I do choose to eat, I don’t need to eat as much as I possibly can to appreciate the food. After participating (running and walking) in my first 5K race in May, I decided I wanted to be able to not only run an entire 5K route, but run it in 30 minutes or less before the end of the challenge. By the end of June, I had successfully run several 5K routes, as well as one 10K, neither one in 30 minutes or less, but I’m still working on it. I’ve even convinced myself that I want to run the St. Jude Half Marathon in December.

Sarah - AfterSo, here I am 4 weeks from the end of the challenge, and I continue to be surprised everyday at the way I have changed and the way I have grown as a person. The changes in my body aside, my attitude towards life has changed. I can’t tell you how many people have told me how different I am now, how much more I smile and laugh, and how much they are proud of me for the changes I have made. The overwhelming support of my family, friends, and coworkers, as well as Tony and the members of Boot Camp has been inspirational. Who knew having my own cheering section throughout the challenge would be so wonderful. I’d like to thank everyone for the support and motivation. Whether I win the money or not, I know the challenge won’t end for me when the official challenge is over. I know I’ll continue to challenge and push myself towards an even healthier way of life to ensure I never find myself where I was almost 6 months ago.

- Sarah Bowen, Combat the Fat Participant

I am very thankful for the opportunity to participate in such a wonderful program. In the beginning I thought that I would never be able to lose weight. I weighed in at 249.4 pounds and after working with Sgt. Tony for two days I weighed 253.7 pounds because of fluid gain. This was very depressing for me at first until I learned what was happening in my body.

Thanks to Sgt Tony, Commander Holly and Commander T for encouraging and coaching me to believe in myself and my ability to accomplish whatever goals I set for myself. I’ve learned many life lessons along this weight-loss journey. Things that I thought that I could not do like jog has become a reality and a daily routine for me. With each pound that I shed there is an unspeakable feeling of accomplishment that radiates through me and makes me more determined to shed that next pound. I started out literally crying because the exercise routines were very hard and strenuous and they left me very sore and feeling like I had been hit by a MAC Truck.

After my routine had been established and I understood that this is something that I was going to have to do if I wanted to reach my weight-loss goals, the pain eventually went away. The way I would describe myself now it like a new budding rose which, in due season, I will bloom and my leaves of health and happiness will open gracefully knowing that I am a beautiful Rose! I’ve learned that with each pound that I shed my self-esteem gets higher and higher. I realize that I am mentally, spiritually and physically healthier. This means the world to me and if I don’t win the contest, my life has been forever changed and touched.

- Beverly Bailey, Combat the Fat Participant

For the last ten years I have come up with every excuse in the book to avoid the stark reality that if I didn't do something about my physical condition and weight, that my life span was going to be significantly shortened. CTF Weight Loss Challenge was the opportunity to lose weight, but more importantly, to get my life back. On vacation I went sea kayaking, and on a jungle zip line with my children and husband. Six months ago I would have had to stay home! Thanks for the motivation Tony!

-Kimbrough B. Mullins, Combat The Fat Participant

I WOULDN'T recommend Bootcamp to my worst enemy! But then again why would I give my worst enemy the satisfaction of knowing about such a great and life saving program.

Back in December I got married to the most wonderful woman in the entire world. We had a great wedding and wonderful honeymoon. Once the excitement of the actual wedding and honeymoon was over it kinda hit me, and hit me hard. I am now married and eventually we will want a family which means having kids. I suddenly became responsible for supporting and caring for someone other than myself and it was scary. I began to look at life in a different light, I had to start preparing for the future and my family's future. Would I be able to take care of my wife and family forever? I looked in the mirror and I was overweight, out of shape, out of control, and recently put on blood pressure medication. I thought to myself that something has to change with my life as I am heading down a very bad path. Within the next few days I received an email from a friend informing me of something called BootCamp that she had attended and a Combat the Fat challenge that they were looking for participants for. I visited the website and did some research and my wife and I decided that we would apply for the challenge and begin attending bootcamp. We sent in our applications and Sergeant Tony was very quick to respond and welcome us in. We arranged an interview with Tony and before I knew what was actually happening I was a participant in the first Combat the Fat Challenge at something called bootcamp with a crazy guy named Sergeant Tony.

The first day of the challenge gets here and my wife and I both head out to our first bootcamp. We were told to bring weights, a mat, water, and a towel. We were absolutely scared to death. What were we thinking going to something called bootcamp at 5:30 am when we could be sleeping? We were overweight, out of shape, and had not exercised for years. We got to the bootcamp area and it was still dark outside and cold. We started noticing that car after car came pouring into the parking lot. We decided to follow the flow and took our mats and weights and found a spot as far away as we could get. Sergeant Tony came and got in the middle of the big circle that had formed and he started by having us stretch. The first stretch was running in place for about 30 seconds, I was already ready to die and we were only stretching. Sergeant Tony then made his way around the 50 - 60 people that were in attendance that morning and I was amazed as he knew every single person's name. We finish stretching and I am ready to run back to the car and go home but decide I will stick it out to see what all this exercise stuff is about. We begin exercising and I must admit I am doing it. I may not be keeping up with everyone else, but I am doing it and I am almost having fun. The fun quickly wore off though that afternoon and the next few days when I could not move from my muscles being sore. Through all the soreness we kept going to bootcamp and every day it became a little easier and a little easier. I noticed that I was suddenly doing one more pushup, one more crunch, or running a little further every few bootcamp classes. After about a week and a half I noticed that I was not sore any longer and I was gaining stamina. The workouts were getting better and better and I was feeling better and better.

I am proud to say that we have been attending bootcamp now for 5 months and I have lost over 60 lbs. Bootcamp has completely changed my life. I am now able to do things that I wasn't able to do before. I can actually run. I am stronger and can feel and see a muscle in my arms and legs. I have more energy throughout the day and a better overall outlook on life. I have changed my lifestyle and am now leading a more healthy life. I was recently told by my doctor that my blood pressure is back to normal and I feel like a new person. Bootcamp and the Combat the Fat challenge was a life changer for me. I may or may not win the Combat the Fat challenge, but to me it was more than the prize money. I now have my life back and am in control and I owe it all to Sergeant Tony and bootcamp.

- Ryan Palfrey, Combat the Fat Participant

CTF has been a very rewarding experience in so many more ways than I ever imagined when I decided to compete. While the dramatic weight loss is fantastic (as well as the the ultimate goal), I was surprised at the many other benefits. I personally decided to not do any "fad" diets. I decided I wanted to live normally and try and try to make a lifestyle change. Having done dramatic diets in the past (usually in contests with friends), I now know that none were a "lifestyle change". I always returned to my old ways afterwards. So this time I still ate dinner (in and out) with my family. I went on business dinners where I had to entertain. I went on vacations.

But this time I had Tony to help teach me how to do it. He gave me very simple formulas to follow which work for me. And the results have been fantastic. I have dramatically changed the way I eat and exercise. That does not mean that I don't go and do everything I used to do. It just means I eat differently while I'm doing those things. I think about what I'm putting in my body now. I know the consequences of what I do. Now if I know I'm going to have to (or want to) eat poorly for whatever reson one night, I work out a little harder or longer (or add an afternoon run) to my routine that day. While it wasn't easy at first, the results kept me fired up. And I eventually developed new habits. I actually crave healthier foods now (and I now know what those are!!). One of the biggest benefits of this contest is it's length. Lasting six months, you have to endure different seasons, vacations, holidays, birthdays, etc. So despite being a contest, the fact that it lasts for 6 months truly helped me make lasting changes to my lifestyle that will benefit me for the rest of my life.

I feel great. I look better than I have in over 20 years. And I've learned that is is never too late to change.

Thank you, Tony!!

- Combat The Fat Participant

Greg - BeforeGreg After“Combat The Fat” has changed my life!! I don’t make that statement “lightly!” It has been a tough road; probably one of the toughest things I’ve ever done.

I have learned a couple of important things along the way:

One is how to make better choices with my eating. I was always taught to clean my plate and I was good at it!! Now I know that I can actually survive on less food. Not only can I survive on less food, but I feel better when I don’t cram a days worth of calories into just one meal.

Secondly, Tony’s workouts are challenging!! A great exercise program is an important addition to any weight loss plan. Not just casual exercising, but Tony has taught me that the word workout has the word “work” in it for a reason. Tony will help you accomplish goals that may no t seem possible and you’ll have fun doing it!

This challenge has taught me valuable lifestyle lessons that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. Hopefully, a long and healthy one!!!

, Combat the Fat Participant


Today marks the end of our first month of Boot Camp.  We took our measurements, and I'm happy to say that although we haven't changed a ton, we both have made improvements.  I have lost an inch and a half off of my muffin topper!!  Woohooo!!!!  Michelle is weighing herself, too...she has lost 5 pounds already.  I don't believe in scales, I'm about how the clothes fit.  And the clothes are fitting purdy good.  I have to say the best part about boot camp is the improvement in my energy level.  Even on a boot camp day, I don't get tired working until 10:00pm.  And that's purdy sweet.

Tony, our drill instructor, is a freak....but he's doing an amazing thing for a lot of people out there.  There is one woman that comes who is very large, and she is such an inspiration to us.  If we ever think we can't complete even one more crunch, we look at her and think, " ... if she can do it, WE can do it."  No one judges, everyone is at a different fitness level, and no one moans and groans.  It's pretty cool!

-Allison Merritt

Just so you know that I wasn't just a slacker when I stopped coming to training, I was told 3 years ago that I needed a knee replacement. I endured the pain and really relied on my good leg most of the time. Of course, my right knee then need to be replaced also. I put it off until I could almost not walk. I had a double knee replacement 4 weeks ago. Probably the most painful experience of my life. Tony, the reason I am writing you is not to elicit sympathy, but to tell you how I get through the 2 hour, 3x weekly grueling physical therapy sessions. (The therapy is almost as bad as the surgical pain.) When it really gets rough and I think I can't stand it any longer, I keep telling myself that if I could make it through Sgt. Tony's Boot Camp Training, I can get through the physical therapy pain. You and your classes have had a long lasting effect on me and I thank you for that!

So, tonight I'm out running, and it starts raining. And there's some thunder and a little lightening, but mostly it's just so wonderfully quiet, except for the rain. Anyway, the point of the story is that I'm out for a run, and I'm thinking to myself, not what a bitch it is to get caught in the storm, but how great it feels. How great it feels to be able to do that! Thanks for that, Tony. Thank you for teaching me how to run.
- Pam Jones

"It’s February 1, 2005, 4:45 a.m.. I am awakened by the shrill sound of my alarm clock. As I lay in bed looking at my ceiling, I only have one thought going through my head, "What was I thinking of signing up for an outdoor exercise class that starts at 5:30 a.m.?" I drag myself to the U of M to meet my friend who has talked me into such lunacy. After stretching out, our instructor, whose name I don't even know, herds the "newbies" into a group to tell us what we will do that day. He greets us with "Hello everybody, how is everyone today?". I respond, "It’s cold out here." To which he says. "Well maybe you should just drag your candypants back home and crawl into bed and make both of us happy." So began my boot camp experience with Tony Ludlow. (Don’t worry, he hasn’t spoken to anyone else like that since then.)

I have been attending classes ever since, and have never regretted it. As of September 30, I lost 20 pounds. Since July, I have run three 5k’s and completed my first half-marathon. Before boot camp I could not even run halfway around a quarter-mile track. The farthest I could run was from one side of my house to the other to answer the phone. I feel great both physically and mentally and have more confidence in my appearance.

Not only is Tony Ludlow an excellent fitness instructor, he truly cares about his boot campers. He is always available for questions that we have about nutrition, exercise, anything fitness related. But one of the best things about boot camp is the others that participate in it. Each class has fun people in it that encourage each other to do their best and have a good time. Exercise has become an enjoyable way of life, not a burden. I am grateful to Tony for his encouragement pushing us along the way and to my friend who talked me into joining up."
- Dianne Thackery, 12/05

"USMC Fitness BOOT CAMP is an excellent program! One that has exceeded my expectations. Boot Camp has been responsible for a much healthier, happier Dale Collins. In the first month of enrollment weighing in at a hefty 235lbs, and stretching the seams of 42" waist pants, I was only able to run/walked a 13-minute mile on the first fitness test. One hundred yards was pushing it for a jog without stopping. You gave another fitness test two months later, my time improved to just over 11 minutes. I had shed 20 pounds by then and could wear 38" waist pants.

After paying my $20.00 I weighed in for the 2004 Holiday Challenge on 11/24/04 . My weight 209. On Thanksgiving day I ran the 4 mile March of Dimes Turkey Trot in 44min, 44sec, (my longest nonstop run ever). Thank you Tony for waiting for your family, I never would have made it the whole way had you not waited to run with them. Another fitness test was given the week before Christmas. The weather was cold and hard to breath but I ran it in 9min 46sec. Not to state the obvious but both of my knees are bad. Your workouts have not only helped me lose weight and put less stress on my knees, but also regain a range of motion in them I thought was gone forever.

On January 3, the first workout of 2005, was the weigh in for the Holiday Challenge. Your scale had me at 203lbs. I’m at work in 36’ waist pants feeling pretty good about myself.


In the last couple of months I went to see my Doctor for a long overdue physical. The last one I had was over 3 years ago. My triglycerides were high as was my cholesterol. Imagine that I was 265lbs then. This time the Dr. really didn’t recognize me. Both my triglycerides and bad cholesterol were low and my good cholesterol was high. Tony you are responsible for some very remarkable and dramatic changes in my overall health. Again I thank you and look forward to continued progress in Boot Camp 2005."
- Private Dale Collins

"Friday Jan. 10, 2003 will mark the end of a year's training with you. I've gone from 208 to 173, can run for thirty minutes without collapsing, and do my share of push-ups and crunches. Several things come to mind: 1) I never would have done this on my own, 2) I never would have done it at any other time of day consistently - appointments, excuses, etc., always pop up, 3) I don't think there's anyone else in West Tn. Who could make this experience as fun and enjoyable as you. My only regret is paying for the smaller pants that I've had to buy. My sincere thanks!"
-Hank Hill

"Tony's personality is what makes Boot Camp work. It's the right mix of taunting-machismo-"you can do better than that" motivation and laugh-out-loud-"can't believe he said that" clowning around. You're there because he makes you believe you can do the same stuff The Few, The Proud, The Marines do. (And because you fear what he might say about you if you don't show up.) Boot Camp makes my day!"
- Jay Purdue

"I enjoy all sports and recreational activities, but since I am new to Memphis and I do not have deep pockets, I had not become involved with any sort of regular exercise program until I joined Boot Camp. I've been doing it just since June 2002, but the results are significant. Good thing, because I consider eating to be one of life's top 5 pleasures. I know that losing or maintaining weight is a matter of simple math: if you burn more calories than you consume, you will lose weight. Boot Camp is my justification for eating anything and everything that I want to, with no guilt whatsoever. Sure, I could be in better shape, but anyone could. I'm quite happy with the way things are going, and very satisfied with the way I feel."
- Sean O McGyver

"I am 33 years old and the mother of a 1 year old. When I became pregnant, I was not in very good shape at all. I gained about 40 lbs. during my pregnancy. I walked a little bit while I was pregnant and walked a little bit more after my son was born. However, I was still in terrible shape and definitely was NOT taking off the "baby weight". I had never weighed this much, tipping the scale at close to 160. I'm only 5'4! Anyway, a friend of mine that I work with told me and another girl I work with at lunch one day that she was going to do something "crazy" and would we like to join her? When she told us that she had signed up for "Boot Camp" and described what it entailed, we thought she was nuts! Who wants to get up at 5:30 AM to work out? Over the course of the afternoon we both decided to get crazy with her and signed up!

I started Boot Camp on August 1, 2002. The first couple of weeks were difficult. I never realized that I was THAT out of shape! And I was sore! But I made steady progress. After a month, Boot Camp became part of my life and I HATED to miss! It is now the end of October and I weigh 145. I have run and completed 3 5k's. People at my office often comment on how good I look. I have definitely toned up and have so much more energy and my husband is pleasantly surprised at how good I look! I have also been working hard at trying to eat better.

Boot Camp is definitely the exercise program for me. I need accountability when it comes to exercise. I have joined and dropped my membership at several gyms. I truly believe that if I had a gym in my house I would still not use it! Tony is awesome. He doesn't yell and scream - he just encourages. We all get weekly e-mails that are very encouraging and helpful with great motivating tips on diet and lifestyle. And the people I have met at Boot Camp are great! There is every type of person you can think of in the group, from varying backgrounds: male and female, all age groups, all levels of fitness!

I'm definitely sticking with Boot Camp. I have worked too hard to stop now! I have seen the results of my hard work! I have dropped a size in both pants and shirts and I look better in my clothes. Boot Camp really works. I recommend it to everyone I see and tell my story to anyone who will listen. Give it a try - you won't be disappointed!"
- Amy Morad

"USMC Fitness BOOT CAMP absolutely changed my life. My senior year of high school came around and I applied for and received a 4-year Army ROTC scholarship. One of the requirements of the scholarship was to meet the Army's weight and physical conditioning standards. Initially, I failed to meet either of the standards. I was 25 pounds overweight and nowhere close to passing the physical fitness test. I had three months to get in shape when I heard about Boot Camp. I decided to give it a try. I had no idea what to expect or any clue what was in store for me. The first two weeks were rough. I was using muscles that had never been used before. Before long I was able to push myself more and more. Finally, the time came for me take the Army's Physical Fitness Test and I passed every aspect easily. In two and a half months I had lost 30 pounds and 9% body fat. Doing Boot Camp not only improved my appearance, my attitude, and my personal confidence it also instilled in me the dedication to physical fitness that I was lacking before."
- Adam D. Moore

"Boot Camp's for real. It's hard, but it's fun. I tried various times to get in shape. The upper body wasn't a problem, but I always had difficulty getting to where I could run very far for very long. My legs just couldn't get in shape. With the combination of flexibility, balance and strength training, I have started to feel good running. This is after about five weeks. Feel like I soon will be able to run, say, five miles without too much trouble. And not be sore. The key is the combination of upper and lower body strength the workouts give you. And there's a good sense that you need to push yourself, but not push too far and hurt yourself. I never thought I'd be getting up at 5 a.m. to work out, and I never thought I'd be able to shape up as quickly."
- Chris Conley