“Left … left … left … right … left! Pick it up, Mrs. Morris. Did you get enough beauty sleep last night?” booms U.S. Navy veteran Chuck Howard.

So begins the day, 5:45-7 a.m., for the energetic recruits in Army green t-shirts working out daily, rain or shine, on the east side of White Rock Lake near Winfrey Point. Despite appearances, this isn’t the military and the combat for which these area residents prepare is more along the lines of corporate competition, wrestling kids in car pools and attacking yard work.

When I first heard about BODY Boot Camp, I called several friends who all quickly agreed to check it out with me. In order to graduate, we would pay the non-refundable fee and complete four weeks of physical training and pass a physical fitness test. I was sufficiently impressed with the structure of the program and the enthusiasm of Instructor Howard to go for it.

“When you come to BODY Boot Camp, we motivate, dedicate and train you into a healthy lifestyle,” says Howard. “You are what you eat! We have three rules here: Rule One says you do not eat anything that is handed to you through a drive-through window. Rule Two says to drink a gallon of water every day, and Rule Three says to eat five meals a day. If you do not follow these rules, you will pay.”

The first two weeks involved a lot of sore muscles for me. “Do you have injuries to report” is a daily question from Howard, and we soon discovered that he didn’t mean simple aches and pains. He was interested in serious stuff — knee or back problems. Every day we got a little stronger and could run a little farther. Eventually, I could run two-and-a-half miles, a real accomplishment for me.

Here’s what it’s like to begin the day at BODY Boot Camp.

The 30 members of the program arrive, stretch, try to wake up and warm up muscles in preparation of the tough time ahead. The moon and stars light up the lake; there is a peaceful, almost serene feeling at this time of the morning — it’s impossible to even see the person next to you. Howard appears from the darkness.

“Atten-Hut!” Everyone stops, lines up in formation, snaps heels in unison. “Ms. Rowe, what did you have for dinner last night?” he quizzes. After the question is posed to several recruits, Howard gets an answer he doesn’t like and yells, “Give me 20, Ms. Barr!”

After the required push-ups, it’s time for stretching and strength-building exercises. Usually the work-out consists of well over 100 push-ups, over 200 sit-ups, 100 jumping jacks, 50 “Morning Darlings” (the international greeting), and a menu of other exhausting, breathtaking exercises.

After 30 minutes of this grueling torture, jogging sounds easy. We grab our flashlights and start peeling off a couple layers of clothes in preparation. We march and sing Jodies around Hell Hill — the road surrounding Winfrey Point — and take off in a brisk jog toward Garland Road.

Howard yells, “Stop and give me 30 jumping jacks when you get to the next bend in the road.” A short distance later, he yells, “Drop and give me 20!”

The routine varies daily, but 30 minutes of running can be expected on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Tuesday and Thursday are Team Days. Teams Alpha, Bravo, Charlie and Delta compete against each other in military drills. Some days we carry “Love Logs” on our shoulders during drills or pass a gallon of water while running.

As we are given our assignments and rush off into darkness with our team, we are very careful to stay together. Losing someone is a quick way to get admonished by our loving instructor. Survival is the name of the game. More jumping jacks, sit-ups and bench dips.

Our final team competition is Leap Frog. Squealing, giggling grown-ups hopping over one another is quite a sight to behold. The losers are required to do “another 20” while the winners watch.

Is it worth it? After BODY Boot Camp, I feel euphoric for the rest of the day. I started the program in May and have not had a headache since. I also have more energy than I can ever remember having.

Recently, classes have gotten large enough that Instructor Howard has added an 8 a.m. session. Classes start every four weeks, cost $250 for the first month, and $80 for the monthly maintenance program. Participants must be 25-60 years of age. For information, check out the website, www.bodybootcamp.com, or phone 972-761-0832.

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