DRESSED in camouflage pants and combat boots, Johnathan Dang barks out orders into the crisp night air like the soldier he is during the day. At his command his troops snap to attention and spring into action, breathing hard and spilling sweat and tears without complaint. But this is no military exercise. This is a […]
DRESSED in camouflage pants and combat boots, Johnathan Dang barks out orders into the crisp night air like the soldier he is during the day.
At his command his troops snap to attention and spring into action, breathing hard and spilling sweat and tears without complaint.
But this is no military exercise. This is a fitness boot camp at Parramatta’s Robin Thomas Reserve at 7.30pm on a Friday.
It’s unusual because it’s free and open to anyone.
And because Dang’s “militia” includes volunteers who previously possessed neither the will nor the money to set foot in a gym – students, stay-at-home mums and the unemployed.
They have a common goal: to change their lives. And they have put their faith in Dang and his volunteer trainers, who give up their time for nothing, to show them how.
“Team on one jog forward,” Dang shouts. “One.” The group marches forwards. Then follow barking instructions for sidesteps, press ups, planks, lunges and squats. Each order is punctuated by a shrill rasp of his drill whistle.
Dang often does not have time to change after leaving his day job at Holsworthy Base (?) to pursue his passion to help the unfit, unhealthy and unmotivated turn their lives around
Drinkers at the neighbouring pub do a double take at the sight of him and his soldiers. They can hear him over the sound of live music and clinking glasses. His voice is a bullhorn.
He emphasises each word, his motivational speeches sounding like the staccato of machine gun fire. “Whatever you do in life you have to pay attention. Whether you are a shop owner or a customer or just at home. You have one job to do so get it right. Now start again.”
From a humble start with a single Facebook post, the Parramatta boot camp has grown organically. People walking past the park have become participants. There are no joining fees or contracts.
Tonight 50 “soldiers” have turned up. Sometimes more than 70 arrive. Each session brings new faces and soon he may be pushing 100 in number.
“What we’re trying to do is start a ripple effect,” Dang says. “It starts here and will grow and spread until it affects the whole community. Everyone can live a healthier and better life.”
Growing up in postcode 2150, the heart of Western Sydney, Dang has seen too many excuses from people. Excuses about work. About life. And always lots of excuses about exercising.
“If you don’t know how to exercise, we can show you,” Dang says. “You don’t have enough money to go to the gym, it’s free. You don’t know what to eat, we will show you and write up a diet. There are no excuses left at boot camp. Just your own mindset.”
Perhaps the best example of this change from within Dang’s ranks is told through Elise Sing
a young, now single, mother of two children.
She was in a rut before she found boot camp through a friend. A troubling relationship, few employment prospects and an expanding waistline took its toll.
“I was going downhill,” Elise says. “I just had the attitude that I couldn’t do things.” Training with Dang has given her renewed confidence and turned her life around.
On the outside, Elise has also lost 20kg and lost three dress sizes but it is her mental change of which she is most proud of.
“Now I’m a proud single mum, I’ve got my own place and I’ve started studying business and business management. My change started when I started to look after myself.”
As a studying, single mother Elise doesn’t have the funds available to take up a gym membership let alone a personal trainer. “I’m very thankful that they started this program,” she said. “Every day I think of ways to repay them for what they have given me.”
But Dang and his trainers Jerry, Anthony, Chris and Dhwani are not looking for money. Or recognition. A fact that often leaves many people scratching their heads at why they would spend three hours a night for three nights a week doing this.
Dang says: “People always ask me, ‘Why it’s free,’ and I tell them, ‘It just is’. I think that you are able to help people, you should.”
The halfway mark for the training has been and gone and now the muscles really start to ache. Even the gym buffs and super-fit are complaining as lactic acid builds up.
People start to falter into wheezing wrecks, but they don’t stop. They draw on the support of their trainers and fellow “soldiers” to keep going.
Dang has memorised the story of each and every participant. He brings it out with surprising accuracy whenever needed. He reminds Joanne Nguyen of her upcoming wedding.
“You’ve got to fit into that wedding dress! Move it Joanne.”
Joanne is an account manager at LJ Hooker Parramatta. She heard about the boot camp through her Facebook feed and decided to give it a go but struggled at first.
“They kept assuring me that it was ok and not to be hard on myself. They said, ‘See it this way. You’re out here training while others are watching TV.”
Now she has noticed how the sessions have not just improved her physical appearance but her attitude to life.
“It’s not only my physical appearance that’s changed. I value not only the confidence I have gained from attending these sessions, but the constant positivity and ongoing support. Johnny (Dang) is always a phone call or message away.”
Back at training, after what seems an eternity, finally a long whistle signals the end.
A round of applause starts up and hands gather in the centre around Dang. Together they chant the motto of the Parramatta Free Bootcamp. “20 percent fitness. 80 per cent nutrition. 100 per cent mindset.”
When Dang started the boot camp, he didn’t know what he would achieve. “I just thought what am I doing,” Dang said. “But then I saw the change I was making on peoples’ lives and I knew I had to keep going.”
Parramatta Free Bootcamp runs every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at the Robin Thomas Reserve in Parramatta. Everyone wanting to change their lives is welcome.
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I received a box in the mail last week from Jonathan C. Smith. Jonathan is a industrial designer and fitness enthusiast from Tennessee. Inside the box was a set of Spyder 360 prototypes. Watch the video to see how cool these are!
They can be used in your training, training clients and training groups. You’ll definitely want to experiment with them and come up with your own unique exercises in addition to the dozens and dozens of exercises that are already “invented”.
If you like what you see, you might want to jump over to The Spyder 360 kickstarter campaign and support them. Here is the link -> Spyder 360 Kickstarter
I’m sitting here in my home gym, sweating, burning calories. I just had another kick ass workout with “the ultimate conditioning tool”, The Sledgehammer.
My sledgehammer weighs only 8lbs but it has done a number on me for the last 20 minutes. Here is “The Sledgehammer Workout” #6:
As I explain the exercises, imagine everyone in your bootcamp with a sledgehammer. Surely they have one in their garage or shed. If not, consider asking them to get one. Either way, someday they’ll need one and if you choose to start using sledgehammers in your bootcamp, you’re in for a killer surprise.
Sledgehammer Warm Up:
- Torso Twists x 10
- Biceps Curls Right/Left x 10
- Alternate Triceps Extensions Right/Left x 10
- Alternate Lateral Raises Right/Left x 10
- Shovel Right/Left x 10
- One Legged Forward Reach (Hamstrings) Right/Left x 10
- Squats (with Sledgehammer across upper back) Right/Left x 10
Sledgehammer Workout #6
7 exercises, 30 seconds each, 5 seconds transition time, no rest until 3 rounds have been completed. I used a Muscle Driver USA programmable interval wall timer ( love it). You can find free apps for your smart phone that have programmable timers. I have a paid app called ” Seconds Pro”.
- Forward/Backward Russian Jumps x 30 seconds. Set the sledgehammer on the ground horizontally in front of you. Begin the 30 seconds by performing russian jumps forward (over the handle) and backward (over the handle). Maintain the russian jump position.
- Adductor Wide Squat x 30 seconds. With the handle in front of you vertically, sledgehammer head on the ground, hold the handle with both hands, feet WIDE, squat down deep until you feel a stretch in your inner thighs and stand back up. Squeeze the glutes. Continue for 30 seconds
- Push Up Variation #2 x 30 seconds R/L. See image below. By the 3rd round, my shoulders and chest were on fire so I had to put my knees on the ground after about 10 reps. Do what you have to do.
- Back Squat and Press With A Twist x 30 seconds R/L. Place the sledgehammer across your back and squat down. On the way up press the sledgehammer overhead and slightly twist away from the head of the sledgehammer. Due to the gravitational pull, you’ll feel this in your core.
- Alternate Upright Rows x 30 seconds R/L. You can do this with one or two hands depending on your capabilities. I used one hand. In a standing position, start with the handle horizontally down in front of you. Lift the handle to the chin or slightly higher and lower. Works shoulders and traps. You’ll appreciate the brief rest on this one.
- Biceps Curl x 30 seconds R/L. From a standing position, perform a biceps curl with the head of the sledgehammer. Hold the elbow slightly out in front of you for an extra bit of intensity. Lower slowly. Use the other hand to hold the bottom part of the handle steady. Squeeze the handle with both hands as you’re doing this.
- Reverse Sledgehammer Lunge x 30 seconds. Similar position as the Adductor Squat above except do alternate reverse lunges making sure to keep the torso high and to get a good stretch.
Do 3 rounds non-stop. This is the beginner level! Intermediates go 45 seconds, Advanced go 60 seconds and start adding in advanced exercises like Sledgehammer Burpees, Sledgehammer Mountain Climbers and more.
I burned 220 calories in 20 minutes in the beginner level and my heart rate stayed between 111-133 most of the time (Fat Burning). I’ve completed 12 new sledgehammer workouts that I’m adding to The Sledgehammer Workout and I know you’re going to love them if you’re looking for something new. You can currently get The Sledgehammer Workout here – it has a ton of stuff in it already to keep you busy.
P.S. I was fortunate enough to receive a prototype of The Spyder 360 yesterday. These bad boys are light, portable and are like push ups handles with rollers on the bottom. You can work your core unlike anything I’ve ever tried. They’re EXTREMELY sturdy. You can do multiple exercises, attach your feet and do some crazy stuff. These are perfect for bootcamps! My friend, Jonathan C Smith is an industrial designer and created these. He sent me his last pair, his very own pair. He recently took this pair to The Arnold Classic in Columbus, Ohio where he had a booth. Tons of bodybuilders, fitness enthusiasts tried out this very pair. I’m going to do an unboxing and review of the prototypes in the next post on this blog. Stay tuned. In the meantime, check out his kickstarter campaign here. You’ll see images, videos, details and scenes from The Arnold Classic!
I always come back to sprints.
What exactly is sprinting? It’s getting to max speed as soon as possible.
Here’s why I love them:
Sprinting helps the body better tolerate lactic accumulation that takes place during anaerobic activity.
- Sprinting allows the body to become less fatigued during intense exercise. I can always tell who’s bootcamp conditioned and who’s coasting. Sprints will tell the story. I use them regularly in my own training as well as my clients. I look for hills, stairs and nice flat straightaways.
Sprinting increases your energy storage capacity allowing you to train harder and longer.
- Sprinting builds “bootcamp mental toughness” which will serve our clients in all walks of their lives.
- Sprinting builds the muscles of the glutes and hamstrings.
- Sprinting will elevate metabolism long after the workout resulting in a higher caloric burn.
If you use sprints regularly in your training, everything improves. Your body becomes more efficient in its day to day processes, your work capacity improves, and your overall conditioning is elevated.
The secret with sprint training is to make sure that you’re progressing. A well planned spring program does just that. A program should include volume training, intensity training and variety to avoid boredom.
Add “pop sprints” to your arsenal. To do pop sprints, start off on your knees. On the bootcamp instructors “GO!”, pop up onto your feet and sprint the required distance. Tough? Hell yes! Results? Oh, yes!
Here’s a great sprint workout that you can use in your bootcamp (no pop sprints in this workout):
Straight Ahead Speed
2 X 100 yard sprints (1:3)
If you’re interested in adding a sprinting component to your bootcamps to freshen things up, check out my video below of “Superhero Sprints”.