You want to lose your love handles and build your biceps without breaking a sweat. The Major knows this about you. You believe what Suzanne Somers says about how she mastered her thighs. The Major knows this too. He has a message for you: "Get down on the ground and give me 10. Now. And move away from that cupcake."
The Major, who also goes by Jay Kerwin, is an old-fashioned fitness fanatic. "There's no mystery about getting in shape," he'll tell you. He realizes, though, that most of us find ourselves nodding when the infomercial actors talk about how attaching electrodes to your belly for 10 seconds will rip your abs. "If I told people they would lose weight if they let me punch them in the face," he says, sadly, "a lot of them would take me up on it." So he and his wife, The Lieutenant (a.k.a. Marcella Kerwin), started Boot Camp L.A. six years ago to pummel some sense into us and our glutes.
I had heard about these military-style fitness programs and had dodged them like the draft. Then I got this assignment and found myself standing under a tree near the Page Museum at 6 a.m. My eyes looked like egg yolks floating in tomato sauce; I hadn't slept because I was so nervous about slogging through the La Brea Tar Pits with bullets whizzing over my head. It turned out that boot camp wasn't that bad; it was worse. There was singing.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday September 10, 2006 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 51 words Type of Material: Correction
Boot Camp L.A.: An article in last Sunday's West magazine on Boot Camp L.A. at the La Brea Tar Pits said that every month recruits signing up for the workouts pay $295 for three one-hour sessions per week. The fee is $295 per month, which includes three one-hour workouts each week.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday September 24, 2006 Home Edition West Magazine Part I Page 7 Lat Magazine Desk 1 inches; 43 words Type of Material: Correction
Boot Camp L.A.: The article on the workouts at the La Brea Tar Pits ("Ten-Hut!" Sept. 3) implied that the fee is $295 per week and includes three one-hour sessions. The fee is $295 per month, which includes three one-hour workouts each week.
During the jog around the park that starts every session, The Major keeps recruits in step by having them rasp out hup-two-three-four tunes ("When my granny was 91/She did PT just for fun/When my granny was 92/She did PT better than you. . . ."). Then comes stretching, lunging, jumping, skipping, sit-ups, flutter kicks, suicide runs and exhortations from The Lieutenant to yell "Hoo-yah." If you admit to having had desserts or cocktails over the weekend, you run another lap. If your stretch pants are stretching more than usual, The Major may call you later in the day and tell you to lay off the pastrami.
The Major, a personal trainer and professional bodybuilder, used to be in the Air Force, and in 1993 he was one of just seven out of 500 who graduated from the USAF's ruthless pararescue indoctrination program. The Lieutenant was a track-and-field champion and has played competitive volleyball and basketball. They're both 34 and Hollywood handsome even in fatigues and sneakers. One reason is that they practice what they preach:
Drink half your body weight in ounces of water daily.
Consume at least that many grams of protein during the day.
Eat every two to three hours.
When you dine out, go halfsies on the main course.
Skip dessert unless it's a chocolate chip cookie (The Lieutenant says lemon meringue pie), but only give in once a month.
Never forget how much harder it is to build muscle than to lose it.
Every month about 100 recruits sign up, paying $295 for three one-hour sessions per week. The Major and The Lieutenant mix up the routine, and mix in joshing with the pain. "There's a degree of socialization that happens, and that really keeps you going," says JJ Hoffman, who attends regularly.
The Major says exercise doesn't have to be boring or painful, or at least not too painful. "Nobody wants to hear the plain truth that you have to do the work and you have to eat properly all the time," he says. He tells them anyway. Then he chases them about the tar pits.
For more information, go to www.bootcampla.com; visit www.latimes.com/bootcamp for more boot camp tunes.