As the hours of the workday wind down, Blue Jacket Park fills up.
Cars constantly stream into the parking lot carrying couples coming for a jog, families for a bike ride, and kids for sports practice.
Depending on the day, a handful to more than a dozen of those people are walking the park’s paved path, eyes set on something else. They come with exercise mats, hand weights and water bottles in tow, to a folding table trainer Kristy Lee Wilson sets up next to a logoed sign that matches her shirt, emblazed “Camp Gladiator.”
As Wilson works on scrolling today’s list of workouts on her new dry-erase board, campers flock in, filling out and taping on nametags so new attendees can get acquainted, and the regulars can catch up.
Soon small talk is over and the station of mats, cones and weights is set and workout radio playlist gets turned up, and the group is ready for tonight’s (literally) butt-kicking boot camp.
“Alright guys, you know the drill — warm up run to the tree and back,” Wilson calls to her campers, then calling for a drill of high knees, frog jumps and butt kicks, ending with a set of 10 push-ups, before pausing for a water break and launching into the real workout.
It’s a similar warm up to the one these campers have become accustomed to since Camp Gladiator brought its boot camp classes to Baldwin Park in mid-February, and one with variations being done by hundreds of others who participate in the fitness company’s classes across the country.
“We’re working here to create our own little fitness community,” Wilson said.
Talk of the town
Camp Gladiator was founded by the winner of season two of NBC’s fitness competition show “American Gladiator,” Ally Davidson. She used the money she won on the show in 2009 to start CG boot camp classes in Austin and Dallas, Texas. Classes are now offered in seven states across the country.
Jessie Anzevino was the first member, outside of Kristy, to join the Baldwin Park ‘CG’ community. She found the organization online and signed up for the camp’s first session — and hasn’t stopped coming since.
“I like how the workouts are always different and the way it makes me feel afterwards,” she said. “And it gives me something to look forward to at the end of my workday.”
She said it’s been a great way to make new friends, or also in her case, bring old friends together. Anzevino has made regular campers out of her fiancé, Crane, and co-worker Rachel, from Reflection Dermatology in Baldwin Park.
From friend referral recruits to those who stumble upon CG through social media and the Web, Wilson says her workouts grew in three months to average 15 to 20 people every day, most of them having heard of the program through word of mouth.
Self-proclaimed fitness junkie and regular CG camper, Blaire Harter, said she came to Camp Gladiator for the fresh air and intensity of the workout, and has stuck around for more than just the fitness results, but the network of friends she’s built through the camp.
“Being here with friends, it keeps you accountable. You’re less likely to flake out knowing that you’ll have to hear about it later,” she said with a laugh.
As the workout heats up and partners alternate between lunges and push-ups, and side shuffles and sprints, that’s when being surrounded by your new fitness family comes in most handy, Anzevino said.
Especially, she said, when your fellow campers are working toward not only the same fitness goal, but with the same inspiration: looking great on your wedding day.
“We’ve got, I think, three brides-to-be now,” Wilson said. “We joke that they’re going to have to give credit like they do for who designed the dress or catered the food to us, saying ‘body by CG.’”
Encouragement throughout the workout is peppered with “Do it for the dress!” comments back and forth to keep the girls going.
“You get way more encouragement coming here than you do at a gym,” Anzevino said.
Head CG – Orlando trainer Wilson said providing not only a variation in workouts every week, but a mix of individualized encouragement, along with group motivation, keeps Camp Gladiator campers engaged and coming back.
Camp Gladiator hosts boot camp classes at Blue Jacket Park on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 6:15 a.m. to 7:15 p.m., and Saturday mornings from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. To learn more about the camp, and how Gladiator instructors can help keep you in shape this summer, visit campgladiatororlando.com
“We’re more intense than a regular boot camp class, but that doesn’t mean all fitness levels aren’t welcome. We can cater the workout to anyone,” she said.
Wilson, a fitness author, former Cirque du Soleil performer and lifelong gymnast, and her assistant Paul Tardieu, a personal trainer, said they can each get their butts kicked by the CG workout just as much as someone who hasn’t set foot in a gym in years.
“It’s all about what you put into it,” Tardieu said. “And no matter what we’re doing, we’re always working through it as a team.”
Wilson can’t promise that by the end of a camp session you’ll come out as an actual gladiator, but she will guarantee you’ll be glad you came.