Category Archives: Training

Surviving Bootcamp in Downtown Tampa

Editor’s Note: David Adams, a University of Tampa student and U.S. Army veteran, is comparing obstacle race preparation and other training methods to the training he underwent in the military. In a series of stories for this summer, he’s writing about his progress.

By David Adams

Running the stairs in downtown Tampa

TAMPA –  A small crowd gathers near the back steps of the Tampa Convention Center. They aren’t here for a symposium, conference, or assembly.  This group is meeting with one goal in mind: to attain a higher level of physical fitness and endurance.  The group leader, Jon King, wanted to spice up his normal workouts a few times a week and felt that CrossFit would be the change he needed.

As CrossFit gains popularity throughout the country, many people who previously hit the gym now are hitting the steps, park benches, and other obstacles found in urban settings to create a high intensity workout that breaks the monotony of grunting over weight bars with ungodly stacks of plates on either side.

Fitness centers provide climate control and mirrors, but training outdoors gives athletes a pleasant change of scenery and real-world weather conditions that training facilities cannot. Endurance-oriented workouts usually are done in groups, a welcome change from the solitary nature of weight lifting and treadmill runs in the gym.

King wanted to break the repetitive nature of his workouts at Powerhouse Gym in Tampa’s Channelside District.  He and his wife Katherine, who is also a fitness enthusiast, started a free bootcamp where their friends could enjoy high intensity training a couple of times a week, as well as a fun social environment.

At the start, only a handful of people would come to the twice-a-week conditioning session, but the couple stuck with it. Now it’s not uncommon to see as many as fifteen friends gathering together for a fun and free workout.  Friends and acquaintances want to try new ways of getting in shape, and the design King created caters to people at any level of fitness.

King structured his class so that participants would be able to choose what they got out of each session. Instead of a repetition-based workout, King  set up timed events.

“I want people to get out what they put in to it.  Since not all of our friends are serious trainers, I didn’t want to overwork anyone,” King explained to me the first time we trained together.  “By timing each set everyone is free to go at their own pace, and if they are serious about it there will definitely be marked progress.”

Post-workout team photo

To vary each camp, King will change up the workouts and meeting place.

“We either meet at the Convention Center steps or at (Tampa’s) Riverwalk Park,” King says. “One session will be centered around running sets of stairs, and the next will be sprints.  To me it’s always good to change things up, it keeps people on their toes.”

A typical stairs workout session starts with a short warmup of jumping jacks.  After that, the real challenge begins. King will time each set for anywhere from thirty seconds to one minute, and usually follows up every drill with a set number of steps.  Squat jumps, burpees, pushups, mountain climbers, and lunges are common exercises during each camp.

After every set, running steps are all trainees have to look forward to.  The only relief that “recruits” receive is a short respite in between every cycle. Breaks can range from just thirty seconds up to a minute and a half, and trust me, they are much needed.  Seeing someone doubled over is fairly common, and although no one has thrown up at sessions I’ve attended, many have come close. By the time bootcamp is over, everyone is drenched.

“The gym can get boring, and when you work out alone it takes the competition out of it,” King says. “I like the sense of camaraderie that working out in groups can bring, and at the end everyone celebrates together.  Starting this and sticking with it has increased my endurance, and I’m sure everyone who comes regularly can feel the difference.”

The sweetest part of the deal: anyone can come and there is no cost involved.  The only thing you have to bring to this workout is motivation, and a willingness to push to your personal limits.

“To train with us costs you nothing but sweat,” King says.  “We welcome anyone who is looking for a change of pace.”

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Tough Mudder Training Attracting the Masses

By Pete Williams

Taking on “Wall Ball”

TAMPA – When we started Tough Mudder training at The Next Level (TNL) Training Center  a year ago, we were among a small group of 15 to 20 gathering for sessions that lasted up to 75 minutes.

Those of us who made it to last December’s race at Little Everglades Ranch in Pasco County found the actual 12-mile Tough Mudder easier than some of the workouts TNL head guy Eric Stratman devised.

Word of how effective the training is has gotten out and today 61 people showed up for the weekly Saturday morning torture fest. Because of the numbers, Stratman has put us into teams of 6-8 people the last few workouts. That doesn’t make things easier, but it does control the traffic flow. Unlike Tough Mudder, there will be no waiting in line for obstacles.

Today was pretty straightforward. Each team had six people, one for each of six stations:


Wall-Ball (Squat and toss a 14-pound medicine ball beyond a tape mark on the wall – 12 feet up)



200-meter sprint

Rest stop

Rinse and repeat as many times as possible in 20 minutes.

The key was the 200-meter sprinter. However long s/he spent sprinting was how long the rest of us spent at our respective stations. When s/he finished, we rotated, with everyone keeping track of our collective team totals of push-ups, sit-ups, wall-ball throws, and pull-ups.

It was only 20 minutes, a typical CrossFit WOD (Workout of the Day).

I like CrossFit, but my one complaint is that it’s not the greatest preparation for obstacle racing since there’s little running involved. That’s what makes Stratman’s program on Saturdays so effective. For the obstacle race training, he generally inserts a 400-meter or 800-meter run in between each typical WOD drill. That simulates obstacle racing, where you run a quarter-mile or so between obstacles.

Today’s top finishers

Today he added a 2-mile run to the end of the WOD. Some of the group bailed rather than run a mile up Racetrack Road at 10:30 a.m. in 87-degree heat.

But the rest of us made the run, which probably was closer to 2.5 miles.

My team logged a collective 1,633 reps between pushups, pullups, situps, and wall ball, or roughly 400 per station or 20 per minute. One of my female teammates and I were first in the run.

Clearly this obstacle race training is paying off.

Stratman continues to offer free Tough Mudder training at TNL Tampa on Saturday mornings, though not the next two Saturdays as his crew is competing in a CrossFit competition and staging a beach workout. They’ll be back at TNL Tampa, which is on the border of Westchase and Oldsmar, on July 28.


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When White Goodman Buys Your Gym

By Pete Williams

The “New LA Fitness”

Dear LA Fitness:

Thank you for your email this morning offering me two free coupons to experience the “club opening” of an LA Fitness where I’ve been a member for the last seven years.

Of course, I’ve never been a member of LA Fitness. The address and phone number of your “new LA Fitness” is that of my Lifestyle Family Fitness, the St. Petersburg-based health club chain with 33 Florida locations you acquired last week.

Details are sketchy at the moment, with neither you nor your new LFF friends talking to anyone. There’s been plenty of time, however, to shoot out an email letting me know that “your first billing will be automatically collected on 8/2/2012, unless your membership has previously been activated.”

Huh? This will not end well. Long before cell phones and bundled digital media services, the health club industry made the act of writing fine-print, bait-and-switch, hard-to-break, convoluted membership contracts an art form.

The next Visa bill no doubt will be interesting.

Here at the Clearwater LFF, we saw this coming ever since you opened your glitzy LA Fitness nearby four years ago. For years, our LFF has gone downhill. Equipment is replaced less often and there’s not one rusty bike in the spin room without a broken part. A facility that once always smelled of fresh paint now is chipped and dinged. Only recently did LFF add a few token flatscreens. The meathead posers and fitness model babes have long since moved four miles south to the glitzier LA Fitness.

Those of us remaining have felt like Peter LaFleur’s gang at Average Joe’s, coming for the camaraderie of the group fitness classes and because we’re used to the quirky three-level layout of a building that once was a four-screen movie theater.

I’ve been taking the same Tuesday morning spin class long enough to have seen the instructor go from being a recent college graduate vowing never to get married to a recently-married thirty something.

Unlike a lot of (ahem) larger gyms known for letting anyone with a mail-in fitness credential carry a clipboard and train members, most of our LFF trainers hold CPT certifications from the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) that are a bear to obtain. (I know; I spent six months studying for the exam and somehow passed. Good thing I’m not actually looking to become a personal trainer as the LFF trainers don’t know what their futures hold.)

A number of pro athletes who could train anywhere choose to toil in our gym despite its mismatched dumbbells and broken shower heads. James Shields of the Tampa Bay Rays began working out with a trainer there before the 2011 season, when he lead the American League with 11 complete games.

Our LFF isn’t located so close to Globo Gym, I mean, LA Fitness, that it will be razed for a parking garage. But it’s close enough that it’s hard to imagine LA Fitness keeping it open.

Some members will head to LA Fitness. Others will go to Anytime Fitness around the corner. The triathletes will find somewhere else to spin. I’ll probably spend more time at TNL Tampa, the CrossFit gym near Westchase where I already spend Saturday mornings training for obstacle races.

It seems a shame, though, that LFF will go out with a whimper. Maybe we should take a page from Peter LaFleur’s original playbook and send it out Irish wake style. It’s already falling apart. Let’s have one last party and bust up the place.

Then again….we could play dodgeball.


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Booting up with Tampa CrossBoot

Editor’s Note: David Adams, a University of Tampa student and U.S. Army veteran, is comparing obstacle race preparation and other training methods to the training he underwent in the military. In a series of stories for this summer, he’s writing about his progress.

By David Adams

CrossBoot instructor Vinny Fountain

TAMPA – By the end of the first set, my muscles were tense and pleading with my brain to stop.

I was standing with 20 classmates alongside a pavilion at Tampa’s Picnic Island pushing myself through “CrossBoot,” a CrossFit-like hybrid created by trainers Whit Lasseter and Vinny “Scoot” Fountain.

Push harder, Lasseter implored us. I was sweating profusely, and my shoulders, quads, and calves were on fire.  Each exercise challenged a different part of my body, and collectively they made for one really demanding workout.

This was unlike my usual weight room routines, which was just the point.

Over the last few years as fitness enthusiasts have been searching for better ways to condition the body, personal trainers have moved out of the gym. CrossFit coaches have transformed open space into a personal proving ground for anyone who wants to be in better condition.

I recently met Lasseter, co-owner of Tampa CrossBoot fitness classes and The Facility Gym in Ballast Point, who invited me to attend a CrossBoot session and learn about what it means to be a CrossFit athlete.

Lasseter and Fountain started Tampa CrossBoot more than a year ago, and since then the class has exploded, attracting not only CrossFit enthusiasts but athletes from many different backgrounds. CrossBoot’s routines provide a great cardiovascular workout, and weight routines during the sessions test physical strength.

CrossBoot sessions are held eight times a week, with two classes on Mondays and Fridays, and once a day on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. Lasseter and Fountain both run the CrossBoot classes, helping attendees maintain proper form and providing motivation to everyone involved.

The popularity of Tampa CrossBoot has grown quickly. Although average class sizes vary from around fourteen to twenty people, Lasseter said it isn’t uncommon to see as many as thirty people arriving at class time to run the 60-to-90 minute gauntlet that is CrossBoot.

Post-workout team photo

With Tampa CrossBoot not even a year old, Lasseter and Fountain decided to buy a training headquarters, “The Facility,” in February and train people full time. The new gym offers classes ranging from Abs and Booty to Zumba.  Power lifting, cardio kickboxing sessions, and various forms of yoga are also available.

On Sunday, I made the trip to Picnic Island Park to meet up with Lasseter and Fountain for one of their CrossBoot classes. As I pulled into the gravel parking lot the class was just beginning.  Nearly twenty people were already pushing their endurance, performing box jumps on the seats of picnic tables under a beachfront pavilion.

“Hey, glad you made it!” Lasseter said. “We were just finishing our warm-up.”

Although the box jumps seemed like a pretty intense warm-up, I nodded.  I was silently preparing myself for a very intense workout that would undoubtedly leave me exhausted afterward.  I jumped into the class as they started their next partner-assisted exercise.

One person conducted sit-ups, the other had to hold their ankles while they remained in the plank position. Each group had to complete 200 sit-ups before resting. Lasseter and I partnered, and Whit began knocking out sit-ups at an alarming pace. When she finished 50, we switched, and I completed my set of 50. During the next round, she did 60, leaving me thankfully only 40 to complete. I already was beginning to sweat, and we had just started.

After sit-ups, the group began individual circuits, starting off with squat thrusts while holding a weight bar, followed by frog jumps. Pushups and GTOs (ground-to-overhead) with weight were the final two workouts, with a 400-meter run following directly after completion of the course. To complete the session, each person had to do descending repetitions, starting with 21 reps of each the first time and falling by three reps each subsequent circuit.

When it was done, everyone gathered under the pavilion to catch their breath and congratulate one another on a successful training session.  The group was getting ready to go to Adventure Island and have some fun together.  Monthly “fun” days are now part of CrossBoot, making the class an even better idea for anyone who wants a workout that will push them to their limits and a place to meet fun people.

The best part about CrossBoot is that no two workouts will be the same.

“We constantly change our routines,” Lasseter said.  “You know how we timed this class? We may repeat timed exercises months down the road to gauge individual’s improvement, but 99% of the time, our sessions are completely different.”


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The Father’s Day Workout

By Pete Williams

Pushing through Lake Maury

ALL OVER VIRGINIA – This has only a little to do with endurance sports and nothing to do with Florida. But I spent Father’s Day in Virginia and figured I’d eat, drink, train, – and now write – however I pleased.

I woke up in Newport News, where my cousin and her family live adjacent to the Mariners’ Museum Park, which is 550-acres of manicured trails and woods along Lake Maury. The 5-mile Noland Trail goes up and down hills, along the lake, and is quiet enough that I turned a corner at one point and came face to face with a doe, who remarkably didn’t move.

The trail includes 20 bridges and I decided in the spirit of obstacle race training, to find one obstacle per bridge – bench, picnic table, tree stump – and drop and do a set of 10 pushups and 10 dips. The 5-mile run, with 20 stops, took about 50 minutes.

My cousin and her husband have lived in this section of Newport News for 25 years and in that time it’s become an unlikely college town with the transformation of Christopher Newport from community college to major university. If you’re ever in the area, check out the Mariners’ Museum Park. I only wish I had brought a paddleboard as Lake Maury looked perfect for SUP.

Enjoying Spicy Rivanna at Burnley Vineyards

Next it was on to Richmond and Bill’s Barbecue for my “death row meal,” what I would choose for my last meal on Earth. This is not health food by any means, but training hard entitles you to at least one major cheat meal a week – especially on Father’s Day. Here’s mine:

2 minced pork barbecue sandwiches

1 large fries

1 large limeade (basically 32 ounces of sugar)

1 piece of chocolate pie

The Richmond Flying Squirrels Double-A baseball team was playing across the street and we might have stopped if The Diamond still was home to Triple-A Richmond Braves (RIP), who played there when we lived in Richmond in the late 1970s.

Instead we proceeded on course to Charlottesville, stopping in nearby Barboursville at Burnley Vineyards, our favorite winery. Virginia wine is very underrated. Thomas Jefferson started the U.S. wine industry in Virginia and the Commonwealth probably still would be the leader in U.S. wine production had the vines not been trampled during the Revolutionary War and again in the Civil War. By the time Virginia got caught up midway through the 20th Century, California had taken a commanding lead.

“Good wine,” Jefferson once said, “is a necessity of life for me.”

With a case of Burnley wine in the van, it was on to Jefferson’s University of Virginia, where the plan was to have the second workout of the day at the UVA Aquatic Center, where our sons would have swam laps around me. We arrived in time to see swim coach Mark Bernardino instructing swim campers on the pool deck, but got the open pool schedule mixed up and didn’t get to swim. That will have to wait until tomorrow.

Instead, we wrapped up the day with a picnic on The Lawn as a late June sunset fell over the Rotunda – a perfect end to a perfect Father’s Day.

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Hula Hoop Fitness

By Pete Williams

A hula hoop can be a tremendous workout and it doesn’t take as much coordination as you might think. Sophia Zayfman and I recently demonstrated hula hoop fitness on ABC Action News.

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Obstacle Race Training at TNL Tampa

By Pete Williams

The dreaded farmer’s carry

TAMPA – We made it back to TNL Tampa for what I’ve been calling “Tough Mudder Training” ever since I showed up last summer at the CrossFit gym near Westchase.

Back then, TNL owner Eric Stratman took some traditional CrossFit workouts of the day (WODs) every other Saturday morning and interspersed 400-meter and 800-meter runs to make the workouts better simulate obstacle races such as Tough Mudder. After dealing with that torture all summer and fall, I had no problem with Tough Mudder and found such training to be one of the most effective, time-efficient workouts I’ve come across.

These days, TNL puts on such workouts every Saturday morning, though it’s closer to a traditional CrossFit WOD, with little running. This morning’s workout had just one 400-meter run, so I tweaked it for myself to more closely resemble the Tough Mudder training. Here’s what it looked like:

400m run
11 Burpees
40 pushups
400m run
40 wall ball (throwing 14 or 20lb med ball up 10-12 feet onto wall)
11 Burpees
400m run
40 tire flips
11 Burpees
400m run
40 ball slams (20 or 30lb balls)
11 Burpees
400m run
40 overhead walking lunges (25 or 45lb plate)
11 Burpees
400m run
200m farmer’s carry (45lb plates or lighter dumbbells/kettlebells)

Flipping tires is an incredible exercise for developing lower body power.

We’re especially fond of moves like the farmer’s carry, tire flips, and the walking overhead lunge. All of those develop power and endurance strength and if you can handle those you’ll have no problem making it through any obstacle race. I made it through this workout twice before time was called at roughly the one-hour mark. What an ass kicker.

Afterward, we filmed five fitness segments that will air every Sunday beginning next week, June 10, on ABC 28 here in the Tampa Bay area. (They’re always posted online shortly thereafter.) Thanks to Nichole Franklin of TNL and Sophia Zayfman for doing the heavy lifting.

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