Fitness instructor puts Slope civilians through boot camp

for The Brooklyn Paper
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Get our stories in your inbox, free.

Like Brooklyn Paper on Facebook.

If you’ve ever entered the Grand Army Plaza end of Prospect Park at the crack of dawn, you may have asked yourself: Who are those 20 red-shirts shouting out reps of jumping jacks in unison and crawling in the mud under a tarp?

The answer: Members of Boot Camp Fitness Brooklyn N.Y.C., the brainchild of personal trainer Darren Taylor.

Spring, summer and fall, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, this early morning, outdoor exercise program lets civilians experience a workout regimen shaped by Taylor’s four years in the U.S. Army while simultaneously enjoying the splendors of the sprawling green space. Accordingly, participants do everything from cross-country runs incorporating the steps behind the Quaker cemetery to strength-building lunges in the rolling fields of the Long Meadow.

Throughout, Taylor stresses the three D’s of discipline, determination and dedication.

"My drill sergeant used to plug that constantly," the former Army private says with a laugh.

A genial motivator, Taylor doesn’t bark out commands like a crew-cut corporal in need of anger management. To the contrary, the "Shut Up And Run" decals on the back of each matching jersey are tongue-in-cheek.

"We’re not big, buff guys," he says of himself and his assistant, Jeffrey Sidnez; instead, their shared philosophy is more can-do than must-do.

"If you can get up at 6 in the morning for this, even if it’s raining," Taylor states, "then there’s nothing you can’t accomplish."

In keeping with Taylor’s focus on empowerment, self-motivation is at the heart of his cohort Sidnez’s own transformation from homebody to health nut. A self-taught trainer accredited by both the American Council on Exercise and the East Coast Alliance, Sidnez understands first-hand the effort required to lose weight. Personally, he’s dropped from 275 pounds to 190. Now, he hopes his message of self-care and wellness "reaches at least a million people."

With projects like last year’s Lighten Up Brooklyn, Borough President Marty Markowitz’s weight loss drive for which Taylor was the official personal trainer, the two may be on their way.

Taylor quips of his program, "It’s like the ’get yourself up’ of coffee through exercise," with adrenaline replacing the caffeine.

Leaving the dumbbells, treadmills and pulley machines behind at the gym, Taylor and Sanchez put intensity in their workouts with quirkily named routines like "Chase the rabbit" and "Front, back and roll." The former involves getting down on all fours and then running in place with your hands on the ground; the latter consists of dropping to the ground for a push-up, flipping onto your back for a sit-up, then high stepping in place.

Boot Camp’s equipment-free techniques have amassed their share of successful weight reduction testimonials - Cassandra Metz of Prospect Heights was able to shed 12 pounds postpartum - but most current boot campers extol benefits that extend beyond the T-shirt and knapsack you get in the beginning, the fat burned and the muscles built during six weeks, and the dog-tag and certificate awarded at the end.

Banking on its ability to attract repeat customers (which consistently total 50 percent during any given session), the three-year-old program will add a second location come August in Fort Greene Park. That location, with its "Rocky"-like three-tiered staircases near the Prison Ship Martyr’s Monument, promises its own unique set of physical challenges.

Park Slope resident Tom Buffolano has been with the program from the start. On staff with the newly opened Track & Field Hall of Fame in upper Manhattan, Buffolano is, naturally enough, a runner. But he was attracted to Taylor’s Boot Camp because he recognized that as you grow older "your body isn’t as able to absorb the shock and the pounding" that comes with hitting the pavement. Taking a holistic approach, he sought to "increase core strength" as a way to prolong his running career. And while nowadays the "challenge first and foremost is to keep with the schedule," he has found a training partner in his wife, Patti, who’s been with the program almost as long. ("She’s become a workout fiend," he says.)

Similarly, Dr. Tanya Jones, an administrator at Medgar Evers College, professes that Boot Camp has had a direct influence on improving her endurance and increasing her upper body strength.

"Definitely, I can run faster and I can run up hills better," she said. "I’m also less likely to avoid some of the incline stuff I would have stayed away from in the past." But she seems equally enthused about the ancillary perks like how the drilled routines have introduced her to "places in the park that I never knew existed," including Prospect Park’s waterfall.

Part tour guide, part trainer, Taylor counts community builder among his duties as well. Drawing again on his time as a truck-driving soldier in Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., Taylor aims to foster a team spirit for group exercise that’s patterned on the camaraderie formed by a cohesive military platoon.

"You have a battle buddy. You learn to look out for the person next to you."

Buffolano echoes the sentiment more simply.

"You really bond with people who you’re with three times a week, and you know are serious about their health."

Boot Camp Fitness Brooklyn N.Y.C. meets Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, from 6 am to 7 am, in Prospect Park. The class fee is $325 for six weeks. Beginning Aug. 2, Boot Camp expands to Fort Greene Park. The introductory price is $150 for six weeks of classes which meet Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 6 am to 7 am, and Saturdays, from 9 am to 10 am. To register, call (718) 495-8249. For more information, the Web site will be launched later in July.

Today’s news:
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Get our stories in your inbox, free.

Like Brooklyn Paper on Facebook.

Reasonable discourse

Enter your comment below

By submitting this comment, you agree to the following terms:

You agree that you, and not or its affiliates, are fully responsible for the content that you post. You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening or sexually-oriented material or any material that may violate applicable law; doing so may lead to the removal of your post and to your being permanently banned from posting to the site. You grant to the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual and fully sublicensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part world-wide and to incorporate it in other works in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.

First name
Last name
Your neighborhood
Email address
Daytime phone

Your letter must be signed and include all of the information requested above. (Only your name and neighborhood are published with the letter.) Letters should be as brief as possible; while they may discuss any topic of interest to our readers, priority will be given to letters that relate to stories covered by The Brooklyn Paper.

Letters will be edited at the sole discretion of the editor, may be published in whole or part in any media, and upon publication become the property of The Brooklyn Paper. The earlier in the week you send your letter, the better.