Your Own Best Drill Sergeant

Your Own Best Drill Sergeant

published in Fort Wayne Magazine

Tantalizing, isn’t it?

Just imagine:

  • a 3 to 5 percent reduction in body fat
  • a 5- to 12-pound weight loss
  • a 1- to 3-inch decrease in your midsection
  • a 25 percent improvement in endurance and strength

I’ve clicked on Internet ads that promised less.

But Fort Wayne Adventure Boot Camp instructors and trainers Jennifer Branning and Mike McClain say these amazing results are totally achievable with one of their four-week programs … if you follow their guidelines.

And there’s the catch, if there is one. Being physically fit isn’t magic. It still requires some effort on our part. But Branning and McClain will provide as much support as possible short of an Oprah-style in-home chef and personal trainer.

Their Adventure Boot Camp at first seems to be one more class with a clever name, evoking images of super-fit men and women in camouflage gear barking orders until the calories and fat run from your body, too scared to cling to your belly anymore.

But McClain dispels that myth. “Boot camp is not about kicking your butt,” he says. Rather, it’s about personal challenge and change. “We don’t want you competing with the Joneses,” McClain says.

To that end, McClain and Branning conduct a thorough evaluation of each client before they ever meet for their first workout at the military-like hour of 5:30 a.m. They assess body fat, measurements, weight, strength, health and goals.

They also review diet, which marches lockstep with exercise on the uphill road to results. Each participant is given guidance on portion control; caloric intake; a healthy eating schedule; maintaining fluid levels; and consuming the appropriate quantities of carbohydrates, proteins and fats in the right ratios at the right times.

From there, McClain and Branning emphasize the adventure part of the equation. Their workouts—yes, they’re really offered at 5:30 a.m., three times a week, though there is a 9 a.m. option for we night owls—are an engaging mix of running, jumping rope, strength training, agility drills, activities with a partner, perhaps even tossing a tractor tire or two.

“It takes you out of your comfort zone,” McClain says. “None of our workouts are the same.” This way you don’t get bored, and your body doesn’t get lazy. “Your body loves balance, and it adapts really quickly to what you do,” McClain says. This fat gym rat can testify: Doing the same workout every day doesn’t count if you no longer break a sweat. The boot camp mix, however, challenges different parts of your body all the time, forcing it to switch gears—and expend calories.

Along the way, McClain and Branning check food journals. Participants are asked to write down everything: every mocha latte, every beer, every handful of carrots, every plain piece of chicken, every 2 a.m. ice cream binge. And yes, you’ll hear about it if you screw up. But most of all, you’ll see it if you screw up; or rather, you won’t see it. The results McClain and Branning offer are only within reach of those who comply with those pesky guidelines.

The group workouts and food journal checks provide the personal-trainer-and-chef accountability that breeds success. But equally as motivating are Branning and McClain’s personal enthusiasm and passion for what they do.

When Branning started working out 10 years ago, she was a stay-at-home mom carrying an extra 70 pounds. She was so inspired by the personal trainers who helped her get into shape that she decided to do the same for others. Branning is now a certified group fitness instructor, an American Council on Exercise certified personal trainer, a Johnny G. spin instructor and a certified Adventure Boot Camp instructor.

McClain has a four-year degree in exercise science from Ball State University and a four-year nursing degree from the University of Saint Francis. He is a full-time nurse at GM, and he worked weekends at St. Joseph and Parkview Hospitals with patients suffering diabetes and other diseases before taking on his current weekend gig in the emergency room at the VA hospital.

They bring to their camp a deep understanding of disease, nutrition, fitness, physiology, motivation and the fact that life gets in the way. They’re working with a physician to fashion training for people suffering adrenal fatigue. They’ve trained members of the Fort Wayne Ballet. They’ve worked with seniors and teenagers and everyone in between.

In fact, they say their classes can work for anyone of any level, thanks to a tag-team approach in which they demonstrate how to scale back or accelerate a particular move. No one is too soft or too buff to benefit, they say … if you follow their guidelines.

McClain tells of one man in his 60s who comes to several sessions of Adventure Boot Camp every year. We’ll call him John. John lost 70 pounds (that’s right, ladies and gentleman, 70 pounds) through Adventure Boot Camp. McClain and Branning offered him the same sort of instruction and training they offer everyone. “You know what John’s response was?” says McClain. “OK.”

OK. It’s kind of novel, right? It’s not, I’m going to eat this bag of chips, then work it off tomorrow. It’s not, I’m going to have cocktails with friends on Friday and catch up on sleep on Sunday.

It’s OK, I’m ready to do what they tell me, because I want those tantalizing results. McClain and Branning aren’t going to move into your house, staple your mouth shut and make you jump rope for your supper (though they are invited to do so at my place). They are going to coach you and motivate you and watch you and check in on you and push you. It’s not really a class with a clever name. It’s personal training. It’s nutrition. It’s guidelines.

It’s January. Whether you join McClain and Branning on their adventure or you choose another program, find some support, seek some accountability and follow those guidelines. OK?

For more information, see