“The Shape of Things to Come” (by Julie)

The pale moon hangs low over the calm blue waters of the Pacific as the bright sun spreads its glow along the coast. It’s 8:30 in the morning and I am standing in Palisades Park in Sonki’s fitness boot camp witnessing this soothing, beautiful spectacle. As I power walk, do arm circles and shoulder presses, I realize that for the first time in my adult life, exercise is fun again. Fun, you ask? If putting that word with serious exercise leaves you skeptical it’s time to change that way of thought!

Change, we can all admit, is something most of us don’t want to embrace in life, but when it comes to fitness and our bodies, change becomes something we crave. We long to see it in our weight or shape but what if after all of your efforts you don’t see a difference, or you don’t even believe it’s possible to lose weight or inches anymore? What if you think you’re simply destined to live with the body you have now? If you think any of these things I’m here to tell you that none of them are true. With some personal dedication and with Sonki and his boot camp group behind you, everything, including having some fun while you exercise and seeing a change in your body, becomes possible. My journey in boot camp turned out to be an exhilarating transformation of body, mind and soul. You see I bargained on improved fitness, but I didn’t realize that as I redefined my body, I would also reshape the way I looked at life.

When Sonki first told me about his boot camp, I didn’t know if I had the stamina for that type of exercise. To be embarrassingly honest, I didn’t even know if I wanted to work that hard to get into shape. I had always been active and fairly fit, but after a cancer diagnosis and chemotherapy nearly five years earlier, my body had changed. Not only was I heavier than I had ever been in my life, but internally my body had aged and it never bounced back to its pre-cancer fitness level. I still experienced exhaustion everyday and it held me back from many activities I would have liked to participate in. The miniscule changes that came from my healthy eating and from exercise took so long to come about I’d get frustrated, slack off and basically get nowhere. I honestly felt fated to this shape even though I was so tired of being overweight. My self-esteem suffered along with my joints that had to carry more weight than they could comfortably handle. I knew I needed a drastic change. I discussed my concerns with Sonki about my ability to participate and joked that I’d have to get in shape before I could take his class. He assured me that no matter what my fitness level I could go at my own pace and still improve my strength and stamina. Although I felt tremendous apprehension about going to boot camp, I also felt excited to see if I could do it and to see just what he could do for me. It turns out I had to do a lot for myself, but his encouraging words and positive support, as well as the group’s, kept me going and enabled me to push beyond the physical limits I had unknowingly set for myself.

The others in my group had been a part of Sonki’s boot camp longer than me but it didn’t matter as everyone got out as much as they put in.  I walked when others ran which meant they got a more intense workout than me, but whatever I did pushed my limits and that was all that mattered.  This isn’t a competition with anyone else in the group, although a little friendly competition helped us exceed our own expectations.  At the end of day one I was sore and exhausted but I felt challenged and invigorated.  I had prodded myself and had used more muscles than I even remembered I had.  Sonki urged us to think positive thoughts while doing the exercises and reminded us that the slight push beyond what we think we can do is the difference between average and above average fitness.  I walked away from my first session feeling I was doing something really good for me.

Boot camp did turn out to be an extreme challenge for me but the sense that we were all in this together kept me going. Seeing changes even in the very first week also added to my enthusiasm. First of all, no matter what my exhaustion level, I had an underlying energy and felt more focused and determined to reach my goals in all areas of my life. In the second week I started to see a change in my shape as my muscles got more defined. In the third week I still felt pretty tired after a session, but instead of needing to lie down an hour or so after working out, I could go the whole day before I crashed. I was getting stronger, and it felt amazing. Meeting this challenge and excelling in this area made me feel as if I could succeed in all areas of life. I’ve found that too often exercise programs focus only on the body, yet our mind and emotions play a large part in our level of commitment and motivation and in our ability to stick with a goal and achieve success. Sonki recognizes this and says, “Most people fail because they don’t believe they can do something. Our family atmosphere motivates and encourages participants and by gently pushing them beyond their presumed limits they come to realize their immense potential.”

Sonki was right.  I had the hardest time with push-ups and when I said, “I can’t do this” he said he didn’t want to hear “can’t.”  He stressed again that we have preconceived limits about what we can do, and when we try just a little harder we achieve a higher level of fitness.  I began to test this by doing just two more repetitions when I felt I couldn’t do another and I saw even more changes and that excited and motivated me.  Besides the physical improvement, I felt even more empowered since I had taken control of a negative – my perceived limit – and turned it into a strong positive.  I applied this in business when I felt I couldn’t accomplish a task remembering that “can’t” doesn’t exist, and I forged ahead to find solutions to whatever lay before me.

I reaped so many benefits from Sonki’s class and from exercising in such a gorgeous setting.  At the end of five weeks I had lost inches and increased my stamina.  I got excited when my pants started feeling looser, but I didn’t dwell on “weight loss” and instead focused on getting stronger.  I think it’s good to mark your progress but don’t obsess over it.  Reward yourself–no not with chocolate.  OK, a little chocolate, but treat yourself to some new clothes to enhance the newer you, a massage, or whatever makes you feel good.  And don’t give up because once you experience a stronger body, you’ll want to keep it for life.

Sonki’s boot camp offers a far more personalized approach than a class in a gym.  His classes present a creative, yet challenging way to make exercise feel like an escape. The exercises are hard but they aren’t so hard that you can’t do them.  Going at your own pace enables all fitness levels to participate and the empowering emotional benefits derived from this program cannot be denied.  As Sonki always says, it’s the quality of the workout that makes a difference and with him, quality extends beyond the training into quality of time spent. I found myself smiling when I’d leave a session because I’d been able to combine fitness training, the outdoors, and socializing in a unique, fun, and healthy way. I found it an invigorating way to start my day or a release after a tough day of work. With an encouraging, supportive atmosphere, Sonki’s fitness boot camp helped me pave the way to self-acceptance, a fit body, and a more powerful, positive belief system. Now that’s the kind of change I like.