Turning 50 can make a man take stock of his life.
As that milestone birthday approached, David Weber took time to reflect. He could take satisfaction from the success of his dental lab, but when he looked in the mirror, he wasn't too happy with what he saw. The athlete he remembered from his youth had vanished. In his place stood a softer, rounder, middle-aged man who had clearly spent far too much time sitting down.
Inspired by military basic training, "boot camp" workouts feature exercises that use the body's own weight to burn calories, build strength and improve cardiovascular performance.
"It's a combination of resistance training and cardio," says Tiazza Rose, who leads boot camps in Medford and Ashland. "People like it because they can get both at the same time."
Rose takes the role of drill sergeant, leading her charges through a series of exercises, encouraging them to push themselves. Familiar exercises such as pushups and lunges are combined with lesser known movements such as the Russian twist, in which a person builds abdominal strength by rotating the torso from side to side while sitting with feet on the floor, knees elevated, and holding the back at a 45 degree angle.
"It's an intense workout," says Rose, who also teaches belly dance and kick boxing.
"There are no breaks," she says. "I don't give breaks. If you need a break, you just take it."
While the workouts are challenging, that doesn't mean you have to be in great shape to show up. Rose welcomes newcomers.
"It's for all fitness levels," she says. "I've had people who are 70 years old and people who weigh 300 to 400 pounds."
She likes to tell about one of her regulars who vomited during her first visit. That same woman has now lost 60 pounds, Rose says, "and she's never stopped working out."
"For a couple of decades I traded my health for my career," he says. "Working 55 hours a week for 20 years, fitness took a back seat."
At one point his weight had drifted up toward 225 pounds, about 45 pounds more than he'd carried when he was young.
"I was feeling pretty out of shape," he says. "I'd swim a little bit during the summer, but most of my exercise was walking back and forth from the couch to the refrigerator."
Three months before he turned 50, Weber decided he needed to get moving again. He started working out at a fitness "boot camp," and riding bicycles. He even returned to the running he'd enjoyed as a kid.
Now, at 51, the Ashland man works out six days a week. Mondays and Wednesdays are reserved for the hourlong boot camp sessions, which emphasize core strength and cardiovascular endurance. Tuesdays he's at the gym, doing elliptical machines and stretching. Thursday is a running day, often up and down the steps at the Southern Oregon University stadium. Friday is a bicycle day, with either a spin class in the gym or a mountain bike tour. There's more cycling on the weekend, usually a longer road ride (35 to 70 miles) on Saturday or Sunday, with one day off.
Some 18 months after he decided to get fit, Weber says he's back at his high-school weight (180), and fitness has become a habit.
"After a year-and-a-half of working out six days a week, I can't even imagine not having it this way," he says.
The gains have not come without pains. His muscles and joints, after all, are starting their sixth decade.
"I've gotten well-acquainted with ibuprofen," he says.
Most days he exercises with his fiancee, Jani Rollins, an Ashland obstetrician. Rollins was a successful runner in high school and later trained in a pre-Olympic program, but she had to leave competition after a series of knee surgeries.
"I've always been active," she says. "Ten years ago when I was pregnant, I still exercised, but I did more swimming and hiking then."
She was the one who first brought him to boot camp.
Weber had told her he wanted to improve his core strength. "She said she had just the answer for that," he recalls. "We do it two days a week, so it makes up a third of our fitness program."
Tiazza Rose, the trainer who runs the boot camp, says Weber and Rollins push each other to do more at the workouts.
"He's really competitive with Jani, and it's fun to watch," she says.
Weber and Rollins roll out of bed at 5:30 in the morning to have enough time to do the workout and still get to their jobs by 8.
"If I'm not sure I can pull myself out of bed, she helps me," Weber says. "Having someone you share that commitment with is the biggest factor in being consistent (about exercising).
"Looking back at the last year and a half, that's been instrumental in my being so consistent."
Both credit "Tiazza's boot camp" (as the regulars call it) for helping them get in shape and stay there. Boot camp workouts (named for their resemblance to the physical training for new military recruits) have gained popularity over the past decade among people who like an exercise environment where their instructor pushes them harder than they might push themselves.
"She often asks out loud, after we are totally exhausted, whether or not we should do one more set," Weber explains. "It didn't take me long to figure out that it was a rhetorical question. We always did another!"
Weber says his active life allows him to eat just about anything he wants without gaining weight because he burns so many calories. That said, he still pays attention to how much he eats.
"I just don't eat that much of anything," he says.
He takes the long view on exercise and health.
"We don't exercise for today," he says. "We're exercising today for how our health is going to be 10 years from now."
Bill Kettler is a freelance writer living in Rogue River. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.