Work out of the week: Boot Camp by the Beach

Journal News, July 2010

How many group runs have you been on where you’ve heard your leader say “Watch out for the seahorse shell!” And how many fitness instructors do you know who utter phrases like “Face Seaside Johnnies and push-up off the wall?”

As for me, I only know one: 39 year-old Lee Sandford. And recently, I had the pleasure, and the angst, of working out with the Scottish expat at her own stroke of genius: Boot Camp by the Beach.

“I winter we’re on the beach the whole time,” says Sandford who notes that the sand adds an extra layer of difficulty to her already hard-core workout. In the broiling heat-waves however, Sandford mercifully moves the class under the park’s shady trees.

My group began on the beach under a sun breeding 90-plus-degree temps. (Note to self, next time bring sun-screen). Soft white sand gave under my sneakers, seagulls squawked about overhead and the smell of salt and seaweed drifted in with the lazy tide. Those first few minutes seemed more like the start of a vacation than the start of a grueling workout.

As Sandford led us in a light jog along the water, I was still dreaming if postcards and beach towels, but while sand may be a friend to bikini-clad sun worshippers, it’s a resistance bearing obstacle for runners. Our jog may have been short, but each step was harder than it would gave been on solid ground.

Almost automatically, the group lined up along the shore for Sandford’s “dynamic stretch”, basically a heart-pumping string of exercises that elongates your muscles and simultaneously keeps you moving. “Jump squats” yells Sandford. “Jumping Jack!” she switches. “What should we do next Julie?” she calls to a regular Boot Camper. “Ummm, mountain climbers?” Julie says on a whim and instantly the whole class gets on all fours and repeatedly moves one leg forward and one back. By the end of the drill, Oakland Beach felt more like the Sahara desert and I lunged towards my water bottle faster than I’d managed during a single exercise all morning. Sandford’s program combines plyometric drills (exercises that require jumping) with isometric drills (exercises where you hold a position) to give you a complete cardio and muscle-building workout. But the best thing about her routine is that there is no routine.

“I like to change it up so people don’t know what’s coming next” she says. “It’s nice to keep people on their toes and keep in interesting.

Indeed it’s interesting but the mix-it-up approach also prevents you from falling into an exercise plateau. From the beach, we jogged to the stone wall opposite Seaside Johnnies – I thought we were stopping to rest. Silly me. Instead, Sandford order everyone to fund a spot on the wall and begin a round of “rockettes” or one-legged wall squats with a kick. After two sets, we lined up for tricep dips off the wall; by the time we finished I had to refill my water bottle and was grateful for the fountain.

Next we gathered in a shady spot on the grass where leafy tress shielded the sun, but the humidity, thick and heavy, lingered like an invisible fog around our yoga mats. Sandford isn’t the only – or even the most- challenging component of this outdoor workout, Mother Nature can make things more or less intense depending on her mood.

Sandford divided he group in two. Mine began a round of fog squats, consistently squat jumping midair. At the same time, the other group, led by another student, held the squat for an excruciatingly long stance. More fun: then you switch.

We also worked our upper bodies, doing swift sets of front raises with our hand weights (bring your own) upright rows and reverse flyes. Finally, we ended by working our core in plank position, holding our bodies in a straight-line, face-down stance.

Plank isn’t fun, but the upside is that it puts you in just the right position to collapse on the ground, which in this case, isn’t a cold gym floor, but a patch of pristinely cut, sweet-smelling grass.

Get Your Revenge Body!

Westchester Magazine, May 2010

When you hit the beach this summer, you want to have a body that will fill your exes with regret. That doesn’t mean you have to while away your beautiful summer hours inside a sweaty, stuffy gym. Instead, work out in the great outdoors. Enter the Rye Boot Camp by the Beach, led by drill instructor—uh, personal trainer—Lee Sandford. Classes are held in Rye Town Park, but the class is not just a walk on the beach: “I write a new workout every single class,” Sandford says, “and we use circuit, interval, and ‘Tabata’ training protocols for maximum calorie burn and increases in strength and fitness.” Classes are $14 per hour, or $20 for single-class drop-ins.

Soundshore Review, June 25 2009

Leave the gym – and all that baggage – behind and workout at the park. Lee Sandford, a certified personal trainer, has been leading outdoor fitness classes at Rye Town Park since January (yes – die-hards are out there in winter’s chill, dressed in layers). Called Boot Camp by the Beach, it’s a convenient, fun and inexpensive way to flex some muscles. “I mostly try to emphasize that you don’t need much equipment, just a mat, some exercise bands – all portable stuff – to get a good workout,” says Sandford.

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