In all of my fit crashing days, I have never seen anything like Soldierfit. If I could describe it in a nutshell, it would be this: an indoor boot camp turned role play where you have been recruited into an ultra fit special forces unit with a mission to shape up or ship out. You will be called “troop.” You will be required to wear a uniform. There will be military paraphernalia all over the place. You will work hard and then be asked to work harder. You will shout in unison and stand in formation. Over the top? Totally. Effective? You better believe it.
Soldierfit is a functional fitness boot camp with a laser-like focus on teamwork and confidence building. Each hour-long session combines calisthenics, body weight exercises, and endurance training. There’s also built in time for warm up, warm down, and a post-workout pep talk. Many of the instructors are former military – and it shows. Even down to the way they count flutter kicks…with that distinct guttural, frog-like honk straight out of GI Jane. When you walk through those doors – you’re in the Army now, kid.
When I first heard about Soldierfit, I was immediately intrigued. I love boot camp style workouts that stress creativity and good old fashioned hard work, and this seemed to be the grand pumba of them all. When I heard the closest location was in Frederick, Maryland…I had to do a double take (and break out the Google map). An hour from DC? Really? On a Sunday morning? But as soon as I arrived and stepped up to the cut off Jeep-desk to fill out my paperwork, I knew this was going to be one heck of a ride.
The facility is in an enormous warehouse structure outfitted with astroturf flooring and a heaping dose of military hooyah. The amount of decorative detail put into every element of the space was staggering – even the ladies bathroom had a shower curtain emblazoned with dog tags and a bench that said “Fort Frederick.” As I put my belongings into a cubby in the front area, I heard clipped barking coming from behind the door. Yeah, this door.
The cautious look on my face must have been easy to read, because the Soldierfit employee at the front desk said, “Oh, that’s Antoine, he really gets fired up in the morning. You’ll love it.” Fired up? That’s one way to put it. All I could hear was heavy metal and the staccatoed yelling of a drill sergeant. I walked into the cavernous arena that makes up the main workout space to find the troops warming up.
After a warmup of basic calisthenics, the workout itself was one big circuit. The group broke into six “companies” that rotated through all of the exercise stations about four times. Antoine took his time explaining each exercise, making sure everyone knew exactly how to perform it correctly and safely. Then the music turned up and it was time to get moving.
The stations included:
1. tire pulls
3. tricep dips on monster truck tires followed by super man pushups
4. high jumps followed by mountain climbers
5. single arm rows with free weights
6. medicine ball throws
The “troops” at this particular workout ranged in age, experience, and level of fitness. There were military types, moms, and everything in between. But there was a palpable camaraderie and the clients were there for one singular reason: to get their tush kicked and to feel good doing it. As a new person (and one who stood out like a sore thumb without a uniform shirt on), I felt instantly welcomed and shown the ropes by a few of the regulars. To the folks in my “company” who showed me what the heck to do with those tires, a big thank you goes out to you!
The instructors walk around during the workout and offer encouragement, support, correction if needed, and a heaping dose of motivation. There was no in-your-face screaming or degrading language. But they definitely play the drill sergeant role in their military-contractor style outfits straight out of central casting: khaki tactical cargos, desert combat boots, black polo tucked in, ball cap with American flag. Again, the entire operation is a well oiled machine to project a very specific image. And they do a heck of a job delivering, from the sandbags stacked in the corner, the military branch flags hanging from the ceiling, or the gurney-turned-bench resting in the corner.
While the idea of a military boot camp seems intimidating and miserable, the atmosphere at Soldierfit was actually fun, inspiring, and approachable. It does not look that way at first glance. Heck, walking into a room full of people wearing a uniform and doing all the same moves can be intimidating even for the most seasoned fit crasher. But I was instantly reassured (and surprised) to realize how welcoming everyone was and that the entire purpose of the company is to build people up and make them feel part of the whole. Oh, and did I mention the workout was enormously challenging as well? I left there with sore muscles everywhere and loved it. Where do I enlist?
Soldierfit offers a first-time-free trial workout, after which you will need to sign up for a membership. There are no a la carte options. Click here for a full list of locations (none of which are close to DC, but if you have a car or live out in VA or MD, this is definitely worth checking out). Some of the facilities also offer a functional training gym space with TRX, monkey bars, boxes, rowing machines – you name it – for members to use on their own schedule.