South Bay Fit Camp members are all smiles during a recent kickboxing workout at Whaley Park in Long Beach. SBFC is offering a free class this Saturday at the park in celebration of the fit camp's anniversary. Photo courtesy of Emily Duval Ledger.
9:15pm | Emily Duval Ledger was working in marketing for the Carpenter Performing Arts Center in Long Beach when she got turned on to the possibility that exercise could be an effective way to deal with the stress of her job and life. But having not been raised to be physically active, she had no feel for fitness.
Then she took a kickboxing class through the Long Beach Department of Parks, Recreation and Marine, "and it turned something on in me, and kind of reframed my vision of myself."
By 2005 she had transformed herself into a full-time personal trainer. Having a genuine interest in the well-being of her clients, she encouraged them to seek classes elsewhere to augment their activity level when she could not be with them
However, before long she noticed that most of them were dropping out of the classes almost as soon as they had started. Upon discussing with them the reasons why, it dawned on her that it might be worthwhile for her to create a class of her own — a class she knew they would like, one in which they got good training coupled with personal connection.
One successful class led to another, and three years later, South Bay Fit Camp was born. Today SBFC has three instructors teaching 10 classes per week.
On Saturday, South Bay Fit Camp celebrates its third anniversary by offering an "open house" free class to be held in Whaley Park, the site of most SBFC classes.
"What really drew me to training was helping other people reframe their ideas of themselves," Ledger says. "A lot of the people who come to my classes are very new to exercise. They're self-conscious, and they're uncomfortable, and so we get them in an environment that makes them feel good, and they make friends really fast and have a good time. … And the beautiful byproduct of that is that their bodies change and they feel a lot better of themselves."
"The main difference is that we're a little more camp than boot," Ledger quips, noting that with SBFC there's "a little comedy element to every workout. … While all of our classes give a rockin' workout, the emphasis is on fun."It's really important to us that people are out there enjoying themselves, because we strongly believe that stress relief is one of the major components of living a healthy life; and that if your workout is something you look forward to and enjoy, it's something you're going to do on a regular basis," she continues. "So we do not scream in people's faces. … We really encourage people to challenge themselves — and at the same time have a good time doing it. I guess the best way to put it is that we take our workout seriously, but we do not take ourselves seriously."
This emphasis on fun stems from Ledger's own intolerance for physical activity that is all work and no play.
"I realized that I only wanted to do things that are fun for me," she recalls. "I don't really have any interest in forms of exercise that may be amazing for you but that I don't really enjoy. And so I want to provide that same thing for people who come to my classes. I don't want it to be like another thing they have to cross off their 'to do' list.
"[In SBFC workouts] there is a lot of joking around; we play a lot of games; there is a lot of partner work. There is a sense of camaraderie. ... I fully expect that at the end of every workout people feel sweaty and proud of what they've accomplished, but they've laughed a lot," Ledger, seen at right, says. "It's really important to me that they feel like this is something that is fun, that they look forward to. I have a lot of clients who have very stressful jobs, and they really look forward to class at the end of the day, because it's the way for them to let go of all of that … and go home feeling relaxed and happy."
While SBFC class sizes vary from day to day, usually there are no more than a dozen or so participants per class, enabling that personal touch that larger classes lack.
While Saturday's free class will be larger, all three instructors will be present.
For more information, visit SouthBayFitCamp.com.