FORT KENT, Maine — Every so often, I like to open up my mental “What was I thinking file,” dust off the contents and reflect upon what exactly I was thinking?
For example, what was I thinking when a couple of weeks ago I inquired about signing up for something called “boot camp,” and I thought it was a good idea.
No, not the training centers operated by the branches of this country’s military. Rather, this boot camp is organized and run by an individual I believe could run circles around just about any elite military team you can name.
Patsy Morin, originally from New Brunswick and now living in Fort Kent, is part drill instructor, part cheerleader, part coach and all heart.
I had talked to enthusiastic folks who had taken — and survived — her six week, high intensity cardio exercise classes and the more I heard, the more I began thinking, “Hey, I could do this.”
In fact, Morin’s thrice-weekly boot camp sounded perfect. As a cyclist, I have halfway decent endurance when it comes to distance riding.
But upper body strength and other muscle groups? Not so much.
Classes run from 5:30 to 6:30 a.m., which also seemed perfect. Up and out the door, exercise for an hour and back home in plenty of time to start the work day.
You know the old saying, “May you be in heaven an hour before the devil knows you’re dead?”
After my first week at Boot Camp, I’ve adapted it to, “May your body be enjoying it’s first cup of coffee before it wakes up and realizes what you have just put it through.”
Boot Camp meets at Riverside Park in Fort Kent, about a 15 minute drive from my house, meaning I must be on the road by 5:15 a.m. Given there are dogs to let out, contact lenses to put in and clothes to put on, my alarm is going off at 4:45 a.m. To expedite things, my clothes are laid out the night before and my car is parked facing down the driveway, inches from the back door.
However, if I sleep with my contacts in and wear my exercise clothes, I bet I could shave a good 10 minutes for extra sleeping time.
About a dozen of us thought it was a good idea to sign up for Boot Camp, and we arrived for day one at the park bleary-eyed, yawning and rubbing sleep from our eyes.
At 5:29 a.m., a white SUV pulled up and out blasted Hurricane Patsy.
With a smile a mile wide, clipboard and stopwatch in hand, she bounded up and immediately herded us over to a grassy area.
Let the games begin.
Everyone, Morin told us, is equal. We were all there for one reason — to get moving and feel better inside and out.
She begins and ends each session by having us yell her mantra, “I am beautiful. I am kind. I am loved. I am enough. I can do anything. I am unique. I love myself.”
Wasting no time, she guided us through a series of exercises that involved jumping, running in place, lunging, squatting and waving our arms.
All of which, I might add, took a fair degree of coordination, something I sadly lack at the best of times and most definitely before a caffeine injection.
Ten minutes later, dripping sweat and breathing a bit hard, I was relieved when Morin called a halt.
“There,” she said, “warm-ups are done.”
Warm-ups? Dear Lord, I thought, what possibly could be next?
Morin eschews traditional gym equipment and fancy exercising clothes. In fact, she showed up the first morning wearing sweats and an old flannel shirt to emphasize “it’s what’s on the inside that really counts.”
As far as equipment goes, the world is Morin’s gym. Everything in it is just one, giant nautilus machine.
After a brisk run around the park, she lined us up at the top of a small knoll. We were then directed to bear crawl down the knoll on our hands and feet, turn, do a series of push-ups and lunges and then sprint back up the knoll.
If I go to hell when I die, it will be bear crawling down a fire and brimstone knoll.
Once completed, it was off on another run to the boat landing where we went through a series of uphill sprints and more lunges, finishing up with one-armed body raises using a section of wood railing.
The second class was blessedly free of bear crawls. Instead, Morin had us run over to the park’s pavilion and directed us through a whole array of body raises, step-ups, crunches and push-ups up and over the picnic tables.
Then it was more running to the lined parking space area.
Now, don’t ask me where she comes up with this stuff, but only Morin could take innocent white parking space lines and turn them into a wind-sprint course.
Ten lines, we ran back and forth from each line 10 times and inbetween performed more push-ups, leg raises, lunges, sit-ups and squats.
By the time that particular session was done, we looked like a line of Boot Camp roadkill.
Hard? That does not begin to go far enough. Exhausting? That’s not even the tip of the iceberg.
But here’s the thing. Morin’s class is made up of participants ranging from high school students to retirees, and not once does she ever make any of us feel we are not up to the challenge.
Somehow, she individually tweaks the exercises based on the person’s abilities so we are all pushed to our limits — and just a step or two beyond — but left with a feeling of success and accomplishment.
Not to mention the feeling of soreness emanating from muscles I quite honestly forgot I had. I was not alone limping and groaning my way to the start line on day two.
But no one fails or washes out at a Patsy Morin Boot Camp. Heck, some of the group I’m with are back for a second time.
“I love sharing this,” she said after our last session. “Everyone can do this, and you will see how much more you can do as you live Boot Camp!”
Frankly, I’m not sure I’ve ever met a person who radiates that much positive energy.
But I really do wonder what the residents around Riverside Park think as three times a week a small crowd runs back and forth with an enthusiastic leader cheering, encouraging and directing at the top of her voice.
One week down, five more to go. Seems doable, but one thing is worrying me. Given Morin’s ability to use anything and everything in her exercise routines, I can only imagine what will happen the day she directs us to run over to the park’s swing set and slide area.