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Sir, Yes, Sir!

A fitness company that's run military style

There's a little bit of Marine in all of us. At least that's what Raphael Verela has bet his business on: The 31-year-old former Marine and personal trainer runs his fitness company, Optimum Boot Camp, in authentic military style.

Grueling 90-minute workouts start promptly at 6 a.m. on the beaches of Venice and Malibu, California, where the pampered, the flabby and the just plain masochistic are whipped into tip-top shape by puffing their way through a sweeping variety of exercises. Feeling unmotivated? Verela, dressed in fatigues and armed with a whistle, will give you a jump-start by screaming, in his most convincing drill sergeant style, to drop to the ground and give him 15.

A spin-off of his personal training business, the 18-month-old boot camp appeals to clients looking for a change from the usual Stairmaster routine. The boot camp sessions are varied every week, and clients work out in the fresh air, with plenty of room to move. Plus, it works. Who's in better shape than a Marine?

"People push themselves harder when they see people just like themselves going for the same goal," says Verela, who includes a customized nutrition plan as part of the $75-a-week package. To ensure that clients don't overexert themselves, the boot camp program is offered at three fitness levels.

Verela uses a variety of methods to publicize the business, including newspaper ads, brochures, a Web site (www.optimumbootcamp.com) and a TV commercial. His best advertisements, though, are his newly toned and disciplined clients. Currently operating the boot camp with 115 employees at two sites, Verela hopes to launch another boot camp in Santa Monica, California, and eventually open branches in other states. The Battle of the Bulge wages on.


Pamela Rohland, a writer from Bernville, Pennsylvania, shudders at the idea of doing anything, especially exercising, before dawn.

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