NEW PORT RICHEY
Derek Kuryliw's boot camp has never needed a paid advertisement. Through word of mouth and Facebook posts, more than 120 people, ranging in age from 6 to 73, have flipped monster truck tires and scaled walls on Kuryliw's orders in the name of fitness.
On a recent Wednesday evening, in the muggy warmth just before sunset, a revolving group of men and women tossed rubber mats onto pavement and fired off some pushups. Then they flipped to their backs for ab work.
Before long, their gray T-shirts (with the slogan "I don't quit when I'm tired. I quit when I'm finished.") were soaked through.
That was before they started bunny-hopping through tires and scaling hurdles made of 4 by 4s or panting through "suicide" sprints.
Kuryliw, his skin projecting a bronzy glow from a recent bodybuilding competition, sweated right along with them.
The 30-year-old bodybuilder, personal trainer and owner of the fitness and nutrition company SlimFit (soon to be called LiveFit), officially started the boot camp in January, though he had been offering it informally for a year prior. His New Port Richey Boot Camp takes place on the grass and blacktop in the back yard of his father's firm, Kuryliw Chiropractic Rehab Center on Little Road.
Kuryliw whips boot campers into shape on weekday evenings and select mornings, with about 15 to 20 participants per class. A typical workout lasts 30 minutes, but some campers, Kuryliw says, stick around for as long as 90 minutes. The earlier evening groups are more challenging, running at a faster pace with less rest time, while the 7 p.m. session is slated for beginners.
Kuryliw likens boot camp to recess for adults — albeit with a good deal more suffering.
"It's really for like moms, teachers, bankers," he said. "Anybody with stress who needs to just get outside and let loose with a bunch of other people with that same mindset."
Teachers make up a large portion of Kuryliw's clients. On the their first day back to school last month, 11 school employees signed up.
Three are boot camper Claudia Bender's co-workers at Ridgewood High School. In seven weeks, the 45-year-old language arts teacher has lost more than 8 pounds of body fat and 2 inches off each thigh and gained half an inch of muscle on her shoulders.
"I wouldn't even wear skirts … before I started boot camp," Bender said. "And two months later, it's not a problem."
Boot camp includes all kinds of agility and skill drills, running through tires, jumping hurdles, climbing walls, running with parachutes, stacking tires and doing suspension training, where half the body hangs while the exerciser does pushups, pullups and other maneuvers. Some Saturdays, Kuryliw has "game days," where boot campers participate in relay races.
"He knows how to work the cardio in with the strength training, and it's not lifting weights or walking the track," Bender said. "He's very creative in how he puts things together."
Land O'Lakes High School math teacher Hannah Trapani appreciates the variety and the added benefit that she can let her mind wander.
"It's great because I really appreciate having the time where I'm not thinking," Trapani said. "As a teacher, you spend the whole day telling people what they should do. … You're always thinking for everybody else."
Gulf Highlands Elementary School third-grade teacher and Fivay High School volleyball coach Jaci Justus was an athlete in high school but hadn't done a lot of exercising beyond that. A boot camper since January, Justus has incorporated a lot of Kuryliw's workouts to condition her volleyball team.
Kuryliw aims to make boot camp accessible to those who might ordinarily be intimidated by contracts at big gyms. The first two weeks cost just $1, then $27 a week or $97 a month. Participants manage their own accounts through Kuryliw's website, allowing them to freeze, suspend and reactivate their accounts at will.
"Because of the two weeks for a buck, we've got some people who would've never ever tried boot camp," he said.
Kuryliw's company employs two other personal trainers and his wife, Shelly, who acts as office manager. They sell supplements and offer private personal training. Kuryliw offers coaching for 10 clients at a time, keeping in daily contact to develop plans for meals and workouts. His monthly accountability program provides similar coaching through weekly emails. He does free nutrition seminars and store tours, where he walks a group through a grocery store, teaching them healthier alternatives to what's on their shopping lists.
Bender likes how accessible Kuryliw is. He communicates on Facebook and his website, posting about nutrition and sharing success stories and recipes.
"He's full force," she said. "I think that's probably a part of why I like it so much. He's totally into it."
Times photographer Brendan Fitterer contributed to this report. Samantha Fuchs can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6235.