CLEARWATER — Six weeks of intense fitness boot camp, five days a week. Eating a regimented meal plan six times a day. Posting about your progress on Facebook. The challenge? Lose 20 pounds. If you succeed? It's free.
The California-based Camp Transformation Center is a fitness and weight loss company that boasts that it has melted more than half a million pounds at more than 100 locations in 13 U.S. states and in Mexico, 20 pounds at a time. Clearwater is one of seven Florida locations, and the company's first in Tampa Bay.
The Camp in Clearwater opened in February 2017. What makes The Camp stand out from other fitness programs like Orange Theory Fitness is the accountability it provides through community support, both inside the gym and online, said director Shirene Ali Akbar. She plans to open three more in Tampa and St. Petersburg and is starting the franchising process this month.
At the Clearwater site's 5 p.m. boot camp class Thursday, clients wore name tags with a range of fitness experience and rotated on intervals between workout stations, including planks, curling bars and heavy ropes, for 50 minutes.
Personal trainer Jonah Gilmore demonstrated each station's workout at the beginning of the class and walked around the room encouraging the clients at each station. One of them was Michael Varela of St. Petersburg, who was taking his second class for the day.
Varela is working on his third six-week program with The Camp, but he said the support isn't contained within the Clearwater facility's walls.
"It's like a family," he said. "Even when they don't see (their results), you see them."
He said people from different locations comment on his fitness progress via Facebook.
So far he's lost 73 pounds.
"That'll be me," said Corinne Hanooman of Largo, who was waiting for the next class to start.
Hanooman said she's four weeks into her first program. She's already lost 21 pounds. When she found out she'd already hit her first goal, she said the first person to hug her was her personal trainer.
"The support is excellent," she said. "It just gives me that much incentive to keep going."
Hanooman said her goal is to continue with The Camp's six-week programs until she drops a total of 100 pounds.
"You know what's not fun? Standing on a treadmill for an hour and burning 200 calories," she said. "This is fun."
The Camp's most popular program is the six-week, 20 pounds challenge. It requires clients to pay an up-front deposit, usually $497 with a discounted summer price of $297. If clients commit to the workout and nutrition plan, track their progress on Facebook and lose 20 pounds, they're fully refunded the deposit. The Camp also offers monthly, six-month and yearly memberships. All of the options offer unlimited access to the gym and 33 classes each week between 5 a.m. and 7 p.m.
"We celebrate every pound lost," Ali Akbar said. "Their results are my results."
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She said she uprooted her life in Hollywood, Fla., in December to move to Clearwater because she believes in The Camp. Back in 2015, she reconnected with a friend at a reunion and couldn't get over how fit her friend looked, so she gave The Camp a try herself. She said she lost 46 pounds in 12 weeks and was hooked.
"We have a model that says, 'Within these walls, your life will change,'" Ali Akbar said. "My life changed."
A previous version of this story had the incorrect hours of operation. The story has been updated.
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Contact Hannah Denham at email@example.com. Follow @hannah_denham1.