Written by Christy Hinko Friday, 26 August 2011 00:00
If you live near the Farmingdale High School, you may have thought the military moved its physical fitness training to the athletic fields on Sunday mornings throughout this summer. Not so; while most people are still asleep Sunday morning at 7 a.m. dozens of area residents are gathering for an hour of basic calisthenics, and stretching under the guidance of local chiropractor Dr. Walter Priestley and retired NYPD lieutenant Manny Rodriguez. Rodriguez has also served as the former commanding officer at the New York City Police Academy. The men are donating their time and expertise to bringing a positive experience to the community.
The first couple of classes began with a small following of exercise enthusiasts meeting at the football field behind the high school. Each week, the classes grew in size, to now over 40 fitness-minded devotees.
Some start their morning exercise routine by cycling, walking or jogging to the field. Some hit the coffee and drag themselves to the field. Either way, once at the field, Dr. Priestley meets with everyone to sign in and review a health waiver to ensure everyone is healthy enough for basic exercise. While there are several participants trained to recognize and respond to the symptoms of physical distress, Dr. Priestley reminds that this should be a positive, feel-good experience; that no one wants to end their weekend in the emergency room.
Participants are reminded throughout the training to drink water and exercise to their level of comfort. Some may be hesitant, or turned off by the term “boot camp” despite its connotation of being an “in your face” “drop and gimme 20” exercise beat down. The program, however, is designed to be a guided workout of basic strength and conditioning exercises like sit-ups, push-ups, balance, stretching, jogging.
Class begins with a dynamic warm-up of skipping, running backwards, and sideways steps. Then it is followed with jumping jacks, squats, leg extensions, push-ups and “burpees” and other challenging body weight exercises.
They also do a variety of interval activities like small hurdle jumping, ladder drills and intervals of jogging and walking the perimeter of the field.
Aside from staying hydrated and knowing how far to push yourself, Rodriguez continues to acknowledge effort and being a cheerleader for those who just need an extra boost of confidence about their physical abilities. While he points out to newcomers that recovery and exercising within limitation is important to an injury-free workout, he is quick to spot a more seasoned athlete and encourage them to push their body to perform, discouraging “going through the motions” of an exercise.
With Rogriguez’s years of experience the workout never gets boring; he comes up with countless routines to keep it interesting and has a gentle way of motivating the group.
Priestly and Rodriguez share a similar philosophy when it comes to fitness and promoting a healthy lifestyle. Rodriguez said, “Get people to exercise regularly and their lives will be better.” They are both on a mission to “get Dalers off their butts,” and exercising in a fun, friendly and supportive environment.
“There are more excuses than there are cells in the body,” said Priestley, who is training for his annual participation in the Town of Oyster Bay Triathlon with his son and daughter, who will also participate in the kids’ triathlon portion.
“‘I do not have time’, ‘I cannot afford a gym’, ‘I do not know where to start,’ this is a place to start. If you are already working out, this is a new place to do it. Most of us are off on Sunday mornings and there is no cost,” said Priestley.
The 10-week trial series of boot camp was a great success, with more than 40 regular participants by the most recent class. Priestley and Rodriguez are working on the schedule for the second session, and plan to keep Sunday morning boot camp momentum going until the wintry weather moves in.
Priestley said, “You never know how much you can help change someone’s life and how far they will take it when you start them on a fitness program.”
If you are interested in participating, you need to live within the boundaries of the Farmingdale School District and sign a waiver. It’s as easy as showing up. Wear comfortable gym clothes and sneakers, and bring your own water.